The Cost Of Responsible Pet Ownership

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Lots of people love animals. But sometimes love is not enough.

Sometimes, a long distance (or even international) move forces owners to rehome or surrender their pets to local shelters. Sometimes old age or catastrophic illness prevents an owner from continuing to care for their pet. Sometimes a pet is surrendered because of a shift in family dynamics (such as a birth). And sometimes, the owner realizes that they can simply no longer afford to provide for their pet.

dog parade, puttin on the dog, 2018
An Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with a dog available for adoption. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

In  fact, cost  reportedly ranks among the top five reasons for pet relinquishment. And frankly, that’s just not right.

Part of being a responsible pet owner — and I do stress responsible pet owner — is being fully informed before you buy or adopt a pet. That means you should know how much it will cost to buy or adopt and provide ongoing care for your pet before you get one. And you need to be honest with yourself about whether you can afford to have a pet before you get one.

That being stated, here is some general information about the costs associated with pet ownership.

  • Initial Cost: Adoption fees (which sometimes include the cost of spay/neuter procedures) will typically be approximately $100. If you are buying a pet from a pet shop or directly from a breeder, expect to pay several times that amount. Conservatively, plan on spending at least $400  to $500 for the acquisition of your pet.
  • Accessories: Brushes, food bowls, toys, litter boxes, leashes, collars, scratching posts… They’re all essential and costs can add up quickly. Budget at least $125 to $140 to cover these costs, depending on whether you get a dog or cat.
  • Preliminary vet check: Whether you adopt or buy your pet, one of the first things you should do is take your new pet to the vet for a thorough checkup. Some shelters or rescues will have arrangements with local veterinarians who will do these exams for a small fee. Plan on spending $50, for the exam and put an additional $200 or so aside for a spay/neuter if Fluffy or Fido hasn’t been “fixed.”
  • Ongoing expenses: Again, food, treats, and toys top the list of pet supplies that have to be replenished on a regular basis. Of course you should budget for these based on your pet’s unique needs. A general estimate is $150 to $200 or more per year for dogs, and $200 per year for cats.
  • Medical expenses: Let’s not sugar coat it. Veterinary care is expensive. Even “healthy” dogs and cats need routine shots and other preventive care. Budget at least $350 to $450 for annual check-ups and related matters, exclusive of emergency medical care.
  • Unexpected costs: Of course, there’s no way to budget for unanticipated events. But if you can, try to set some money aside for emergency veterinary care (for illness or injury). You should also consider health insurance for your pet, since even routine care (like teeth cleaning and lab work) tends to be expensive.
  • Additional considerations: Do you travel a lot? Even if you only leave home occasionally, you’ll need someone to look after your pet. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to count on a friend or family member. But if that’s not possible, you’ll have to get a professional pet sitter, or leave Fluffy or Fido at a kennel or cattery. In any case, it may be costly, so you should plan accordingly.

Speaking as a pet owner, I know exactly how expensive having a cat can be. I also know it’s worth it.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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