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The cost of owning a pet: 4 questions you should be asking

From the moment we bring them home, pets give us unconditional love and companionship. Owning a furry companion can be one of the most rewarding experiences (next to building a Planswell financial plan), but it can also be an expensive one. It’s important to remember that although our four-legged friends give us so much love, you have to stop and consider the pros and cons before you take on the responsibility. Do you have the time and resources to care for a potential pet in the way it would care for you?

Before you start to look at breeds and humane societies, do your research. Are you confident that you are financially ready for a pet? Here are the possible costs you should consider before you invest in a new friend:


Initial adoption or pet purchase fees

Whether you plan to purchase a pet or adopt one from your local shelter you will be required to put down some payment in exchange to bring your companion home.

In the case of adoption, shelter fees cover most of the necessary services. This includes vaccinations,  microchipping, and the procedure of either spaying or neutering your pet. Adoption fees can range from $50 to over $300. However, you are getting your money’s worth. Keep your eyes open for special offers at your local shelter, such as adoption drives. You may be able to have the fee waived if you take home a pet in need.

If you choose the latter option and opt to buy a new pet, this is where the financial burden begins to grow. Depending on the breed, bloodline, and even transportation to you from the breeder, the price tag on a new pet can swing higher than $1,000. Keep in mind that this often doesn’t include those necessary services as well.


Visits to the vet

Just like you have an annual checkup with your physician, it’s important to remember that your potential pet will need medical care too. This requires visits to the vet.

It’s well-known that veterinarians charge top dollar for the services. Don’t turn a blind eye and underestimate how much you will spend on pet-related healthcare each year. A single visit can range from $100 to upwards of $300, depending on the treatments your pet will need. On top of this, your pet may need regular medications, such as tick control and standard vaccinations.

Emergency procedures are vital to keep in mind. You can never predict these costs, but you will want to make sure you have a cushion in your savings and keep your budget tight in case you’re required to pay for such an unexpected expense. Think of it as an emergency fund for your pet.


Pet insurance

Similar to regular insurance, pet insurance is a healthcare policy for your pet that will reimburse you for certain medical expenses. This provides you with a layer of protection against the risk of high medical care fees – or worse, putting your pet down because the surgery cost is astronomical. With pet insurance, you will be able to save on vet costs if and when your pet gets sick or injured.

Like a human policy, pet insurance plans are paid on a monthly schedule and cost a few hundred dollars a year. By paying the premium, most medical costs will be reimbursed. However, not all illnesses are covered, so you must read the fine print on your plan before you move forward. You will usually have to pay a deductible out of pocket first, then file a claim with your insurer to be reimbursed.

The cost of pet insurance will depend on the type of animal you have, how comprehensive you’d like the plan to be, and where in the world you live. Insurers will charge you based on what procedures you’d like to have covered as well. Other factors that pet insurers use to calculate insurance premiums include: 

  • Breed. With a tendency to have shorter life spans and develop for health issues, larger pets often cost more to insure.  
  • Age. Due to minimal health issues in their early years, younger pets are cheaper to insure.


Annual expenses

So you’ve added up the one-time costs of adoption fees to neutering to initial vet costs. You should have a rough idea of what your pet will cost in the first year you bring them home. You’ll want to complete your calculations by tallying up everything else your pet will need throughout its lifetime, and how much that will cost you on an annual basis.

From food and bowls to toys, treats and grooming, these items will have to be replaced and incorporated into your pet budget regularly. Other necessary costs can include:

  • Litter
  • Crates and beds
  • Pet sitting
  • Leashes and collars
  • Training classes or resources


Avoid “pet debt”

Owning a pet is a significant financial responsibility, and is not a decision that should be made on a whim. By doing the math before you take home your new friend, you can avoid pet debt. Advance planning, such as signing up for pet insurance or putting aside money with your pet in mind, can help keep you away from financial issues.

Most people will agree that the unconditional love of a pet is worth any amount of money. Still, preparing for the true cost of pet ownership can help you build your budget. Having a pet means having a new member of your family, and making sure that you can afford one will help you avoid any tough decisions down the road. Fortunately, if you plan ahead, you can maintain the health of your pet and your finances. Build a financial plan with Planswell to make sure your finances stay stable as you make this important decision.


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