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Can You Afford a Pet?

The idea of bringing home a new furry friend can put a big smile on your face. And there's proof: Research shows that pets may ease stress, lower blood pressure and even teach you about mindfulness.

While it's nice to know that pets can increase your overall well being, it's important to consider the costs of owning a pet. But there's so much more to the financial picture. So let's dive into pet costs to help you decide if unconditional love is something you can afford. (Note: This guide will focus specifically on the costs to own a cat or a dog).

What are the costs of owning a pet?

It's hard to put a solid price tag on owning a pet, but the average annual cost is $1,412 for a small dog and $1,174 for a cat. Different factors play a role in the cost to own a pet such as the type of animal, veterinarian costs in your area, and where you buy your food.

Adoption fees

It's possible that you'll inherit your new four-legged companion from a family member or friend. But you may have to pay adoption fees if you go with an animal shelter. The costs for adopting a pet range from $25 to $600, depending on organization and breed. And adoption fees can seem high until you realize what they cover.

They usually include the cost of a complete medical exam, initial vaccinations and spaying or neutering the pet. Sometimes the fee covers a microchip tracking device, collar, leash and a supply of food. Adoption agencies want to make pet ownership as easy as possible by including essential services in the fee.

Spaying or neutering fees

If your adoption fee doesn't include spaying or neutering, you may have to foot the bill yourself. Private spaying and neutering services range from $145 – $220.

Pet supplies

Getting everything ready before you bring your furry friend home is pretty exciting. But planning is everything. As an example, you'll at least need a litter box and litter for cats. Even the cheapest cat litter can run around $13.75 per bag, at an annual cost of $165 per year.

Food costs

Some pet owners spend a lot of money on premium wet and dry food, and others prefer more economical brands. It might depend on diet considerations and pet tastes. But it's wise to talk to your veterinarian before picking a brand. Generally speaking, food costs range from $212 to $400 annually.

Annual checkups

It's recommended to bring your pet to the vet on a regular basis - once or twice a year. Routine wellness checks help prevent illness and treat diseases early and may include things like vaccinations, lab work, and dental care. They won't include emergency care or medications.

Depending on how often you take your pet for a checkup, the annual cost for essential services ranges from $160 – $210.

Toys and treats

Rewarding your pet with tasty treats and interactive toys can add up. Still, buying toys and treats can keep your pet busy and happy. While the cost to buy these items depends on where you buy them and how often, the average price is between $40 – $75 per year.

Grooming costs

Furry friends need regular grooming too. Grooming services may include a dog wash, cat hair comb-out, nail clippings, and teeth cleaning. The cost depends on the size of the animal and the service provided. Standard grooming services are in the $90 range. Depending on how often you pay for grooming services, the cost could be $90 – $300 every year.


Playing with a puppy brings oohs and ahhs, but the ball of cuteness might eventually need some dog training. Teaching dogs how to respect their owners, not to pull on the leash, and to sit or stay on command makes for a happy household, but this may not be part of your budget. If it is, the cost of obedience training ranges from $50 per group class to $90 – $140 per session for a private dog trainer.

Traveling expenses

Leaving home for an extended period without your best friend might be hard at first, but eventually, you may need to pay for boarding or pet sitting services. Like all pet expenses, the cost varies by length, service, and location. The national average price for overnight pet boarding is between $40 - $60 per night.


The cost of medication depends on your pet's health, but the most common medication expense is flea medication - especially if your pet roams freely in your yard or at a park. For example, Advantage Flea Treatment is a monthly ointment that runs $6 – $10 monthly. Over a year, expect to pay $72 – $120 to keep the pests from feasting on your pet.

How can you cut pet care costs?

Don't fret. There are plenty of ways to save on pet care costs, so you can splurge on a pet toy or two.

Regular checkups

Yes, there's an expense to routine wellness visits. But taking your pet to see the vet once a year prevents diseases and stops bigger health problems from happening. When you catch illnesses earlier on, the costs are generally lower over the long run.

Prevent fleas

A flea infestation is uncomfortable for your pet, and the cost to remove the fleas is high.

Fleas are small, hard-to-find critters. And once they're on your pet, they're usually in your house. That said, you'll likely need to pay for house flea treatment on top of the flea medication for your pet. The average price range for a flea extermination session is between $80 and $100 per session.

Consider pet insurance

You never know when you'll have a pet emergency. That's where pet insurance comes into play: It helps you pay for medical-related health expenses your pet might face. That means protection against high medical costs such as life-saving surgery or cancer treatments.

Pet insurance coverage varies from plan to plan, so it's essential to understand exclusions before you commit to a policy.

How does pet insurance work?

If your pet gets sick or injured, pet insurance helps you pay the bills. Depending on the policy, you'll typically pay for a medical expense out of pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement. The amount reimbursed depends on the deductibles, reimbursement amount and annual maximums of the plan.

Deductibles are a set fee you pay before the pet insurance carrier pays for medical services. The annual deductible may be as low as $0 or as much as $1,000 per year. The amount depends on the breed, type of coverage, and monthly premium.

The reimbursement amount is the cost covered by your pet insurance carrier. Typically, reimbursement levels range from 50 – 100%. For example, if you paid $1,000 for vet care after your dog had an accident from romping around in the yard, you'll receive $500 back at a 50% reimbursement rate.

The annual maximum is the total amount for medical expenses per year covered by the carrier. When pet health care costs reach this threshold, the remaining expenses are entirely out-of-pocket. The average annual maximums vary by pet insurance provider but can be anywhere between $1,000 to $25,000 per year.

What does pet insurance cost?

Pet insurance is affordable, with monthly and annual payment options averaging about $30-$50 per month. Your premium might cost less if you choose a high-deductible plan, or cost more if you have lower out-of-pocket costs.

Other factors that help determine cost are the species, breed, age, and location of your furry friend. Generally, dogs cost more to insure than cats. Age also plays an important role because pets, like people, may have more health concerns as they age.

Is pet insurance right for you?

For some, pet insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense - especially if your animal is young and healthy. But life can be unpredictable. Explore plans and get a pet insurance quote today to find out if pet insurance works for you and your new (or current) furry friend.

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