The Real Cost of Cat$ and Dog$

Don’t kid yourself: Look at the lifetime costs of a companion animal in order to determine whether you can provide the care that a pet deserves.


How much is that doggy (or kitty) in the window? According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the total annual cost of owning a dog is between $1,314 and $1,843. All you crazy cat people will shell out about $1,035 per year for your little purrmeisters.

Those numbers reflect the basics: food, litter, collar, leash, dishes, cage, toys, scratching post, carrier and medical care. But the figures don’t encompass a lot of other potential costs, from pet-sitting to insurance increases.

Is it appropriate to put a price tag on the love and affection a pet can bring? Absolutely! In fact, it’s essential to look at the lifetime costs of a companion animal before you get one, or before you take on a second — or third, or fourth — fuzzy buddy.

Owning a pet is a lifetime commitment. You can’t fall in love with a cute Persian kitten and then ignore the needs of the maybe-not-as-adorable grownup cat. That butterball of a pup will need to be fed, walked and socialized regularly, even when you’d much rather sleep in or binge-watch shows on Netflix.

Pets are always going to need you – and they’re always going to cost you, which is why you should factor in not just the SPCA data but other potential costs.

Do you have the time?

First and foremost, pets need your attention. Although felines tend to be more aloof, some cats are real cuddlers and need a lot of you-time. To ignore a cat’s need for affection is not only cruel, but can be costly. A neglected kitten might shred the curtains or urinate on furniture.

The same is true for man’s best friend. A bored or lonely pooch may take out his stir-craziness on your landscape or the furniture. I’ve personally seen where canines chewed through fences, even chain-link ones.

Dogs can also get you in dutch with the neighbors or even the police by barking constantly in search of attention. Because dogs are pack animals, it’s particularly inhumane to adopt and then neglect one.

Don’t have enough time to devote to a pup? Don’t get one. If you get very busy at work sometimes – say, tax season at your accounting firm – then budget for some outsourced affection by paying someone to tend to your pet or enroll Fido in a doggie day care center.

More than just kibble and litter

When choosing a cat or dog, beware the kinds of costs that novice owners can’t anticipate. Certain breeds need specific types of grooming, so unless you plan to buy clippers you’ll need to budget for visits to the pet beauty salon.

Are you willing to clean your pet’s teeth? It’ll save money (and pain for the animal) in the long run, but not everyone wants to do it. If that’s you, then you’ll have to pay the vet to do it.

Incidentally, those vet visits will likely become more frequent as your pet ages and health problems crop up. Some people deride those SPCA figures as ridiculously high. But anyone whose dog developed hip dysplasia or whose cat has been attacked by a raccoon can tell you that pets can run up a big bill.

Note: One way to keep health costs way down is to keep your animals indoors or in a fenced yard. Dogs and cats do not need to roam, and owners who let them do so are risking the pet’s health and the associated costs.

Suppose your pet has, uh, digestive issues? Fork over additional cash for diagnosis and then the necessary (and more expensive) special pet foods. Add a little extra for rug cleaning, too.

Love to travel? Your trips just got more expensive because you’ll either have to board the animal or pay someone to look in on your pet. And if you want to travel with Fido or Fluffy, prepare to pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege.

That is NOT a chew toy!

Pet behavior sometimes seems malevolent, but you must remember that animals don’t reason the way we do. That plush sofa you spent so much money on makes a wonderful scratching post. Pets don’t understand why they shouldn’t gnaw on your expensive leather shoes (those things are delicious!).

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