If you’re thinking about adopting a pet such as a dog or a cat, there are many factors to consider.
For example, if you live in a small apartment or condo, then you’ll probably want to avoid any large dog breed that requires a lot of space. On the other hand, if you’re active and enjoy going on frequent runs, hikes, or walks, then you might want to consider adopting an active dog breed.
Another factor is preference: perhaps you prefer cats over dogs – or you want a pet that’s more low maintenance than the typical canine.
While lifestyle and preference are incredibly important factors, it’s also important to consider your budget. After all, you’ll need to factor in pet food, adoption fees, crates, leashes, and veterinarian costs into your expenses.
It’s normal to prepare for milestone expenses such as a down payment on a car or a house, but it’s easy to overlook the costs of pet ownership when our hearts are melting over the four-legged cuteness.
By planning in advance, you can ensure that you’re able to provide the most loving and comfortable home possible for your pet.
Below are some top-level numbers:
- $634 per year – the average cost of raising a cat, regardless of size
- $2,674 per year – the average cost of raising a small dog breed
- $3,536 per year – the average cost of raising a large dog breed
In the sections below, we’ll break down these numbers and provide greater insight into the real-life costs of raising a pet.
How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Dog?
While the companionship and bond with a dog is priceless, there are tangible costs to raising a pup. The first question to ask yourself is: how do I plan on adopting a dog?
Going through a shelter and getting a rescue dog is much cheaper than going to a breeder. Plus, you’ll feel good about rescuing a dog in need. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get a designer dog. If you’ve always had a dream dog or need a dog for a specific purpose, such as herding on the farm, then going to a reputable breeder is the better bet. For most of us, however, going to the local shelter or rescue is a solid choice.
Consider the average upfront costs when adopting from a shelter:
- $50 – $150 – adoption fee
- $100 – $300 – spay or neuter, if not included in the adoption fee
- $50 – $100 – initial vaccinations, including a rabies shot
- $50 – $200 – collar, leash, crate, and toys
If you decide to go to a breeder for a designer or custom-bred dog, you can expect the adoption fee to start at a minimum of $1,500.
The good news is that after the upfront costs of adopting a dog, the costs rapidly subside and stabilize.
The ongoing costs are going to be food ($435 per year), preventative medications such as flea and heartworm meds ($389 per year), and annual veterinary wellness checks ($650 per year).
Perhaps the largest consideration that hasn’t been addressed is training. In most cases, you can train a dog from the comfort of your own home. Basic commands such as sit, stay, and come are best taught using positive reinforcement. In other words, any time your dog does what you want it to do, then provide rewards such as verbal praise and tasty treats! This way, your dog associates obedience with positive stimuli.
For stubborn dogs or more advanced tricks such as agility training, then you may want to consider hiring a professional dog trainer. You can go to big box stores such as PetSmart for 6-week training programs that cost as little as $119. One-on-one training sessions with a professional trainer, however, can cost anywhere between $45 to $120 per lesson.
Finally, it’s time to talk about the one “hidden” cost of dog ownership.
If you’ve never had a dog before or never grew up with a dog, you might be surprised to learn how much new puppies love to chew. They will chew on anything and everything that they can get their paws on.
No matter how many toys and chew bones you get for your puppy, it still has to learn what’s acceptable (and not acceptable) to chew on.
With that being said, the hidden cost of ownership is the items that your puppy will chew beyond repair. When bringing home a dog, keep any expensive or sentimental items out of reach. Shoes, backpacks, purses, pillows, blankets… Really, anything that can be chewed on is fair game to your puppy.
Again, it’s important to use positive reinforcement. For example, if you catch your puppy chewing on a tennis shoe, you’ll have better luck encouraging it to chew on one of its toys, instead of yelling at it for chewing on your belongings. Dogs have the logical capabilities of a two-year-old, so it’s important to keep your training simple and clear.
According to the American Kennel Club, the average lifetime cost of raising a dog comes in at $23,410. When you consider that dogs live an average of 10-15 years and provide loyalty, fun, and endless love and companionship, the investment is certainly well worth it!
How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Cat?
Generally speaking, the costs of cat ownership are much cheaper than raising a dog. A lot of this comes down to size. Cats, for example, are much smaller and therefore require less food. Over the course of several months and years, this seemingly small difference adds up to a considerable amount of money.
While the average cost of any dog is $3,085 per year, the average cost of raising a cat comes in at just $634, according to ASPCA.
Consider the average annual costs of raising a cat:
- $30-$180 – adoption fee
- $250 – spay or neuter
- $250 – food (combination of dry and wet food)
- $350 – litter
Food costs will vary the most, depending on the brand of food you get and whether you get dry kibble or canned wet food for your cat. Canned food is more expensive, but cats tend to enjoy it better and it’s an excellent option for picky eaters. Dry food, on the other hand, is generally a lot cheaper.
Furthermore, the cost of litter can also vary wildly. Different brands produce litter with different benefits, such as odor control, limited dust, and enhanced clumping. The more basic the litter, the cheaper it will be; the more benefits the litter has, the more it will cost. Unless your cat has specific needs, you can choose litter based on which benefits are the most important to you and your family.
Cats are also less likely to destroy their toys compared to dogs. While dogs love chewing on things, cats love chasing and “hunting” their toys. No matter what kind of cat you get, though, you’ll likely want to invest in a scratching post so that your cat doesn’t scratch and destroy your furniture.
Other costs of owning a cat will be one-time expenses, such as purchasing a cat brush, nail trimmer, and litter box.
How to Budget for Raising a Pet
When creating our budgets, it’s common to factor our kids into the equation. For example, in addition to childcare and clothing, our grocery and food categories take our children into consideration.
But what about our pets?
Do dog food and cat food count as part of the “food category,” or does the family pet get its own category?
When it comes to creating budget categories, there are no set rules. Remember, personal finance is, well, personal.
If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read my previous post on how to organize your budget using budget categories. In that post, I discuss what to consider when forming your categories and how it can help you keep your budget organized.
For more tips and insight on organizing your budget, I invite you to join TBM Family on Facebook! You’ll have the opportunity to connect with folks like yourself who are trying to make the most of their budget. I hope to see you there!