The True Cost of Owning a Dog or Cat

cost of owning a dog

If you live in a typical American household, 66% of which own a pet, you know the many benefits of being a pet parent. Pets provide companionship, reduce stress and even improve your health. Pet owners, especially those with dogs, are more likely to get outside and take a stroll through the park. So what could be the down side?

Although the benefits outweigh the costs, pets are expensive. It’s important to take a close look at the financial side of pet ownership before you add a new member to the family. Even if you’ve considered the adoption fee and supplies, the ongoing costs of food, grooming, and routine vet bills add up.

If you’re financially savvy, you may have looked into ways to save on pet food or perform at-home pet pedicures, but veterinary visits can add up. Scheduling routine physicals and keeping up to date on vaccines is the best preventative measure against future health conditions that may be costly to treat. Emergency medical care can leave even the most prepared pet owner in a mountain of debt. Or in the worst cases, economic euthanasia—a heartbreaking decision for any family.

Most people agree that the unconditional love of a pet is worth any amount of money. Still, preparing for the true cost of pet ownership can help you plan your budget. Pets become a part of the family, and making sure you can afford one can help you avoid tough decisions down the road. Fortunately, if you plan ahead, you can maintain the health of your pet and your finances.

Cost of Owning a Dog

Based on the average life span of 12 years, the lifetime cost of owning a dog can range from $20,000 to over $55,000. Studies show about half of all pet owners underestimate the cost of raising a pet. Before purchasing a dog, it’s important to understand both the initial cost of bringing a dog into your home and the ongoing annual expenses of raising a dog.

Note: Expenses and costs are possible ranges

One-Time Expenses

Aside from emergency care, most major expenses occur in the first year. New pet owners can expect to shell out nearly $400 for the bare necessities alone. Depending on the specific breed and size of dog, these costs could range well over $2,000. Below is a look at some initial costs you can expect to incur.

  • Adoption fee/cost: $0 to $700—can be higher depending on breed
  • Food and water bowls: $10 to $100
  • Spaying or neutering: $200 to $800
  • Initial medical exam and vaccines: $70 to $300
  • Collar, tags, and leash: $25 to $60
  • Bed and crate: $35 to $250
  • Carrying crate: $60 to $150
  • Microchipping: $20

Total one-time expenses: $420 to $2,180

In some cases, puppies can be more expensive than healthy adult dogs, since they need more shots and veterinary procedures. They may also require obedience training due to their boundless energy and tendency to chew on household items.

Annual Expenses

How much do dogs cost per year? According to the ASPCA, the average pet owner spends nearly $1,400 annually on their furry pal. However, other sources put this number much higher.

Below is a look at some of the expenses you can expect to incur every year you have a dog. If you have multiple dogs, these costs will be a lot more.

  • Food: $200 to $700
  • Vaccines and routine care: $200 to $500
  • Heartworm and flea prevention: $175 to $200
  • Vitamins: $58
  • License: $15
  • Treats and chew toys: $100 to $300
  • Grooming supplies: $25 to $75

Total average cost of owning a dog per year: $773 to $1,848


In addition to the basics, such as food and veterinary care, other routine and unexpected expenses will arise. You’ll also need to consider pet-related costs that come along with life events, such as travel and moving. For instance, many apartments charge a pet deposit. You also may need to pay additional cleaning fees.

  • Professional grooming: $200 to $400
  • Training: $100 to $400 per hour
  • Boarding and travel fees: $25/day
  • Accessories: $0 to $500
  • Pet health insurance: $225 to $516 annually

While raising your dog is a significant investment, most pet owners feel it’s money well spent. After all, you get paid back with unconditional love and affection.

Cost of Owning a Cat

cost of owning a cat

Cats may be less expensive to own than dogs, but even these lower-maintenance creatures can put a dent in your bank account. For one reason, cats tend to live longer than dogs—they have a life span of about 15 years. Additionally, 44% of cat owners have more than one cat, compared to just 35% of dog owners. The average lifetime cost of owning a cat can range from $12,000 to $26,000.

The biggest factor affecting the life span and total expenses of a cat is whether it lives indoors or outdoors. An outdoor cat has a much shorter life span—only five years on average—and is at greater risk of injury from other animals, traffic, and diseases. If you plan to let your cat outdoors, lower your financial risk by vaccinating against diseases and purchasing pet insurance to cover potential injuries.

You also want to ensure it’s not illegal to let your cat roam outside in your area. If your beloved cat ends up at animal control, you’ll have to pay a fee to get it back.

One-Time Expenses

As with dogs, the initial expenses of cat ownership are the highest. You can expect to pay up to $1,000 when buying a cat.

  • Adoption fee/cost: $0 to $300—can be higher depending on breed
  • Food and water bowls: $5 to $30
  • Spaying or neutering: $145 to $200
  • Initial medical exam: $130 to $175
  • Collar or leash: $10 to $20
  • Litter box: $10 to $50
  • Cat bed: $20 to $100
  • Carrying crate: $35 to $70
  • Microchipping: $20

Total one-time expenses: $355 to $965

Annual Expenses

Of course, cats aren’t always predictable. You may have a certain cat food in mind—one that fits your budget—but that doesn’t mean your cat will like it. Cats can also be particular about the type of litter they use. Still, the following ranges give you an idea of what to expect in the years ahead.

