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More Pet Insurance Policies Are Being Sold. But Are They Worth the Cost?
Americans are increasingly treating their pets as members of the family, feeding them gourmet food, paying for day care and throwing them birthday parties. Family sleepwear sets sold on PajamaGram.com even include matching jammies for the dog.
So it’s not surprising that an increasing number of “pet parents,” as they are known in the pet care industry, are seeking sophisticated medical treatments for their animals.
Enter pet health insurance, marketed as a way to help defray rising veterinary expenses and avoid “economic euthanasia” — the necessity of putting a pet down because the owner can’t afford treatment. More than two million pets in the United States and Canada (most of them in the United States) were insured at the end of 2020, up about 17 percent from the year before, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.
But consumer advocates say that pet owners should make sure they understand how the policies work before buying them.
More than two-thirds of households in the United States own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. Americans spent about $70 billion on pets in 2020, including purchases of animals, food, veterinary care, medicines and other services.
“People are much more inclined to think of their animals like children, and treat them accordingly,” said James Serpell, a professor of ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance with the Consumer Federation of America, said pet owners should bring a healthy skepticism when shopping for pet insurance. Purchase of the product is “often motivated by a combination of love and fear,” he said. “So the buyer may be particularly vulnerable.”
Details vary by insurer and policy, but premiums for pet insurance typically depend on factors like the cost of veterinary care where you live and the age and breed of the pet. The average annual premium for “accident and illness” coverage was $516 per pet in 2020, while the average claim paid was $278, according to the pet health insurance association.
Jeff Blyskal, a senior writer with Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit group that rates services in major urban markets, said pet owners should compare policies with a critical eye. When years of payments are taken into account, he said, buying insurance could end up being more expensive for some pet owners than going without it, if their animal doesn’t require much care.
Pet policies typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions, Mr. Blyskal said, so premiums are generally lower when your pet is young and healthy. Even if you start early, though, you may end up paying more over time, he said, because some policies raise premiums as pets get older. This can increase costs substantially, he said, and cause owners to drop their policies as the animals get older — just when they are more likely to need the coverage. Industrywide, the average pet policy is maintained for three years or less, according to an insurer regulatory filing in 2020 in Washington State.
The expenses tied to pet health coverage usually include not only a regular premium but also other out-of-pocket costs, like a deductible — an amount that you must pay before insurance begins paying. Insurance may cover less than 100 percent of costs after the deductible, so you’ll still have to pay for part of the treatment. Some policies may cap payments, so ask if there’s a limit.
Rob Jackson, chief executive of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, said insurance could protect against budget-busting events costing thousands of dollars. (Healthy Paws said a pet’s age affects premiums at initial enrollment, and also as the pet ages.) The Healthy Paws website cites examples like Fridgey the Bengal cat, who had a $4,600 hip replacement, and Lupa the German shepherd, who needed $52,000 in treatment for tetanus exposure.
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One way to pay lower premiums, and possibly get broader coverage, is to buy pet insurance through your employer. Eleven percent of employers in the United States offer pet health insurance benefits, according to a 2020 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, up from 6 percent in 2020. Typically, companies offer pet insurance as a “voluntary” benefit. It’s uncommon for employers to contribute to the cost of premiums, as they do with human health insurance. But insurers may give employees a break on premiums, or offer better coverage, because their marketing costs are lower.
Employees at Ollie, a specialty dog food company, receive a 15 percent discount on premiums from the insurer Healthy Paws, said Gabby Slome, a co-founder of Ollie. (Ollie also offers workers benefits like “pawternity” leave when they take a new dog home.)
“We had a strong belief that pets are a part of one’s family,” she said.
Scott Liles, president and chief pet insurance officer with Nationwide, said half of Fortune 500 companies offer their employees pet insurance from his company. Nationwide’s employer-based plans now underwrite by species — canines vs. felines — but not by age or breed, Mr. Liles said. That means, he said, you won’t pay a higher premium if your pet is older, or if its breed is prone to certain illnesses, unlike policies sold in the open market.
Here are some questions and answers about pet health insurance:
Do some animals cost more to insure than others?
Cats are generally less expensive to insure than dogs. The average accident and illness premium in 2020 was about $45 a month for dogs and $28 a month for cats, according to the pet health insurance association. Because some purebred animals are prone to certain health problems, some insurers may charge higher premiums for them.
Most, but not all, insurers limit coverage to common household pets. Nationwide, Mr. Liles said, offers coverage for birds, hamsters and more exotic pets, including tarantulas and even hedgehogs.
What if I can’t afford pet insurance?
Local animal shelters may offer basic services, like rabies vaccinations or spaying and neutering operations, at a discounted rate. The Humane Society of the United States lists groups that can help owners who can’t afford medical care for their pets.
Another option is to put money away each month — perhaps the amount of the premium you would pay — into a dedicated savings account so you will have some funds available for pet care if you need it.
What if I’m unhappy with my pet insurance policy?
Insurance products are generally regulated by state governments, so you may want to contact your state insurance commissioner about your concern. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers information about pet insurance and links to regulators in each state.
Essential Options Trading Guide
Options trading may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easy to understand if you know a few key points. Investor portfolios are usually constructed with several asset classes. These may be stocks, bonds, ETFs, and even mutual funds. Options are another asset class, and when used correctly, they offer many advantages that trading stocks and ETFs alone cannot.
- An option is a contract giving the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy (in the case of a call) or sell (in the case of a put) the underlying asset at a specific price on or before a certain date.
- People use options for income, to speculate, and to hedge risk.
- Options are known as derivatives because they derive their value from an underlying asset.
- A stock option contract typically represents 100 shares of the underlying stock, but options may be written on any sort of underlying asset from bonds to currencies to commodities.
What Are Options?
Options are contracts that give the bearer the right, but not the obligation, to either buy or sell an amount of some underlying asset at a pre-determined price at or before the contract expires. Options can be purchased like most other asset classes with brokerage investment accounts.
Options are powerful because they can enhance an individual’s portfolio. They do this through added income, protection, and even leverage. Depending on the situation, there is usually an option scenario appropriate for an investor’s goal. A popular example would be using options as an effective hedge against a declining stock market to limit downside losses. Options can also be used to generate recurring income. Additionally, they are often used for speculative purposes such as wagering on the direction of a stock.
There is no free lunch with stocks and bonds. Options are no different. Options trading involves certain risks that the investor must be aware of before making a trade. This is why, when trading options with a broker, you usually see a disclaimer similar to the following:
Options involve risks and are not suitable for everyone. Options trading can be speculative in nature and carry substantial risk of loss.
Options as Derivatives
Options belong to the larger group of securities known as derivatives. A derivative’s price is dependent on or derived from the price of something else. As an example, wine is a derivative of grapes ketchup is a derivative of tomatoes, and a stock option is a derivative of a stock. Options are derivatives of financial securities—their value depends on the price of some other asset. Examples of derivatives include calls, puts, futures, forwards, swaps, and mortgage-backed securities, among others.
Call and Put Options
Options are a type of derivative security. An option is a derivative because its price is intrinsically linked to the price of something else. If you buy an options contract, it grants you the right, but not the obligation to buy or sell an underlying asset at a set price on or before a certain date.
A call option gives the holder the right to buy a stock and a put option gives the holder the right to sell a stock. Think of a call option as a down-payment for a future purpose.
Call Option Example
A potential homeowner sees a new development going up. That person may want the right to purchase a home in the future, but will only want to exercise that right once certain developments around the area are built.
The potential home buyer would benefit from the option of buying or not. Imagine they can buy a call option from the developer to buy the home at say $400,000 at any point in the next three years. Well, they can—you know it as a non-refundable deposit. Naturally, the developer wouldn’t grant such an option for free. The potential home buyer needs to contribute a down-payment to lock in that right.
With respect to an option, this cost is known as the premium. It is the price of the option contract. In our home example, the deposit might be $20,000 that the buyer pays the developer. Let’s say two years have passed, and now the developments are built and zoning has been approved. The home buyer exercises the option and buys the home for $400,000 because that is the contract purchased.
The market value of that home may have doubled to $800,000. But because the down payment locked in a pre-determined price, the buyer pays $400,000. Now, in an alternate scenario, say the zoning approval doesn’t come through until year four. This is one year past the expiration of this option. Now the home buyer must pay the market price because the contract has expired. In either case, the developer keeps the original $20,000 collected.
