Mar 7, 2009

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: The Cost of Pet Ownership

When you need to cut costs, you can't off your children. But you can put your pet up for adoption. There's an interesting discussion over at Get Rich Slowly about the high cost of pet ownership.

Last year, The New York Times ran an article about the financial implications of pet ownership. Alina Tugend wrote:

"The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association asked 580 dog owners and 402 cat owners to record the amount they spent in the last 12 months on specific pet-related items. The dog owners spent almost $2,000; cat owners about $1,200. If you want a real deal, small animals came in at just under $300."

In 2001, Steph Bairey at FamilyResource.com researched the estimated costs of common pets. Though she doesn’t explain her methodology, she found that:

"Dogs cost about $730 per year.
Cats cost about $355 per year.
Rodents cost about $160 per year.
A tank of fish costs about $200 per year.
Birds cost about $770 per year.
Lizards cost about $745 per year.
Snakes cost about $520 per year."
I grew up without any pets (except a fish won once at a carnival that died a week after) so I can’t relate to the desire to own pets. I understand that for some people, the companionship means the world to them.

What I don’t understand is when people obviously can’t afford to own a pet, yet have one or more of them. I have a good friend who is a remarkable person, really kind and a big pet lover. She, along with her family, are struggling financially. I don’t know how badly, but they all work for the company business and the recession is hitting them hard. Yet she has tons of pets. A dog, a cat (or two), a rabbit, and then there are other various pets in the family at her parent’s house. She complains when her pets get sick and she has to take them to the vet (”I can’t afford it!”) but doesn’t ever think of getting rid of her pets (or not getting more). They make her so happy, so I see why she has them, but then I don’t understand how if you don’t even have an emergency fund built up and your checks keep bouncing, you can have so many animals to have to pay for. On the other hand, I have another friend who has one dog who is her life. I’m sure she spends a small fortune on him, but she’s in her late 30s and being as she’s single in the big city, it makes sense for her to have a dog. I guess it just depends on your situation.

How much do you spend on pets a year?



8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have one dog and the $730.00 amount sounds about right. This is definitely my last dog, as I'll probably be in my fifties by the time she dies.

Yeah, pets are expensive. But they're a whole lot less expensive than children. And a whole lot more loyal and obedient, too.

Debtfree2009 said...

I have two dogs - both rescue dogs one is 8 years old and the other is 4 months. I usually average about $200 per month for both. This includes heart worm meds, flea meds, food, treats, toys and vet visits. Once the puppy is a little older I expect the bills to go down to $125-$150 per month. She had some health problems that have to be taken care of.

dollarsforsense said...

I had a betta fish for a while because I knew I wouldn't be able to afford something more cuddly. He cost about $25 total for two years. I'd like to get a cat but I just can't afford one right now.

I'd say dogs are usually good investments if you train them well. They can be guard dogs, help you exercise, and help your kids not get allergies. Cats might be ok, too, but extotic pets are usually more trouble than they're worth. Their food and care is more expensive, and since they're not domesticated, they're not as much fun.

Anonymous said...

Since you're not a "pet person", it's understandable that you don't understand. Once you have a pet, they become a part of your family. You play with them, you feed them, you nurse them when they are sick, you grieve them when they pass away. Your dog supports you when you are sad or grieving, plays with you, helps you exercise, and protects you and your family. I would no sooner give away my dog, than another one of my family members.

While it is true that having a dog costs us hundreds of dollars a year, those costs could be reduced, if necessary. We could switch to a cheaper brand of food, there are vets that have no-cost or reduced-cost clinics, etc.

Stephanie PTY said...

I see a lot of college students and new grads that get pets (usually cats) way too soon. It ends up being bad all around - stray cats that can't fend for themselves wandering campus when Housing comes round and enforces the "no cats" rule or when people graduate. Or friends who are severely restricted in their housing options because they need places that allow cats. I love my parents' pets to death (two cats and a dog!), but I know that I'm simply not in a position to get my own, yet.

Pet ownership requires a stable life situation - for the health of the person and the pet.

Nicole said...

I adopted an older dog (she was 11) four years ago so my costs are probably higher then the estimate. Part of the reason I adopted an older dog was because of their lower energy levels and a lower time commitment then a younger dog.

She brings me joy but I don't see myself as one of those people who will pay for a $10,000 emergency operation for her ever. . . An animal is an animal and we have to keep it in perspective!

Anonymous said...

About 250 bucks for adoption, neutering, shots...50 bucks in kitty litter, and 200bucks a year for food, so 500 bucks for one cat...

We mulled over gettin this cat cuz our last cat passed 3yrs ago and we had no intention of getting a new one...But we fell in love with Baby, and he is worth every penny!

FrugalBeagle said...

The cost of pet ownership relates to your own spending style. If you like to buy yourself a lot of things, chances are you will spoil your pet in a similar way. I own 1 dog and I do not spend that much on her now, but when I first got her I probably did. Any pet can be expensive, just like children if you choose to spend that much on them. However, there are ways you can save money on raising your pet just like you can with children.

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