  • Food: $200 to $500
  • Medical care and vaccines: $200 to $550
  • Flea and tick prevention: $140 to $200
  • Treats: $35 to $100
  • Litter: $150 to $200
  • Toys and scratching post: $20 to $100
  • License: $15
  • Grooming supplies: $28

Total annual cost to own a cat: $788 to $1,693


Cats have a penchant for knocking things off tables, and they don’t differentiate between empty toilet paper rolls and expensive vases. Additionally, they have sharp claws, and if you don’t give them someplace to scratch, they may turn your furniture into a shredding post. This is all to say you may want to set aside money for miscellaneous expenses.

Here are some other extras you may want to consider:

  • Pet health insurance: $175 to $350 per year
  • Accessories: $0 to $300
  • Pet sitting or boarding: $25/day

Ways to Save Money on Your Furry Pet

prepare for the unexpected

Pet costs can quickly get out of hand if you’re not careful. Fortunately, you can do several things to save money on care for your pets.

Spay or Neuter

Unless you’re a breeder, having your pet spayed or neutered should be one of your top priorities. Not only can this step help you save money in the long run, but it can also prevent unwanted litters of puppies or kittens.

Set a Budget

Setting a budget for your pet expenses can help you avoid spending too much on unnecessary purchases. Start by tracking how much you spend per month on pet care expenses. Use this information to set your budget for these costs.

Buy in Bulk

You can save a significant amount of money throughout the year by purchasing your pet food and treats in bulk. With proper storage, many types of pet food have a shelf life of up to 18 months.

Preventive Care

The best way to keep your pet’s medical expenses down is to invest in preventive care. Scheduling regular checkups, including dental care, and ensuring your pet is up to date on all necessary shots, including heartworm and vaccines against fleas and ticks, can avoid costly medical charges later.

Groom at Home

Instead of paying anywhere from $200 to $400 for professional grooming services, you can groom your pet at home. Once you purchase the original supplies, which can cost around $50, you can groom your pet at home for significantly less money.

Cash-Back Rewards and Loyalty Programs

Consider purchasing your pet supplies using a cash-back rewards credit card. This step can help you save money by earning cash back on your everyday purchases.

Should You Buy Pet Insurance to Cover Pet Costs?

One step that can make the cost of pet ownership more affordable is pet insurance. The right insurance plan can help cover some of your pet’s medical expenses. This, in turn, can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

Pet insurance can also give you peace of mind knowing that if your pet requires unexpected medical care, some costs may be covered. It’s important to realize not all pet insurance policies are alike. Be sure to carefully read the benefits and exclusions for each policy to ensure you select the one that’s right for your situation.

Prepare for the Unexpected

budgeting for a pet

Emergency Vet Expenses

When you bring home your new fur baby, the last thing you want to think about is a tragedy or major illness hitting them, but it’s important to be prepared. Even if you establish healthy habits such as regular exercise, you should plan ahead for unexpected veterinary bills. 

Once you become a pet parent, you may find that you’ll do anything for your canine or feline companion, even risking your credit to save their lives. While many pet owners feel that their pet’s well-being is worth the necessary sacrifices, setting aside money for a rainy day can help deflect some of the costs of an emergency procedure or unexpected illness.

Pet Insurance

Putting money aside for unexpected pet expenses is a good idea, but it’s difficult to save enough to cover a major medical bill—especially if you’re paying off existing debt at the same time. A diagnostic procedure alone can cost up to $2,000. And common medical conditions, such as orthopedic surgery or removing a foreign body can cost $7,000. If your pet has a chronic condition requiring regular follow-up visits or medications, your pet could rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

Rather than set yourself up to be forced to decide between your financial health and your pet’s health, plan for the worst by taking out pet insurance. With ongoing expenses adding up, it’s tempting to cut corners by skipping pet insurance, but the peace of mind it will give you is invaluable.

Tips for Budgeting for a Pet

Advance planning, such as signing up for health insurance or contributing to a savings account with your pet in mind, can help keep you out of financial water. But there are other ways to make pet ownership affordable and keep costs down.

Consider whether you’re willing to cut back in other areas

Being a responsible pet owner requires sacrifices of your time and sometimes, your finances. You may need to reconsider your morning latte once you’re splurging on treats for your new best friend.

It takes a village

Pet sitting or boarding can cost you $15 to $60 a day, but asking for help from friends and neighbors can save you money, even if you offer to pay for their time.

Search out low-cost clinics for routine pet care

Animal welfare organizations often offer low-cost vaccinations, spaying, and neutering, saving you money both now and in the long run by helping prevent costly medical conditions. Check with your local humane society or local pet rescue groups to get more information.

Avoid Pet Debt

Prevention can be the most effective tool for avoiding surprise pet costs. Regular exams help detect problems earlier making them less expensive and more likely to have a positive outcome. For example, spaying/neutering your pets reduces their risk of certain cancers.

If you can’t afford an expensive but necessary medical procedure, you may be able to get financial assistance from veterinary medical colleges or non-profit organizations. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of organizations that offer aid to pet owners with financial needs. This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you don’t find an option there, keep looking.

Credit Cards for Pet Owners

While you don’t want to rely on credit cards alone to cover the cost of owning a pet, choosing the right card can help you earn cash back and rewards points on pet-related purchases you’re already making. Some even offer 0% financing, which is useful for transferring a hefty vet bill from an existing card to a new one. Depending on whether you plan to use the card for pet purchases alone or everyday spending will help you determine which card is best for you.

If you’re considering bringing a furry friend home, make sure your credit is in good standing first. A credit card that rewards pet purchases can make it more affordable to own a pet. You’ll want to check your credit scores to know where your credit stands before you apply, so you can reduce the risk of a rejected application and come up with a plan to work your way toward better credit if necessary.


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