Call Option Basics
Put Option Example
Now, think of a put option as an insurance policy. If you own your home, you are likely familiar with purchasing homeowner’s insurance. A homeowner buys a homeowner’s policy to protect their home from damage. They pay an amount called the premium, for some amount of time, let’s say a year. The policy has a face value and gives the insurance holder protection in the event the home is damaged.
What if, instead of a home, your asset was a stock or index investment? Similarly, if an investor wants insurance on his/her S&P 500 index portfolio, they can purchase put options. An investor may fear that a bear market is near and may be unwilling to lose more than 10% of their long position in the S&P 500 index. If the S&P 500 is currently trading at $2500, he/she can purchase a put option giving the right to sell the index at $2250, for example, at any point in the next two years.
If in six months the market crashes by 20% (500 points on the index), he or she has made 250 points by being able to sell the index at $2250 when it is trading at $2000—a combined loss of just 10%. In fact, even if the market drops to zero, the loss would only be 10% if this put option is held. Again, purchasing the option will carry a cost (the premium), and if the market doesn’t drop during that period, the maximum loss on the option is just the premium spent.
Put Option Basics
Buying, Selling Calls/Puts
There are four things you can do with options:
- Buy calls
- Sell calls
- Buy puts
- Sell puts
Buying stock gives you a long position. Buying a call option gives you a potential long position in the underlying stock. Short-selling a stock gives you a short position. Selling a naked or uncovered call gives you a potential short position in the underlying stock.
Buying a put option gives you a potential short position in the underlying stock. Selling a naked, or unmarried, put gives you a potential long position in the underlying stock. Keeping these four scenarios straight is crucial.
People who buy options are called holders and those who sell options are called writers of options. Here is the important distinction between holders and writers:
- Call holders and put holders (buyers) are not obligated to buy or sell. They have the choice to exercise their rights. This limits the risk of buyers of options to only the premium spent.
- Call writers and put writers (sellers), however, are obligated to buy or sell if the option expires in-the-money (more on that below). This means that a seller may be required to make good on a promise to buy or sell. It also implies that option sellers have exposure to more, and in some cases, unlimited, risks. This means writers can lose much more than the price of the options premium.
Why Use Options
Speculation is a wager on future price direction. A speculator might think the price of a stock will go up, perhaps based on fundamental analysis or technical analysis. A speculator might buy the stock or buy a call option on the stock. Speculating with a call option—instead of buying the stock outright—is attractive to some traders since options provide leverage. An out-of-the-money call option may only cost a few dollars or even cents compared to the full price of a $100 stock.
Options were really invented for hedging purposes. Hedging with options is meant to reduce risk at a reasonable cost. Here, we can think of using options like an insurance policy. Just as you insure your house or car, options can be used to insure your investments against a downturn.
Imagine that you want to buy technology stocks. But you also want to limit losses. By using put options, you could limit your downside risk and enjoy all the upside in a cost-effective way. For short sellers, call options can be used to limit losses if wrong—especially during a short squeeze.
How Options Work
In terms of valuing option contracts, it is essentially all about determining the probabilities of future price events. The more likely something is to occur, the more expensive an option would be that profits from that event. For instance, a call value goes up as the stock (underlying) goes up. This is the key to understanding the relative value of options.
The less time there is until expiry, the less value an option will have. This is because the chances of a price move in the underlying stock diminish as we draw closer to expiry. This is why an option is a wasting asset. If you buy a one-month option that is out of the money, and the stock doesn’t move, the option becomes less valuable with each passing day. Since time is a component to the price of an option, a one-month option is going to be less valuable than a three-month option. This is because with more time available, the probability of a price move in your favor increases, and vice versa.
Accordingly, the same option strike that expires in a year will cost more than the same strike for one month. This wasting feature of options is a result of time decay. The same option will be worth less tomorrow than it is today if the price of the stock doesn’t move.
Volatility also increases the price of an option. This is because uncertainty pushes the odds of an outcome higher. If the volatility of the underlying asset increases, larger price swings increase the possibilities of substantial moves both up and down. Greater price swings will increase the chances of an event occurring. Therefore, the greater the volatility, the greater the price of the option. Options trading and volatility are intrinsically linked to each other in this way.
On most U.S. exchanges, a stock option contract is the option to buy or sell 100 shares; that’s why you must multiply the contract premium by 100 to get the total amount you’ll have to spend to buy the call.
|What happened to our option investment|
|May 1||May 21||Expiry Date|
The majority of the time, holders choose to take their profits by trading out (closing out) their position. This means that option holders sell their options in the market, and writers buy their positions back to close. Only about 10% of options are exercised, 60% are traded (closed) out, and 30% expire worthlessly.
Fluctuations in option prices can be explained by intrinsic value and extrinsic value, which is also known as time value. An option’s premium is the combination of its intrinsic value and time value. Intrinsic value is the in-the-money amount of an options contract, which, for a call option, is the amount above the strike price that the stock is trading. Time value represents the added value an investor has to pay for an option above the intrinsic value. This is the extrinsic value or time value. So, the price of the option in our example can be thought of as the following:
|Premium =||Intrinsic Value +||Time Value|
In real life, options almost always trade at some level above their intrinsic value, because the probability of an event occurring is never absolutely zero, even if it is highly unlikely.
Types of Options
American and European Options
American options can be exercised at any time between the date of purchase and the expiration date. European options are different from American options in that they can only be exercised at the end of their lives on their expiration date. The distinction between American and European options has nothing to do with geography, only with early exercise. Many options on stock indexes are of the European type. Because the right to exercise early has some value, an American option typically carries a higher premium than an otherwise identical European option. This is because the early exercise feature is desirable and commands a premium.
There are also exotic options, which are exotic because there might be a variation on the payoff profiles from the plain vanilla options. Or they can become totally different products all together with “optionality” embedded in them. For example, binary options have a simple payoff structure that is determined if the payoff event happens regardless of the degree. Other types of exotic options include knock-out, knock-in, barrier options, lookback options, Asian options, and Bermudan options. Again, exotic options are typically for professional derivatives traders.
Options Expiration & Liquidity
Options can also be categorized by their duration. Short-term options are those that expire generally within a year. Long-term options with expirations greater than a year are classified as long-term equity anticipation securities or LEAPs. LEAPS are identical to regular options, they just have longer durations.
Options can also be distinguished by when their expiration date falls. Sets of options now expire weekly on each Friday, at the end of the month, or even on a daily basis. Index and ETF options also sometimes offer quarterly expiries.
Reading Options Tables
More and more traders are finding option data through online sources. (For related reading, see “Best Online Stock Brokers for Options Trading 2020”) While each source has its own format for presenting the data, the key components generally include the following variables:
- Volume (VLM) simply tells you how many contracts of a particular option were traded during the latest session.
- The “bid” price is the latest price level at which a market participant wishes to buy a particular option.
- The “ask” price is the latest price offered by a market participant to sell a particular option.
- Implied Bid Volatility (IMPL BID VOL) can be thought of as the future uncertainty of price direction and speed. This value is calculated by an option-pricing model such as the Black-Scholes model and represents the level of expected future volatility based on the current price of the option.
- Open Interest (OPTN OP) number indicates the total number of contracts of a particular option that have been opened. Open interest decreases as open trades are closed.
- Delta can be thought of as a probability. For instance, a 30-delta option has roughly a 30% chance of expiring in-the-money.
- Gamma (GMM) is the speed the option is moving in or out-of-the-money. Gamma can also be thought of as the movement of the delta.
- Vega is a Greek value that indicates the amount by which the price of the option would be expected to change based on a one-point change in implied volatility.
- Theta is the Greek value that indicates how much value an option will lose with the passage of one day’s time.
- The “strike price” is the price at which the buyer of the option can buy or sell the underlying security if he/she chooses to exercise the option.
Buying at the bid and selling at the ask is how market makers make their living.
The simplest options position is a long call (or put) by itself. This position profits if the price of the underlying rises (falls), and your downside is limited to loss of the option premium spent. If you simultaneously buy a call and put option with the same strike and expiration, you’ve created a straddle.
