You might want to sit down for this one. The estimated cost for taking care of a dog over a 13-year lifespan, depending on your location and the overall health of the animal, among other factors, can cost from $4,000 to over $35,000. Most of us would argue that living with a beloved pet is an experience which we can’t put a price on. But knowledge of the tangible cost for pet care, if considered before adopting a pet, might prevent a number of pets from being poorly cared for, abused, or ultimately abandoned.
April is financial literacy month, a good time to consider what the cost of having a pet might be. There seem to be as many financial factors to consider as there are species of animals available.
The first consideration is your living environment and how willing you and your family are to adapting it to suit a pet. If you’re a city dweller, it isn’t likely that you’ll be able to keep a large dog in your condo. If you are an active family that is only home a few hours a day because of work and school commitments, adopting a pet that needs many hours of attention paid to it each day isn’t advisable.
Doing your homework well in advance of adding a pet to your home can save you from the heartbreak of having to find a home for a pet whose needs you cannot meet.
The ASPCA of New York offers a chart of typical items needed to make a pet at home (www.aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx). The items are categorized as annual costs, capital or initial costs, and special cost, which is determined by unusual characteristics such as grooming needs. Novice pet owners, for example, may not realize that monthly flea preventives are not included in the veterinary fee. Costs for such necessities as scoopable kitty litter or bedding materials for small rodents should also be budgeted for regularly. The costs over the lifespan of your pet can be substantial.
Remember that the price of pet supplies is also subject to state and local taxes and shipping, if you’re purchasing online. If buying supplies at the local pet store is your practice, factor in the cost of transportation as well.
Prospective pet owners would also be wise to find out what veterinary care is available for unusual pets such as chinchillas or exotic fish, which might be a budget-breaker if a specialist must be called in an emergency. Pet insurance is also available, but can vary as to coverage and costs. Some pet owners have begun a savings account to use in the event that unusually expensive veterinary care becomes necessary.
For a broad view of pet costs, the ASPCA’s chart is a starting point. The first-year figures range from $1,843 for a large dog to $235 for fish. While it doesn’t state what year this chart was prepared, some of the yearly estimates seem unusually low to me. Make a trip to the pet store and compare current prices to the chart’s before running the totals again. Call the local veterinary hospital to ask about vaccinations and other common pet care health costs to add to your figures.
The only thing not considered in the chart’s totals is time. Even if you can handle the financial aspects of pet guardianship, a pet must be fed, groomed, and exercised daily. If, after all your research, you’re still determined to adopt a pet, be prepared for the cost of adjusting your home as well as your family’s lifestyle to make the commitment possible.