At around 10 weeks old, our golden retriever puppy, Bailey, caused us a bit of a panic. After several days of moderately successful training, one afternoon Bailey had between seven and eight accidents, all within the span of an hour. I was convinced that Bailey had a urinary tract infection and called our vet, who made us an appointment for the same day.
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After spending $175, I found out that Bailey did not have a UTI. In her excitement at being a puppy, Bailey simply drank a lot of water and then let it run out, all at once, throughout the house. And so began our first unexpected expense of owning a new pet.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet owners spent nearly $109.6 billion on their pets in 2021. From vet visits to food and grooming, in a national survey, pet owners reported that they spent up to $1,480 per year on dogs and $902 annually on cats.
New pet owners may be curious about how this will break down on a monthly basis. Read on to get a better idea of where you’ll likely spend your money and ways to keep costs down.
Adoption: Saving Dollars and Lives
If you adopt from a shelter or rescue organization, you’ve already saved up.
“Adoption fees can range from nothing to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on which center you adopt from and where you live,” said Hannah Stember, public relations manager for the nonprofit Best Friends Society. which operates the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals. “They’re also a great value, as the fee covers an initial exam, vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and a microchip.”
Stember also offered that adopting a pet helps provide shelter for other homeless pets. “[When] you adopt, you save not one, but two lives: the one you adopted, but the one you made space available in a shelter or rescue group.”
In addition to the adoption fee, you’ll consider the cost of your pet’s supplies, vaccinations, possible spaying or neutering, possible licensing, and microchipping. These are usually one-time fees, but they add up. This ranges from $775 to $1,542 to adopt a dog, $500 to $876 to adopt a cat.
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Vet Visits: Vaccines and More
If you bought a puppy from a breeder or got it from a friend/family member who had a litter, expect 3-4 visits to the vet for initial exams and vaccinations.
As an example, Bailey visited the vet four times, with each visit costing between $120 and $220, depending on the vaccinations and additional tests (such as a parasite test) that were performed.
Microchipping your puppy can cost between $25 and $45. If the initial process did not include chip registration, plan on another $20 to register with various organizations that store microchip information or register with a free site like foundanimals.org.
Spaying or neutering will be another medical decision you’ll need to make with your vet. Expect to spend around $300, which should also cover anesthesia, blood work, checkups, and additional tests.
The ASCPA and/or your local animal shelter have more information on low-cost microchipping, spaying and neutering.
Additional Monthly Medical Treatments
Viruses, parasites, and other infections can strike before a puppy or kitten is vaccinated, causing distress to your pets and your wallet, so be careful to follow your vet’s guidelines to avoid them in the first place.
Flea medications cost about $25 for a monthly oral treatment. Buy them online in packs of three or six months. Your veterinarian will recommend the best course of action for your individual pet, based on breed, size, and other considerations.
For dogs, a monthly heartworm pill will cost you another $10-$30 monthly.
Should I take out pet insurance?
It’s doubtful that families in the ’80s or ’90s had pet insurance, but the tide is changing. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the number of pets insured in the US has increased at an average annual growth rate of 22% since 2015.
The average monthly cost of pet insurance is $50 for dogs and $28 for cats. Pet insurance is helpful for accidents, major surgeries, or newly discovered illnesses, but the plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions.
Keep your premiums lower by adjusting your deductible and percentage covered. If you decide not to purchase pet insurance, you’re not alone. About 3.1 million pets were insured in 2020, compared to 151.1 billion households in the United States that have pets.
Food: Wet or Dry? Boutique or Generic?
Your vet will help you choose what’s best, especially for allergies or digestive issues, but there are general guidelines that apply across the board.
Dry food is more profitable than wet food. Many pets do perfectly well on a kibble diet, however wet food provides additional hydration and tastes better.
Prices range from inexpensive brands like Costco’s Kirkland Signature ($49.99 for a 40-pound bag) to the naturally-based Blue Buffalo ($60 for a 30-pound bag). Higher quality brands (and higher prices) can be found at local pet stores or online.
Per pound, dry cat food brands are similarly priced, though since cats require less food per day, the kibble will last longer.
Get a discounted price and free shipping when you sign up for an e-commerce store, where food is automatically shipped to your home on a regular cadence of your choosing.
Rover reported that cat owners spend between $5 and $70 on toys per year, while dog owners spend between $10 and $330 per year.
In addition to the expenses listed so far, plan to spend at least $300 on the cat’s basic needs, including a litter and litter box, bed, carrier, toys, a scratching post, food, water bowls, and treats.
Basic dog expenses will include food and water bowls, crate, bed, toys, collar, leash, and more, and will probably set you back at least $200.
Personalized ID tags can be purchased for a few dollars on Amazon, and check with your city about pet licensing requirements. In Seattle, for example, the cost of a one-year spayed/neutered dog or cat license is $30.
A monthly subscription box, such as the BarkBox or Meowbox, will deliver a box of goodies, including treats, toys, and other gear, every month. BarkBox ranges from $26 to $35 per month and Meowbox starts at $23.95 per month. One advantage of these boxes is that when your pup or kit gets tired of a toy or runs out of a treat, a new box is on the way.
Dog grooming prices range from $40 to $75 for a bath and brush, and prices vary by breed and size. Cat grooming ranges from $30 to $70. Prices go up as you add services like haircuts, nail work and ear cleanings.
If you have patience, try to fix yourself at home. Nail clippers can be as little as $7.50 on Amazon or splurge for the nail grinder that starts at $20. For the price of a trip or two to the barber for a wash and cut, you can buy basic grooming tools including brushes, gloves toilet and razors. Don’t forget the shampoo and wipes (starting at $7 each).
If handling your pet’s nails isn’t your thing, many groomers offer nail clipping and ear cleaning appointments, ranging from $5-$10 per visit.
Boarding and Nursery
When you can’t bring your pet with you, there are kennels and animal boarding options to consider. Kennels cost on average around $22-60 a night. Additional services, such as walks, games, treats, or petting, will double this amount.
Daycare has also become a popular option for giving dogs the opportunity to socialize and expend energy while you work or are busy. Rates are around $40-280 per day.
Both puppies and humans will require a certain amount of training. Go the cheap route by borrowing or buying books on dog training. Various TV personalities like Zak George have YouTube channels that you can follow to get the same advice you’d learn from a professional dog trainer.
If you prefer in-person training, expect to spend at least $200 for five or six obedience school sessions, which will help you and your pup learn basic commands.
For busy parents or dogs that need extra attention, a board and train program will train your pup for two to six weeks, depending on behavioral issues. Tuition for these specialty programs starts at around $900 per week.
Expect the unexpected
Dobby’s humans installed a new cat door to suit his indoor and outdoor habits. Total cost including labor as they needed to purchase a new door to accommodate the cat door: $840. Dobby is still learning how to use the door from her.
After replacing the sofa in the living room (which may have been damaged by a cat and dog house), Moo’s mom relies on this pheromone spray to prevent the destruction of her new furniture and Jasmine’s parents back it up.
Maisy spent much of the summer dealing with an undiagnosed ailment, and her parents spent more than $3,000 trying to figure out how to combat her digestive problems.
Until your pet acclimates to its environment, there will be incidents and accidents. As he gets to know the newest member of his family, he will discover how to meet his needs. Patience, understanding, and a little extra money will get you through the first year of pet ownership. Rarely is it not worth it. Billions of households with pets can’t be wrong.
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Sam DiSalvo contributed reporting to this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: A Financial Guide for New Pet Owners