This position pays off if the underlying price rises or falls dramatically; however, if the price remains relatively stable, you lose premium on both the call and the put. You would enter this strategy if you expect a large move in the stock but are not sure which direction.
Basically, you need the stock to have a move outside of a range. A similar strategy betting on an outsized move in the securities when you expect high volatility (uncertainty) is to buy a call and buy a put with different strikes and the same expiration—known as a strangle. A strangle requires larger price moves in either direction to profit but is also less expensive than a straddle. On the other hand, being short either a straddle or a strangle (selling both options) would profit from a market that doesn’t move much.
Below is an explanation of straddles from my Options for Beginners course:
And here’s a description of strangles:
How to use Straddle Strategies
Spreads & Combinations
Spreads use two or more options positions of the same class. They combine having a market opinion (speculation) with limiting losses (hedging). Spreads often limit potential upside as well. Yet these strategies can still be desirable since they usually cost less when compared to a single options leg. Vertical spreads involve selling one option to buy another. Generally, the second option is the same type and same expiration, but a different strike.
A bull call spread, or bull call vertical spread, is created by buying a call and simultaneously selling another call with a higher strike price and the same expiration. The spread is profitable if the underlying asset increases in price, but the upside is limited due to the short call strike. The benefit, however, is that selling the higher strike call reduces the cost of buying the lower one. Similarly, a bear put spread, or bear put vertical spread, involves buying a put and selling a second put with a lower strike and the same expiration. If you buy and sell options with different expirations, it is known as a calendar spread or time spread.
Combinations are trades constructed with both a call and a put. There is a special type of combination known as a “synthetic.” The point of a synthetic is to create an options position that behaves like an underlying asset, but without actually controlling the asset. Why not just buy the stock? Maybe some legal or regulatory reason restricts you from owning it. But you may be allowed to create a synthetic position using options.
A butterfly consists of options at three strikes, equally spaced apart, where all options are of the same type (either all calls or all puts) and have the same expiration. In a long butterfly, the middle strike option is sold and the outside strikes are bought in a ratio of 1:2:1 (buy one, sell two, buy one).
If this ratio does not hold, it is not a butterfly. The outside strikes are commonly referred to as the wings of the butterfly, and the inside strike as the body. The value of a butterfly can never fall below zero. Closely related to the butterfly is the condor – the difference is that the middle options are not at the same strike price.
Because options prices can be modeled mathematically with a model such as the Black-Scholes, many of the risks associated with options can also be modeled and understood. This particular feature of options actually makes them arguably less risky than other asset classes, or at least allows the risks associated with options to be understood and evaluated. Individual risks have been assigned Greek letter names, and are sometimes referred to simply as “the Greeks.”
Below is a very basic way to begin thinking about the concepts of Greeks:
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The Annual Cost Of Pet Ownership: Can You Afford A Furry Friend?
Modified date: April 7, 2020
I sure do, because I was one of them. When I was 24 I moved into my first “real” apartment with my girlfriend (now wife), Lauren. We could barely afford the rent, but being young and overwhelmed by “playing family” for the first time, we adopted two kittens from a local animal shelter. Ten years later, we’ve lost one of the cats but the other, a raspy-breathed tortoise calico named Moose, is still in the family.
Along the way, we’ve spent thousands on food and veterinary care including a $2,000+ surgery that fell while Lauren was an even poorer law student.
We certainly don’t regret having pets—in fact, we’ve now adopted a dog, too—but we obviously were not thinking about the potential (and not insignificant) costs of pet ownership when we were young and looking for a cat.
If you have the foresight and are considering bringing a furry friend into your home, you might want to ask: Can you afford to be a pet owner?
The costs of bringing a cat or dog into your home go far beyond any initial adoption fee, which can vary from nothing at all to hundreds of dollars. Here is a breakdown of the average first-year cost of pet ownership for one medium dog.
One-time pet expenses
- Adoption cost : Dog: $0 to $660 / Cat: $0 to $270
- Food: Dog: $30-$50 / Cat: $100-$200
- Startup supplies (bowls, bed/crate, leashes, tags, toys, etc): $50 to $300
- Vet and vaccinations: Dog: $50 to $300 / Cat: $100-$200
- Preventative medical (heartworm/ticks/etc): $50-$100
- Spay or neuter: $20 to $300
- Licensing: Dog: $10 to $20 / Cat: $0 to $20
- Microchip: $50
Total One-time Costs for Dogs: $260 to $1,780
Total One-time Costs for Cats: $370 to $1,440
Adoption fees – Some specialty breeds may cost thousands of dollars. But there are plenty of wonderful dogs and cats that need a loving home for a much more modest adoption charge. Some organizations allow you to adopt a pet for no fee. Adoption may also include initial veterinary exams, spay/neuter costs, heart-worm treatment, and other benefits.
Annual pet expenses
- Food: Dog: $250-$750 / Cat: $100-$200
- Annual medical exams: $50-$100
- Vaccinations: $10 to $100
- Preventative medical: $50-$100
- Litter: Cat: $200-$250
- Toys and misc supplies: $20-$100
- License: $0 to $20
Total Annual Cost for Dog: $380 to $1,170
Total Annual Costs for Cats: $430 to $870
I want to clarify that the breakdown of prices is based on adoption, as opposed to buying a pet elsewhere.
- Pet Insurance – The range of annual pet expenses is going to significantly vary depending on whether or not you have pet insurance. I highly recommend checking out options for pet insurance like Embrace Pet Insurance as it is going to drastically lowers the cost of the annual expense for your pet.
- Travel expenses – Even on the travel front, you have to tack on pet sitting or kennel services. Sometimes you’ll find a neighbor who will gladly walk your dog etc. Other times, there will be doggie daycare.
- Cleaning fees – If you rent an apartment, expect to pay a sometimes nonrefundable pet deposit or cleaning fee if your landlord allows animals at all. Or you need a brush (lint brush) to get rid of the dog hair on your clothes before you walk out the door in the morning. etc. These all can be grouped here in this category.
- Food costs – It will come as no surprise that the size of your dog definitely affects how much food he/she eats. Larger dogs need larger quantities of food; smaller dogs, smaller quantities. I’m talking in terms of numbers of pounds, cups of food, and calories. Here is a rough breakdown and you can only imagine – that the cost of feeding a larger dog is going to be a lot more than the smaller dog.
|Dog weight||Cups of food per day||Calories per day|
|3 lbs||1/3 cup||140 calories|
|6 lbs||1/2 cup||230 calories|
|10 – 15 lbs||3/4 – 1 cup||340 – 465 calories|
|20 lbs||1 1/3 cups||575 calories|
|30 -40 lbs||1 3/4 – 2 1/4 cups||780 – 970 calories|
|50 lbs||2 2/3 cups||1145 calories|
|60 -70 lbs||3 to 3 1/2 cups||1300 – 1475 calories|
|80 – 90 lbs||3 3/4 – 4 1/4 cups||1630 – 1780 calories|
|100 lbs||4 1/2 cups||1925 calories|
So these lists of one-time and annual expenses are not all-inclusive and really cannot be. Most people can count on around $500 in total expenses to adopt a dog or cat, get supplies, and cover initial medical costs. Then, you should budget around $500 per year in most cases for ongoing costs too. Those costs vary based on the size of your pet, brands you prefer, and assumes your pet is generally healthy.
Meal delivery service for dogs
One option today is meal delivery services for dogs, I find that it’s a great way to get a better estimate of dog food costs by using a subscription service for dog food, treats, and other pet needs.
You can get 20% off your first purchase with Spot & Tango – they conveniently offer designer quality dog foods at multiple price points (i.e. there are cheaper options and more expensive ones) to match your budget. Because if you’re like me, you may want to opt for the more economical food route – as much as you love your dog!
The Texas Society of CPAs has a PDF version of a pet budget worksheet you can use to help you estimate pet ownership costs. While the page is geared at parents teaching kids the costs involved in pet ownership, the actual worksheet is universal and could be useful in trying to determine what your actual pet ownership costs might be.
These figures take into account having pet health insurance, which many pet owners do not. If your animal gets sick and you do not have insurance, vet bills can quickly escalate into the thousands of dollars. If you don’t have pet insurance, then potential pet costs are another reason to have an emergency fund of at least several thousand dollars.
