There’s nothing like the unconditional love of a pet to brighten your day. Whether you’re dreaming about playing fetch with a playful puppy or snuggling up on the couch with a purring cat at your side, the bond between human and pet can be truly magical.


However, before you head down to the local animal shelter or pet store to pick up your new best friend, it’s wise to first do a little research. Not only should you make sure you can commit to a lifestyle that will allow a pet to thrive, it’s also important to consider the true costs of pet ownership before you decide to bring a new dog or cat into your home. 


The Cost of Pet Ownership


You can begin researching the cost of pet ownership by asking some basic questions. How much does a cat cost per month? What is the monthly cost of a dog? As you figure out the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to determine if you can afford to fit the additional expense of a pet into your monthly budget.


The cost of dog ownership or cat ownership is more extensive than many people realize. Even existing pet owners who don’t track how much money they spend on their animals might be surprised by the numbers.

For many people, it all starts with the initial adoption fee and slowly adds up from there. Typically, the cost of pet ownership extends far beyond the normal “expected” fees of food and basic medical vaccinations.


According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first-year cost of owning a dog can range between $1,471 to over $2,000 (with large-breed dogs costing more than smaller breeds). For cats, the organization estimates the cost to be nearly $1,200 for the first year of ownership. 


Here are a few highlights to help break down the potential costs of owning a dog or cat, per the ASPCA.



Dog (Small-Large)


Spaying or Neutering*



Recurring Medical Expenses



Pet Health Insurance






Toys and Treats



Grooming (Long Hair)















Average Annual Costs
(Not including one-time fees)



*Signifies one-time fees.

Money Saving Tips


If you can comfortably fit the expense into your budget, adopting a pet can be a great use of your time and money. Not only can adopting an animal make all the difference in the world to your new furry friend, owning a pet may even be good for your health. Research shows that spending time with animals can both reduce stress and lower blood pressure.


Ready to adopt a pet of your own? Below you’ll find 3 money saving tips that could help you cut the cost of owning a dog or cat.


1. Adopt from an animal shelter.


Many animal shelters provide medical care to the dogs and cats they rescue. This may include spaying/neutering, microchipping, and vaccinations. Many shelters charge an adoption fee, sometimes as high as $500 depending upon where you live. Still, the adoption fee may be far lower than the cost of the medical care if you had to pay for it out of pocket.

2. Buy in bulk.

Buying pet food or cat litter in bulk is another potential way to slash your annual pet care costs. Membership stores, like Costco, offer you a chance to save significantly when you buy ahead and in bulk.

3. Groom your pet yourself.

Whether it’s brushing your pet’s teeth each day, trimming its nails, or brushing its fur, you can save a bundle if you’ll learn to groom your pet at home. Just make sure that grooming your pet becomes a consistent habit if you want to keep your pet clean and healthy while avoiding additional fees.


Count the Cost Upfront


When you have a pet, it’s important to plan for the unexpected. This is especially true when it comes to medical expenses which can easily climb to thousands of dollars. A good pet insurance policy can help to offset unplanned medical expenses for your pet, but it’s still important to be prepared.


Before you decide to bring a new pet into your family, take an honest look at your budget. Can you afford to care for a pet, including unplanned expenses, alongside your other financial obligations? If not, it might be best to wait until the time is right financially (or perhaps pay down some debt) before you open your heart and home to a new companion.


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