For most of us, the decision to own a pet comes from the heart. We may come across an irresistible kitten or puppy, or find ourselves at a rescue facility, forced to choose only one; or maybe a short-term pet-sitting situation becomes permanent. Whatever the circumstances, pet ownership is a loving commitment that can bring years of joy to our lives. It can also bring several expenses that can add up quickly, so it’s important to understand the monetary realities.
The SFSPCA website, sfspca.org, offers a checklist to help you choose a responsible breeder, one that places the well-being of the animal as a high priority.
The ASPCA provides a handy chart that details the maintenance costs for typical household pets on the web page at aspca.org/Home/Adoption/pet-care-costs.
The Advanced Animal Care of Colorado website, advancedanimalcareofcolorado.vetstreet.com, has resources available, including care guides for your pet.
Jen Lu is the communications manager for the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA); this AAHA-accredited organization provides shelter services, a veterinary hospital and community outreach programs to foster animal wellness. Lu recommends that potential owners visit a local shelter or contact a responsible breeder when it comes time to adopt.
Pet-worthy animals can be found at shelters and rescue facilities for between $50 and $200, which typically includes the cost to spay or neuter the animal, along with the initial vaccinations. A purebred animal can cost anywhere from $300 to $2,000 or more. “We would like to see the demand for puppy mills extinguished,” Lu says.
Needed pet accessories can vary widely. Along with food, the list may include leashes and collars, food dishes, pet beds, a litter box, scratching post, pet carrier, aquarium and veterinary care (e.g., spay/neuter if not included in adoption fee, vaccines and wellness/preventive care).
The website for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a national animal welfare organization founded in 1866, offers a concise chart of pet ownership expenses that can help pet owners get a clear understanding of what they could pay on an annual basis.
The ASPCA’s first-year cost estimates for a dog range from $1,300 to $1,800, while cat ownership averages around $1,000.
Annual exams, micro-chipping and grooming are other expenses that, while adding to the cost of owning your animal, can prove to be a good value. Sara McWilliams is a groomer with Advanced Animal Care of Colorado, a full-service hospital, grooming, daycare and training facility in Fort Collins.
“There are many aspects of grooming that have nothing to do with the looks of the animal,” she explains. “We are not trained to diagnose, but if we suspect an ear infection or see a tumor, we’ll contact the owner and have them get in touch with their veterinarian.” A typical grooming can range from $45 to $120 per session.
Lu points out that paying for animal care during the workday or vacation time can be another large, but necessary, expense. “Cats need a house sitter if you are away on vacation,” she says. “They don’t travel well. You may need a dog walker or a dog sitter if you’re away from home, or if you go away, a boarding facility; this is the responsible way to take care of your pet.” To help keep costs down, many pet owners trade or barter pet sitting responsibilities.
While they may add to your expenses, providing quality food, regular health care, and spaying or neutering are important and effective ways to care for your pet. “Understand that you are making a lifelong commitment to this animal’s care and well-being. It becomes part of the family, but you get back so much more,” says Lu. “It’s one of the best financial and emotional commitments you can make.”
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter November / December, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2012 AAHA. Find out more.