Your reactions to the cost of pet ownership
Since we first published this breakdown, animal-loving readers had some passionate opinions about the subject.
Reader Willfe said he thought some of the averages were too high. His cats’ food costs about $72 per year, he said, even though it’s name brand. He also suggested buying litter in bulk, which he said could lower that amount as much as $50 per year.
Another reader, Amy, said she is part of the “frequent buyer” program at her pet store, so she is able to get the tenth bag of dog or cat food for free.
On the other hand, some readers pointed out there are occasional surprise costs associated with pets—and not a good kind of surprise. These additional fees could be significantly higher than the estimates.
Livingalmostlarge said he spends $30 per month on Heartguard and flea/tick medication.
Meg suggested there might be some opportunity costs associated with pet ownership.
“Many of my coworkers have to take long lunches and frequently miss office happy hours to go home and walk their dogs. I also see people in suits frantically walking their dogs in the morning by my building, late for work. Not something I’m ready to deal with yet,” she wrote.
“Funny About Money” said since pets cause damage at times, replacing your stuff should be factored in, too.
“Carpets ruined or at least in need of professional cleaning and de-stinking, furniture clawed, doors scratched up, flower and vegetable gardens unearthed, window screens ripped, draperies sprayed upon….eeek!” she wrote.
How to prepare for the unexpected
The hidden costs of owning a pet are truly abundant, and therefore there are many considerations about getting or gifting another person in your life a pet. I strongly suggest putting away for an emergency fund for unexpected pet health costs: “Owners will likely incur at least one $2,000 – $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime”, says Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, in New York City.
In our case, that’s already been true. When he was two, DiMaggio almost died of a mysterious bacterial infection in his brain. When we thought we might lose him, we would have paid anything to make him better. Luckily, he pulled through. But between his medication and time in the pet hospital, the illness cost us several thousand dollars.
Staff writer Lauren Barret says it’s also good to budget for pet dental care. “My cat, Luna, has bad teeth—it’s genetic, just like with people—and she’s already had three removed, and will need to have more taken out soon. I’m kind of just assuming this will keep happening every year or so, and set aside $500 or so to cover it.”
We’ve also had to pay for either a kennel or a similar service when we go on a vacation. I guess that’s somewhat expected, but in a given year, it’s hard to budget for that.
Four tips for would-be pet owners
What should we learn from this? Like a lot of things, the costs of pet ownership are unpredictable. As much as we can estimate the cost for a year, it’s better to have a safety net in case of a major illness or another emergency. You never want to be in a situation where you have to choose between saving your pet’s life and putting yourself into serious debt.
Here are a few steps for making sure you can afford to own a pet:
1. Figure out how monthly expenses will affect your budget.
Are you currently overspending in some area (eating at restaurants, indulging a shoe passion, maybe) where you can cut back? Is that worth it to you? If the answer is “no,” you probably aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep a pet happy and healthy.
2. Set aside between $1,000 and $2,000, or a portion of your emergency fund for that unexpected vet bill.
Don’t just say, “It would never happen to me.” We didn’t think it would happen to us either. But as the Kiplinger article says, it is almost definite that every pet during its lifetime will have a major vet bill. Setting aside the funds for that is not optional!
3. Consider how you will feel if you are faced with a life-saving vet bill you can’t really afford before it happens.
If you don’t, you may be faced with a Sophie’s choice between your pet’s life and being able to pay the rent next month. Don’t put yourself in this position; it’s not fair to you, nor your future furry friend.
4. If you’re worried about not being able to afford big vet bills, consider pet insurance.
My family did not purchase pet insurance, but in hindsight, we probably should have. When you visit your local vet, he or she will likely have a lot of information for you about purchasing the insurance, but you should do your own research. Not all policies are created equal. Policygenius is a Money Under 30 partner, and they offer great resources on pet insurance.
What about you? Do you have a tip for saving money throughout your pet’s life? When were you ready to afford your first pet? What is your largest pet expense?
At the risk of sounding like my mom when we begged for a dog as kids, owning a pet is a big responsibility. It’s not a decision to be made on a whim. Most people spend around $500 per year on their pets, but that can vary widely based on your preferences, your pet’s medical needs, and if you want to spoil your furry little friend.
Owning a pet is a huge time and money commitment. Don’t get surprised by the cost of your pet. Go into pet ownership with your eyes wide open, and be sure to do the math before you take home your new friend.
We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30. Comments have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser, nor are they reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. It is not our partnerвЂ™s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.
We make our own dog food to save money and we learned to groom all our pets over the years. Saving as much as we can.
These figures are really low!
My guinea pig food costs $120 per year. That is for a small rodent! Bedding is another $100 per year.
A dog? Here in Los Angeles a bag of dog food is between $50-80 each month (depending on pet size). Cost for pet insurance is around $100 a month. That is about $2500 for one year for a dog. Add in obedience classes ($500) and you are now up to $3000. What about grooming? That can be another $25 each time, plus a tip- so $300 for a about a year of grooming. Toys and other pet stuff the first year? Easily $700. Now we are up to $4,000.
Exactly-I pay $85/mth for my dogвЂ™s prescription food…not $120/year!
Does anyone get triggered that my dog sleeps outside in the winter?
Less comenting more of what you no on the website
This is it! Owning a pet – cat or a dog does not need to be sooooo expensive. what I usually do, is when I need to go to the vet, I ask him for my dog prescription and going on to look for it. I am checking website like petkingsupply.com or sieeramed.com and order from them. those site are 50% low than the vet offer
I do not think that people should use this article as a good reference for owning a pet. Especially since most pet owners should consider investing in pet insurance for emergency or chronic health situations. I estimate per year that including pet insurance, food, litter, and incidentals that I am spending approximately $2600 per year, at MINIMUM. That is for a cat. I believe that dog owners are likely looking at more money. Health care for dogs is usually more expensive. For example, my cat had emergency surgery for swallowing a ribbon (covered by insurance) and it was $4000, the same surgery is $6000 for dogs (doesn’t seem to matter what size the dog is).
Also dog training for $110 is ridiculous. Try $110 per training session depending on the breed of dog. If you are looking at a dog such as a Pitbull expect to pay more. Same thing goes for cats – if you are getting a specialty breed such as a Sphynx, expect there to be health issues. Also expect to incur the cost to driving/gas, and the cost of time spent at the clinic. There are a lot of vets who run at the same hours as any other business, so you may have to take off a day of work. If you are having an emergency in the middle of the night, expect to go to the emergency vet clinic where costs are exponentially higher.
This post also does nothing to budget for the cost of emergency situations. Even something as small as an abscess can cost up to $400 for it to get looked at and drained.
There is a lot missing in the post and I don’t think that people should be using this as a basis for being an animal owner. It is A LOT more expensive. I see from the comments that some people are lucky enough to own animals and not have to pay as much, which is great for them. But I do believe that the “miscellaneous” expenses as outlined in this post are no where near that cheap for a lot of animals. So please expect to budget more.
This is a great article. I have had many pets throughout my life and it has not been until recently that I realized how much I have spent on pet care. It is important for pet owners to know that costs grow as pets age, I have a senior dog right now that has been on expensive meds for close to a year, without them she would suffer. Also. I spend a great deal of money on grooming due to the type of dog that she is, along with food, treats, pee pads and other items, I would say that I am spending over $2000;annually.
Other costs include microchipping, ID tags, annual/lifetime licenses, and grooming
I did not even include the cost of Flea medicine. We live in the South and just have to have flea medicine- about 30 per month for both cat and dog… so it adds up. You can save lots of money by getting your pet from a shelter. My chi was full breed and the shelters and rescues have full breeds that need adopting. Consider an adult dog if cannot spend as much time with them…they sleep more and are just so happy to have a warm home. Google your favorite breed rescue and there is a rescue for almost every type of dog in every state.
People with indoor pets probably underestimate the hidden costs they are inflicting on their house and furniture. It is a pretty safe bet that anyone who you sell your house to will be paying you less due to the odor and the damage that your little buddies have inflicted on the carpet and sometimes walls, molding, floors, etc. The next buyer will be factoring in the same kind of odor remediation costs that a nonsmoker would if he was buying a house from a chain smoker. You might not notice the odor yourself because you are used to it but believe me when I tell you that anyone who has no indoor pets can’t smell anything but dog when they are visiting in a home with an indoor dog. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with indoor pets, but if you are going to count the costs you probably should count all of them.
