Don’t get whiskered away by a furry face before tallying the costs of pet ownership.

4 minute read

It’s easy to throw away all common sense when a kitten is purring against your neck or a rescue dog puts his head on your knee. You must have this new pet, and money may be the last thing on your mind. Pet ownership is expensive, however. So how much will it cost to add a furry family member?

Including dental cleaning and grooming, annual costs for the first year for a medium-sized dog total around $1,800, according to Care Credit. First-year costs for a cat run around $1,200.

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1. Adoption fee

It may seem like adopting a pet should be free, since you’re helping a homeless animal. However, a rescue or shelter incurs many costs for the animal’s care to ready a dog or cat for adoption.

Pet adoption fees generally range from $75 to a few hundred dollars, but that fee usually covers veterinary costs for vaccinations, spay or neuter and often a microchip. Those are all services you won’t have to pay for yourself, which makes the adoption fee a bargain.

Find out: How to Save Money on Pets

2. Annual exams and other veterinary costs

Vaccinations and a spay or neuter may have been included in your adoption fee, but you’ll still need to stay on top of your pet’s health care with annual veterinary examinations and vaccinations against rabies, Bordetella and other illnesses. You may also need to get a heartworm test for your dog annually, which typically costs $45 to $65.

What if your dog gets a hot spot or your cat’s eye swells overnight? That’s at least a hundred bucks, maybe more. Serious illnesses or accidents requiring emergency surgery can cost thousands of dollars for veterinary care. You also need to be aware that your pet may develop a chronic condition, such as arthritis, which can lead to higher, ongoing costs.

Find out: 10 Ways to Cut Pet Expenses in Half

3. Microchip

If the rescue or shelter didn’t implant your dog or cat with a microchip that an animal shelter or vet can scan to locate the owner, it’s worth the $45 average cost of a microchip to improve chances of a happy reunion should your pet slip out the door or dart from the yard during a storm or fireworks celebration.

To get a better price on a microchip, check with low-cost spay and neuter clinics or take your pet to a weekend pop-up vaccination and microchip clinic, featured regularly in many cities.

4. Heartworm, flea and tick prevention

Unless you want to risk your cat or dog getting heartworms, an expensive, painful and potentially fatal disease to treat, you’ll need to give your pet a monthly dose of heartworm preventative, which can cost anywhere from $60 to upwards of $200 annually, depending on whether you have a dog or a cat and its size. Your vet may also offer a heartworm prevention shot that lasts six months for about the same cost.

Dogs and cats that go outside also need flea and tick preventatives. You may be able to save on cost by giving your pet a brand that includes combined heartworm, flea and tick prevention.

5. Crate or pet carrier

If you need to housetrain your new dog or puppy, you’ll need a dog crate. It’s also a good idea to crate a new dog while you’re away until you’re certain the dog isn’t destructive. You don’t want to add the cost of a new sofa to pet expenses because your anxious mutt chewed up the old one while you were out.

Depending on size, dog crates cost anywhere from $25 to $150 at a pet store or online retailer. To save money, search on Craigslist or another online marketplace instead, where you can snag a quality used dog crate for $20 to $40. Make sure you disinfect and sanitize any used crate.

6. Pet food

The days of picking up a box of Little Friskies at a convenience store have disappeared like cat fur in the wind. Today, pet owners can peruse pet store aisles filled with cat and dog food ranging from basic sustenance to no-grain, organic or raw foods that cost more than you spend on weekly groceries. Pet food and treats can cost anywhere from $250 to $700 annually.

Find out: 4 Ways to Save Money on Pet Food

7. Pet sitting or boarding

You may be able to leave your kitty with a big bowl of food and water overnight, but you can’t leave your dog to fend for himself while you’re on vacation. You’ll have to board your dog or hire a pet sitter to come a few times a day to feed and let out or walk your pet.

Boarding and pet sitting costs vary greatly but you’re looking at $20 to $60 a day, depending on services. To save money on pet sitting, exchange pet sits with trusted friends or neighbors.

8. Everything else

Squeaky toys, tennis balls, laser lights, comfy beds, blankets, cat litter and cat trees add up to at least a few hundred dollars annually. Can you afford all the expenses of a pet? If not, save your money so you’ll have enough to adopt eventually.

On the other hand, if you have enough money to give a homeless pet a healthy, loving home, get on down to your local animal shelter or rescue group and add a new feline friend or canine companion to your life.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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