I think some of cost are way to low. I spend about $20 for a 5lb bag of cat food and almost $60 for a 25lb bag of dog food. When I go to the pet store about every 4 to 6 weeks I normally don’t walk out the door without spending $100 or more. I just spent $1200.00 on ER bill for elderly dog as well. I would say you should a lot about $150 to $200 a month so that you can cover unexpected bills associated with your pet.
Another financial consideration is the limitations on housing choice you may face owning a dog or a cat. I’ve lived lots of different places and in some areas it’s hard to find rental that even accept cats so you end up paying more for an apartment or in a place you wouldn’t have normally chosen. Limitations on rental availability was one reason I ended up buying a house recently when renting would have been the more fiscally responsible choice.
Great Blog. Everyone should know the cost of owning a pet and its responsibilities. While owning a pet is a wonderful experience, just make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility. Before really purchasing a pet, you should consider fostering one for a half a month to get the feel for what kind of schedule you’ll have to keep. That’s how will you know that you’re ready to welcome them or not.
We spend about $1,000 a year on our two dogs. The major cost is food. I always search for the sale, but we spend about $70 every 5.5 weeks. Their annual pet visits are about $120 each, because we get them all the shots. Every March one of them needs to go for something random, a urinary or skin problem.
Is it just me that spends almost $300 a month on cat food and litter for two cats? They only eat wet food and I buy it by the case (Nature’s Variety Pride Instinct) and when it’s on sale it still costs me $8 to feed them. I only buy World’s Best litter which is currently on sale for $25 on Chewy (yay!) and we have two litter boxes so we go through a lot of that. We spend about $2,000 a year on dental care (we always have rescues who have awful teeth) and in the past 5 years have spent almost $30,000 on veterinary care (we had two other cats who passed away from lymphoma and lung disease so we were at the specialists and oncologist a lot). We LOVE our cats and they are our number one priority but they definitely eat heavily into our tight budget (literally and figuratively).
Same here. I have two dogs, and I spend 300+ each on food, insurance, medical co-pay, toys etc. I think the budget listed in the article is somewhat unrealistic unless you have a very small dog that only eats poor commercial brand food and live in a place with low cost to the vet. I remember when my younger dog was a puppy, 2 nights at the emergency hospital costed me $5K, yup! I’m in NYC
I have 1 cat and 2 dogs. I spent a lot. I think the article is lowballing things or people are feeding old roy.
wow that looks like alot that you have to spend on in one year
A cool way to save for your first pet…. or second or third even.
As this article suggests, you should have an emergency fund for your pet and I agree with this completely. But one thing me and my partner are doing is throwing $5 into a jar everyday for a single year… that will net $1,825 in 1 year… Although this may not like a huge amount it would get you started for the first year of your pet’s life, more importantly it teaches you to save money not just for you but for your pet too. Even if your pet ends up costing you more than $1,825 in the first year… at least you can pay for a chuck of your pet and pet supplies in cash before digging yourself deep into debt.
I don’t know what food you feed your dog, but $120 per year for food seems a bit low. I have two pointers and running I spend about $12 000 – $13 000 per year. Monthly food is about $75/ week per dog. Granted I have a dog walker take them every week day for an hour run in the park which runs about $600 per month, but minus that I’m still at over $3,000 per year, per dog.
Definitely worth the expense. Love my dogs.
I spend more than $120 a year to feed my 10 pound chi/poo mix. We don’t even feed him top of the line dog food, but rather midrange dog food. Maybe you could do this if you feed them Old Roy.
I realize this post is old but I would like to warn anyone from adopting any animal too soon without doing proper research on that type of animal. My boyfriend and I adopted a Beagle not even a year ago and we have come to the heart-breaking decision that we can not longer care for him. We have spent upwards of $10,000 in less than a year on training, daycare, medical expenses, supplies, food/toys, damages he’s caused, and anything else you can think of. Upon adoption, we were not told that he had severe separation anxiety and epilepsy, both of which are VERY expensive. Due to the separation anxiety, we are not able to leave him alone in the apartment, therefore we cannot LEAVE the apartment. I have had several complaints from neighbors about his howling and crying while I am away. We have tried everything, EVERYTHING, to prevent the anxiety with no success. I have been forced to tears many nights because of the stress and loneliness our dog has caused me as I was the one with whom he lived. My boyfriend did not experience the feeling of being a prisoner in his own home. I am in tears writing this, please don’t think that I am a selfish, heartless, quitter. I love our dog dearly and I am completely heart-broken that our relationship did not work out, but for the sake of my sanity and his health, I just cannot keep putting up with the stress and expenses. I pray he finds peace and happiness with his real forever home.
You know, you could get your dog debarked.
No, you can’t get a dog debarked. That is 100% ABUSE. For the love of all that is sacred on this earth, NEVER OWN A PET. Especially if you think that abusing am animal is the way to help them with separation anxiety. You’re disgusting.
I live in a small community in Canada and can tell you that the cost of having a large dog here is much more expensive than what you outlined. My dog food budget is $75 per month and that does not include treats. Treats cost me about $45 a month as I buy ones that will clean my dog’s teeth to cut down on vet bills for dental work. Licensing fees here are $45 a year for a neutered dog and $150 for an unneutered dog. Pet insurance started at $32 per month and has gone up to $45 a month now that my dog is over 8 years old.
This article has seen its better days when it comes to the prices listed, however the main point is that people THINK before they jump.
I’m 28, I make 1400 a month, my boyfriend makes 1600. But I am the main provider for our pup, and some other bills ( I inexplicably take on)
Adoption fee 350. Includes spay,vaccinations, microchip. She was also potty trained and came with a crate she quickly outgrew. 7mo. When we got her.
I buy very premium food, Orijen ($85 last 2 months for 26.5 lb bag because it is so energy dense) because it’s proven to reduce vet cost and extend life, improve energy. (Maybe people here think Eukanuba, iamms, royal canin,purina pro plan are good foods…they are complete garbage, read the lable, do the research.)(9 lives?! That is not brand name, my god! If you can buy it at Walmart it’s crap,and most of the vet diets are crap too. You need to buy from real pet stores.)*rant over*
Vet visit for 1st yr. 45 dollars minus 20 if she gets any shots and add cost of shots. I’m guessing around 150. Because she will start her preventative meds heartguard, flea tick, worms ect. I’m not gonna skimp here either because she EATS ANYTHING that remotely resembles food on walks. I’ve found gum, string, sticks, little bird bones. This brings me to insurance. ..must have if your dog has a behavior like mine. It’s 40 a month for some better options (lower deductible, more money paid back). But 21 for the cheapest route…but for that 20 you could save thousands! !
They say it’s usually 6,000 for ingested foreign body removal… wow.
It’s better to have and not need than need and not have. And I know myself, I would sell the farm (if I had one) to save my dog.
25 dollars a month fee 250 extra refundable deposit.
I made an agreement to pay the deposit when I could, but I asked my doc for a document that said mikka was an emotional support animal, not for any other reason that if something bad did happen, I would not have to choose roof over head or dog. But this saved me the cost because it bars my landlord for charging me. (And shame on him anyway, he owns the property free and clear and my dog is not destructive, and believe me I need the 25 bucks more than he does.
I spend too much to count on chews and toys and training treats, if I did the math I’d probably be sick. But my dog has changed my life for the better, I’m more active, less stressed, no seasonal depression. But she is expensive and a LOT of work. Blue heeler mix, needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.
It’s worth it, if like me life just seems weird with out an animal to love, but it expensive. So if you are not that devoted, have a hard time spending cash on bills and ‘not fun stuff’ owning a pet is not for you. It requires sacrifice.
Btw I’m going to have my dog until I’m 40 (woah) of I was not going to nursing school in the fall and drastically increasing my income I would not have gotten a dog. It can eat up your plans for retirement, that’s how expensive they are. So be sure.
And try to adopt!
I added up my bills out of curiosity. I have an ancient furry feline creature (17yo and special needs that requires daily medications). $3,980 over the last year at my regular vet and Petsmart (excluding kitty litter, litter mats, cleaner, baking soda & emergency vet) and that’s just my debit card transactions, not credit (which I use when I forget the other one). So probably closer to $4,900 easily. Some years were worse: The specialty vet that ran $2,300 for one visit. I’ve routinely spent $2,000+ annually the last 9 years for “routine” care (routine for her issues).. This is a living, breathing, and loving creature you willingly took responsibility for, you do not cast them aside because they get sick. They will get old, they will get sick, they will need proper care – just like you or I. I should add that my vet also gives me discounts.
I’ve become FB friends with my vet and yes we chat about my spicy purrito, I’ve sent videos to see without stressing my cat out by bringing her in (she has IBD mini flare ups after each visit). After bad visits, my vet will call daily to check in, even when my cat went nom nom on her hand (first & only time surprisingly). Oh I forgot the cost of the “Sorry my cat’s an @sshole” gift bag after the nom nom incident. Add another $40 on that! When I can’t see the two vets I’ve stuck with, the vet I get will always call (or walk into the surgical suite during surgery) them to consult since she is literally the NY Times Sunday Crossword of cats.
If she wasn’t old and cranky, she would be undergoing testing for the neurological issues that have popped up, but the vet doesn’t want to risk (physical harm b/c of fighting or sedation) it for a diagnosis that isn’t exactly treatable (mini strokes, brain tumor, seizures, lymphoma spreading to her spine, or some combination of this list). But I’m still giving her the same level of care; if not a higher level of care to ensure her last few months are comfortable and happy.
I wouldnвЂ™t take back a single penny because all that money was well spent.
I didn’t pay anything for my almost 2 yr old cat Karis since she was abandoned by a neighbor рџ™Ѓ I agree that the cost is $500 if not more a year for a single cat though. I pay $9 a week on cat litter, $75 every 6 mos for 2 16 lb bags of purina pro plan, I pay $80 for her exam in November which includes 3 shots and another $62 in March which is exam and shot plus I paid $16 for her personalized collar since she goes outside. I didn’t pay a dime to get her spayed cause I was accepted for a grant plus I pay roughly $40 every 3 months for her flea and tick color. I also am gonna spring an extra $75 next month and get her micro chipped for extra security even though her collar has her name, my name, address and phone number so all in all it adds up but I would never go without my cat. I can afford it and I make about $1,450 a month so its not that bad I don’t think. I also failed to mention she was 4 months old when I got her and was in the other apartment for roughly a month without food or water and weighed 7 lbs. now she’s almost 2 yrs old and is 24 inches long from head to tail, 12 inches high and a hefty 17 lbs so she’s doing good for a maine coon, Bengal, Persian mix рџ™‚ she’s definitely my spoiled rotten baby girl.
I assume prices are for US, am I right?
Here are costs of keeping a cat in Russia, for someone to compare.
Medical exam, vaccination, chipping and pet passport: $40
Litter box: $5 (it’s just a plastic box, why buy pricey one? Cat doesn’t mind if its not fancy)
Scratching thing: $3-$300 (if it has multiple levels, toys, etc), mostly local brands or custom made
Carrying crate: $35, IATA cert, EU made
Grooming supplies (brush and claw cutter, best one can buy in local store): $50
Total one-time costs: $150-450
Food and treats: $400 premium brands and $60 if feeding kitekat etc.
Medical exam and regular medication (4 times a year): $100
Litter: $50 (local brand, bentonite clay. Woodchips-based is cheaper)
Toys: $50-100 for a kitten, adult cat is okay with just jumping around or stealing socks.
So it’s $600 a year. We don’t have pet life insurance practice here, that helps lowering numbers.
Taking into count that livinf in Russia is generally cheaper than US, numbers in the article look outdated.
I’ve always wanted a dog, but never felt I had the responsibility for one (read – I don’t have the time due to work). Now that I am settling with my girlfriend, she is mad keen for one. We both work full time at roughly the same time, and there is no way I’m leaving a dog alone for 8 hours, let alone 10-12. So a dog walker is required. I’ve found them to be down to $15/walk. Assume only one walk per day, 5 days/week, 52 weeks per year, and maybe $300 for doggie daycare when we’re on vacation. That is $4,200/year and we haven’t looked at pet food, vet care etc. That is likely to add another $1000/year.
So after 14 years, the poor little thing costs over $70,000!
These numbers for owning a cat are actually not just a little off, but WAY off. Let me break it down for you. If you consider that you want to feed your cat a somewhat healthy food brand with no grains or meat-by-product, one can costs around $1.25 in 2020. So if your cat eats 2 cans per day that is equal to $2.50, then take into account a bit of dry food in between for the cat to nibble on which may cost $.50 a day approximately. Now we’re at $3.00 a day per cat, on food alone. So, $3.00 multiplied by 365 days is $1095 per year, and that is for food ALONE. Now lets add some cat litter $10 per month in there that we need to buy. So that’s about another $120 per year so now we are at approx $1200 annually for one cat. That doesn’t include any treats, or toys, or possible needed vet visits if you wanted/needed any of that. So the actual more accurate numbers for one cat annually would look to be more accurately around $1300 per year which is almost DOUBLE what this website is listing. The numbers are WAY off and not even realistic. Someone who does not own a pet or never has must of wrote this. No offense intended but that’s just the truth. Unless this was written in like 2003 or something then i’d understand but if that’s the case it should have been updated by now.
Some of these figures seem low. I have a Labrador, the most common dog breed. He eats 1.5 cups of food twice a day. He is feed what his vet recommended, Taste of the Wild. It’s $45 a bag and one bags lasts roughly one month. That’s over $500 a year in just food. With snacks, having his nails cut, and his flee treatment he is close to $200 a month.
I guess I could feed him cheap food and cut corners to save money, but it really makes a difference now that he is getting older. Most people don’t eat healthy and take care of themselves. I wouldn’t expect them to take better care of their pet.
Okay, I paid less than 20 for my dogs collar AND leash (medium size). I paid less than 70 dollars for my dogs crate (36 x 24). Never had to pay 70 for an exam. More like 25-45.
Just checked what we pay for our small Boston Terrier.
We paid $115 for her as a puppy. Then over the course of 1 1/3 yrs, we’ve paid $750 total. One big bag of food lasts about 2.5 months. She’s had numerous vet visits which is the bulk of what we’ve paid for, and a little bit of dog sitting and toys. We already had a kennel.
Great article! The costs reported here are much lower than any other estimates I’ve seen, and actually make it look affordable! That’s a dangerous thought…
One thing worth mentioning is that, if you find you’re not ready for the financial commitment, you can always foster for your local shelter. Of course, there will be time spent and money for damages done by your foster dog or cat, but most shelters pay for food, toys, vet visits, etc. Damages can be mitigated, too, by fostering senior animals instead of the younger, more desirable ones.
This shows me that I might be able to afford a dog! I think the costs would be lower for me, too. I live in the midwest, and I could get things like crates from family or friends. I’d probably skip the medical insurance too, although I’d look into it.
I went to a benefit walk for my local Humane Society earlier this year, and the vendors were practically throwing 5-pound bags of dog food at us. I took home so much food and snacks for my parents’ dogs. If they’d liked all of the food, there was probably enough for 3-6 months.
Now the question is, do I have enough time for a dog? My roommate loves dogs too, so I know she’d help, but I don’t want to burden her. I’d like to adopt an adult dog from the shelter, so there wouldn’t be so much training or medical care necessary, hopefully.
First of all, instead of “buying” an animal, consider adoption. There are about 10,000 people born in US daily. There are close to 70,00 cats and dogs born daily. Where are they going to go? Thousand of cats and dogs are euthanized daily. These are not all mutts. There are boxers, chihuahuas, Labs and more pure-bred dogs. Yes, there are wonderful mutts there too. And oh, so many cats. Two of my four dogs came from the shelter. My rescued chocolate Lab is the best dog in the world. She plays firm, yet kind mother to the others. One of my dogs was found in a shoebox outside an apartment complex. He was maybe four weeks old, covered in fleas. He has a kind and gentle, almost spiritual nature. Go to a rescue, go to a shelter. Get them vetted. Once you love them, it doesn’t matter where they came from. Just matters where the two of you will go, together.
I am still on the fence about buying a dog. I grew up always having animals in the house and I deeply miss that feeling of your dog curling up with you on the couch.. or barking at something, you may or may not have been scared of haha. My husband and I have gone over a budget for a dog and it does seem to really add up. My little girl asked me today for a dog.. and I really want to give her that same relationship with animals that I had growing up.. but at what expense i guess? it is really too bad that a lot of vets charge such unbelievable rates for things. it always surprises me that one vet charges $700.00 for something that, the vet down the street charges you $250.00 for. it’s just out of control.
Try owning a horse…
$2,500-$150,000 for a horse. Most people I knew spent between $3000-$15,000.
$300-$1000/mo board if you don’t have a barn on your property. Most commonly in my area is $350.
$200-$10,000 for a saddle alone (depending if you buy used or are buying a brand new silvery show saddle) Many people own more than one saddle.
$400-? for other tack, such as bridles, girths, training aids and leg protection.
$80 for a shoeing and trim. (usually horses go through at least 2 sets of shoes a year. $40 for just a trim EVERY 6-8wks.
$240 or so a year for regular vet checkups/shots.
$120 for teeth filing (1-2 times a year).
$100-$400 for riding boots (western boots or tall boots).
$50-$100 for grooming supplies
$14/bottle of fly spray…you’ll go through several of those per fly season.
$40-$300 for a blanket. (depends if it’s a lightweight or a winter blanket).
$2000-$100,000 for a trailer if you plan on showing or trail riding your horse. Oh, and you’ll need a truck to tow it. And you’ll need a lot of gasoline when you’re lugging around a 1500lb animal in a heavy trailer.
$25-$65 for an hour riding lesson should you choose to do them.
Other expenses include supplements, horse shows, show clothes, riding clothes, shampoos/cleaning products, buckets, etc, etc,
There are ways to own a horse cheaply…but it is nonetheless difficult, especially if you’re a young adult… Which is why I sold mine years ago. :/
I should really re-consider adopting a dog i planned to next week, really seems like too much money involved.
I recently acquired my 4th indoor cat. Three of them were from shelters and had a $75 adoption fee. they were already spayed/neutered and had their shots. I use a litter robot which cost over $300, but the savings in litter is remarkable. Pays for itself the first year. I spend $10 a month on litter (generic clumping), and about $40 a month on food…good quality food (Natural balance). The adopted cats received free vaccinations. Since two of my cats are 5 months old, I expect that I may be purchasing one more bag per month (about $13) when they are fully grown. Checkups are only $35 per cat, so annual checkups would cost a total of $140 for 4 cats. So, overall my cat cost per year for 4 cats are:
Vet (routine): $140
Food: $600 (@ $50/month)
Total: $860, or $215 per cat.
Worth every penny.
Thank you so much for the info! I’ve been surfing the net forever trying to pin down some actual real numbers on what to expect for costs associated with getting a dog. Every other website just lists types of expenses and never puts any dollar amount. Thanks to you I can now plan a real budget for my new dog.
I have one small dog (a papillon) which doesn’t cost me much anymore. They first year was tough since she was a puppy and had to go for her 3 rounds of shots. After she was spayed and stopped teething(I went through tons of toys) she’s getting cheap in her “old” age. $18 for a bag of pro plan selects which last 2 months, I use the sandwich bags as her poop bags ($3.00 at target 250count), vet is $$ I spent $124 for her annual visit in june.
I live in New York City, and we pamper out pets dearly here so she has sweaters, coats, 2 coach collars (one with matching leash) (mommy had a discount), treats from petco or petsmart.
The expense of having a pet doesn’t matter when you come home and see there face light up every day. Even when you only ran to get the mail.
I caught the earlier post about the SDXB (Semi Demi Ex Boyfriend)and his comment on the “Thousand Dollar a Day Dog”. The animals, in excess, mind you, can cost you a relationship. My wife is a serial cat rescuer. I’ve drawn the line at seven cats and one bunny. When you have to draw a line, things get tense. I don’t want the tension, and I will not occupy the same space as eight cats.
The puppy classes were only $15 each. The $800 was unforeseen medical. Like most “blues” (which are all MIXES of pit bull/mastiff), she has massive allergies. It was $800 before we got them under control.
I have found the first year to be the most expensive. We got our pit bull/mastiff from the shelter. $200 covered her spay, microchip, shots, leash, collar, bag of dog food. We feed the raw diet that we get from an organic farm and she eats $35 of food a week. $140 a month on food. We use natural balance for training and a large $8 roll lasts us two weeks. $16 a month on training food. We did all three training classes her first year in preparation for her being a therapy dog. Each class ran us $120 for a whopping total of $360. We took her to three “puppy parties” at a trainers class before she was five months old $800 there. I forgot her crate. We bought an extra large when we got her and just sectioned it off when we were housebreaking her. That crate cost us $100. She has never gone to bathroom in the house. She doesn’t chew the furniture (despite her love of chewing) because we always have toys for her. We probably spend another $400 a year on various toys. She’s worth every penny. This next year will be less expensive, luckily. With our next dog, we won’t need to buy another crate. We’ll likely adopt a dog that is a few years old so we don’t have to go through housebreaking again as well. Our bestfriends got thier puppy from a backyard breeder. They were told she was a fullsize maltese and it turned out she was a runt (or “teacup” aka poorly bred dog). After spending $800 on her (because backyard breeders are CHEAP), they dumped another $5,000 into her medical bills only to lose her barely a year after they got her. Buyer beware. Do your research to be sure you are getting a quality dog if you are going to a breeder. It’s worth the extra money to avoid medical bills and heartache down the road. The Humane Society has an excellent breeder checklist for those of you who are looking for a GOOD breeder. Good breeders don’t advertise for free. They don’t take credit cards. They don’t sell CHEAP dogs ($200-800). Their dogs hold champion titles from competing in dog shows. They don’t breed their female until she is two years of age. They don’t always have puppies available (they breed every few years). They insist on you meeting BOTH parents of the puppy. They get to know you. They make follow up calls. You sign a contract stating that you will notify them if ANYTHING medical crops up with your puppy even five years from now. Why? Because they CARE about the dogs and are all about furthering the breed. If your dog develops hip dysplasia at two, they want to know so they don’t breed that female again. It is worth the extra money to ensure you are getting a quality dog.
I guess those numbers are for a small dog. I have a bloodhound that is about 90 pounds. She eats a $40 bag of dog food every month, at least. I think those food costs should be more like $300-$500 a year.
You forgot to mention:
–boarding expenses or hotel “pet fees” if your friend is going with you. ($25/day)
–emergency room visits and their associated costs ($150+)
–cleaning agents (to clean whatever they threw up on)
–shampoo and brush
–nail clippers or trips to the groomer ($20/month)
–specialty needs (one of my dogs requires eye drops for chronic dry eye and arthritis meds allergy medications) ($100/mo)
They are expensive! …but worth every penny.
I have one cat, and I agree you do have to consider the cost and you shouldn’t adopt a pet that you can’t afford. However, on the flip side, there are studies that say that pet owners live longer and less stress filled lives than those who do not own pets. So maybe there is some cost savings in the long run?
True cost to own is something I have usually associated with car buying, but very relevant to pet ownership too. Too many dive into having a pet without thinking about the full consequences. Thanks for sharing some of these estimates with us.
As with other personal finance discussions, I think the issue of time should be factored in with financial cost of a pet. If someone can financially afford an animal, can they really afford the time they require? I see too many people who spoil their animals with “stuff” but leave them alone all day long.
For myself, In the 15 months I’ve tracked my expenses my 42lb lab/basset mix costs average $118 per month – and like Lisa said above, it’s worth everything!
Also I have to plug adoption and spaying/neutering over buying from a breeder – there are way too many animals dying every day due to overpopulation and not being wanted.
We paid $1000 for each dog.
Vet, heartworm pills, frontline: $600
Treats: $1 Million dollars easy рџ™‚
They are worth every cent! But I also can afford them. Good advice on thinking about it first before making the step.
SDXB (Semi-Demi-Ex-Boyfriend) used to call my German shepherd “The Thousand-Dollar-a-Day Dog.” As I recall, he came up with that one after she ate the leather living-room chair.
Seriously, you do have to factor in all the damage an animal does: carpets ruined or at least in need of professional cleaning and destinking, furniture clawed, doors scratched up, flower and vegetable gardens unearthed, window screens ripped, draperies sprayed upon….eeek! Then of course there are the less tangible costs: the neighbor who contemplates throttling you after the postal carrier refuses to deliver any more mail to your neighborhood because your dog got out and chased him up the street, for example.
I spent over $4,000 on my dogs last year. The greyhound died last fall, and so presumably costs will be lower this year. But I’m not counting on it.
Mercifully, the vet has decided to stand down off his demand that the dog be schlepped in every six months for expensive blood tests before he’ll give me permission to buy expensive meds for her–but only because she’s too old and crippled to get into the car now and I’m too old and crippled to lift an 80-pound dog into a car.
It’s hard for me to imagine being without a dog. But I guess when the Ger-shep is gone, that will be the case. I can’t afford another dog. In fact, IMHO pet ownership today is like keeping a horse: something that is beyond the means of the average middle-class earner.
I believe we spend about $200/month on our pets. Something you forgot monthly expense is heartguard and flea/tick mediction. We have 2 bichons and that runs me about $30/month for both.
We also only feed our pets Eukanuba. The problem with cheaper food is that it promotes kidney stones and weight gain because of the cheaper filler food.
Also including grooming for some breeds, we used to do it a lot more with one, but with two Bichons we do it ourselves.
And we have medical healthplan for $70/month for both. So overall I am guessing $200/month.
And that’s not counting kenneling, daycare, etc.
And MEG is right, we do have to consciously come home to let our dogs out. In the mornings I do it, and I usually come home at 4-5 and walk them if we are going out. And we have to be home by midnight to let them out again. It’s a very conscious decision to have a pet.
Wow! Thanks for the great comments, everyone. I figured these figures will vary greatly, by location, by animal, by owner etc etc.
And I would imagine that it’s possible to take very good care of a pet on much less than $1,000 a year, but it’s those unexpected vet bills that scare me.
I knew dogs need licenses, I didn’t know outdoor cats needed them too! Wow.
I can speak to our costs as both a dog and cat owner. I have two dogs (lab/newfoundland mix) and two cats. I buy Eukanuba brand food for them which is pretty expensive, about $40 a bag for a 40lb back of dog food and $25 for for a 12.5lb bag of cat food. I go through one bag of cat food and two bags of dog food a month; for a total of $105 a month just in food.
I have been tracking my finances for about a year and a half now and after vet bills, toys and food I spend an average of $300 a month on our animals. I do note that one of my cats had to go in for surgery which was $700 and I travel for work sometimes so I have kennel costs as well. 1 week for my dogs is about $250.
That being said, I have really shopped around and tried to cut costs down. The kennel I go to is the most affordable I could find. I’m always looking for coupons for food and am part of the “frequent buyer” plan at our pet store so I get the 10th bag of cat or dog food free. I have also switched Vet offices after calling around and getting prices. It’s amazing the difference in some vets.
Since making these changes this year my average monthly pet expenditures are $125. I know that this average will go up next month though because they need to go into the vet this month and I will be gone for a week so there is that $250 charge again.
It’s a constant battle to keep costs down. I can say that I was shocked when I first started keeping track of my budget to find out how much I spend on them, even when I try to be frugal.
I might be gearing up to sound like a tightwad here but it’s important to raise a few questions/issues with some of the numbers here.
I own four cats, and my annual expenses for them are far below the above estimate for just *one* cat. I don’t think I provide poor care for them, either — they act quite happy, are all very friendly, etc.
Food: I’m clueless how one cat can consume $145 worth of food in a year. My pets eat a bagged, name-brand (i.e. not generic — go figure, *I* eat generic branded food most of the time but I give the cats name brand stuff :P) cat food (I think right now they’re eating 9 Lives). They go through one bag every month and a half or so, and each bag costs $8.98. Rounding that to $9, that’s $72 a year.
Annual medical exams: No argument from me that this is important, but these can be had much more inexpensively. Shouldn’t these be *included* in the cost of a “health insurance” plan for them if one is being paid for? The fact that both are mentioned on the list above tells me the answer is apparently “no,” but I digress. If you hunt around in your area for a non-profit animal hospital or even ask the local ASPCA or Humane Society for information, you can generally find a place that can provide that annual exam inexpensively. I’d be stunned to pay over $150 for all *four* cats, much less one.
Litter: $200 seems a bit high for this. Four cats burn through lots of cat litter (they remind me of this *very* loudly if I ever forget to change the boxes for even a day :)). The general rule I’ve seen is that four 35 pound containers of the stuff (Sam’s Club’s “generic” of this works fine) will last about two months. Any time I buy a new set of 4 containers, I’ll dump out the litter boxes entirely and start them over. After that, it’s a daily sifting, and weekly refresh (about an inch per box). There’s little to no odor (beyond the scent the stuff has fresh out of the container). It’s $6.50 per container, so 24 per year adds up to $156 a year. Buy this stuff in bulk and use it wisely рџ™‚
Toys & treats: I can’t argue with $25 here; in fact I tend to spoil the little buggers in this department and at any given moment you’ll easily find fifteen to twenty little felt mice or crinkly shiny balls scattered. These last a long time, though, and aren’t too pricey. They have a floor-to-ceiling scratching post as well, which I’ve anchored to the wall (since they’re good at tipping it over).
License: Meh. An indoor cat doesn’t *strictly* need a license, but yeah, this fee is pretty much unavoidable if they go outside. As much as I hate to say it, if you live somewhere that your neighbors would actually rat you out for owning unlicensed cats that stay indoors, it’s time to move рџ™‚
Health insurance: I’ve yet to be convinced this is even remotely worth the money. That $175 per year per cat would pile up to $700 a year for me — that’s the kind of money that would pay for just about any kind of emergency or surgery for any of the cats. The actual odds of something nasty happening to them indoors are pretty slim. I own few “poisons” that could harm them, and these are kept in sealed containers out of their reach. They don’t fight (they roughhouse, but it’s playful, not hurtful). If that $175 per year didn’t even cover the annual checkups and vaccinations, there’s no way you’d ever talk me into paying for the “insurance.” The whole point of health insurance (for humans, at least) is to reduce costs by minimizing health problems through preventive maintenance.
My annual costs are about $400, mostly food and litter; vaccinations are cheap (sometimes even free if the county has it in the budget) and so are health checkups.
That’s $100 per cat — a far cry from $705 a year per cat. They don’t seem unhappy, and they get favorable reviews from the doc every year when they go in for a checkup. Their teeth are good, their weights are generally good (though the black tabby is a bit chubby, so some extra exercise time with him daily has been on my list in recent months).
It just doesn’t cost that much to take care of these little guys рџ™‚
I am thinking of getting a kitten or cat. I have only one question. If when I first buy the kitten/cat there is a license purchased. When the kitten/cat goes in for their yearly checkup, how do you forego purchasing these licenses every year there after? By the way, my cats are always in door cats.
Thanks for your help.
I don’t know where the above poster lives, but in New York State, only dogs have to be licensed. If you are interested in having your cat microchipped, some shelters do this routinely (our local SPCA) and some don’t. I’ve heard, but can’t confirm from experience, that this could run about $20 at the vet if you have it done on your own.
You don’t even count purchasing the animal in initial costs (I realize some people get pets from shelters for free, but most pay up front for their pets in my experience).
I don’t have a pet because of financial considerations, but those considerations also include time spent caring for the animal.
Many of my coworkers have to take long lunches and frequently miss office happy hours to go home and walk their dogs. I also see people in suits frantically walking their dogs in the morning by my building, late for work. Not something I’m ready to deal with yet.
Good post. Lots of people bring animals home to live with them and then can’t properly care for them because they unexpectedly find that the cutenes costs money.
Those estimates aren’t too bad, but several of the numbers are somewhat inflated. Maybe they are more accurate for the coasts?
My annual food and litter costs are only slightly over these estimates, but that is for two cats. It cost me $425 to adopt the both of them from the shelter (they were sisters, so I took them home as kittens on the same day–no two-fer deal, though!) but that included the spay, initial vaccines, a voucher for a free vet exam for follow-up vaccine boosters, a ID microchip implantation, and a starter pack of food. Then when I took them to their free vet visit, they got these little glittery balls that are their favorite toys ever. All of their other toys have been gifts or things I have made for nothing.
They’re well worth everything I’ve spent on them, though.
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