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Education Center » My dog ate my paycheck: The hidden costs of pet ownership

My dog ate my paycheck: The hidden costs of pet ownership


En español | Is your household ready for a new addition? Whether you’re looking for a furry companion or want to teach your kids a lesson in responsibility, pets can be treasured members of your family—but they can also be costly. It pays to consider all the potential expenses before making a commitment you may find difficult to afford.

While the thought of wagging tails and romps in the park is hard to resist, before you bring home Fluffy, you should take into consideration the costs you’ll face. From prescription cat food to doggy day care, pet ownership comes with many small costs that can add up quickly.

You may not be able to put a price on love, but it is possible to estimate how much it will cost to take care of a beloved family pet. In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that a medium-sized dog can cost more than $1,500 in the first year, and almost $700 annually; a cat (of any size) will cost $1,000 in year one and close to $700 every year after that.1

Initial costs versus ongoing costs

Your time is valuable too

When calculating cost, don't forget that your time will be one of your biggest expenditures. Pets require constant care and attention. You may have to forego those late nights out on the town if your puppy needs to be let out or your cat needs to be fed. If neglected, pets can become depressed or act out in undesirable or unpredictable ways.

Initial costs – These costs include the price of the animal itself—even if your new pet is obtained from a rescue shelter there may still be fees—and everything you need to do to prepare your home for its arrival. Make sure to account for the following:

  • A carrier or crate for sleeping, trips in the car, and keeping your pet safe when you're not home
  • Licensing (most communities require dogs to be registered)
  • Vaccinations, initial medical care and other procedures (including spaying and neutering)

Ongoing costs – These costs include food, toys and routine medical care. You'll require kitty litter if you're getting a cat, or if you're bringing home a dog you may need to hire a walker if no one will be home during the day. And with a long-haired cat or dog, you may need to factor in regular trips to a professional groomer.

Planning ahead: How big will Fido get?

Yes, it's true. Puppies are adorable. And when holding that adorable puppy in your arms, it’s hard to imagine that one day it could weigh 90 pounds (e.g. Bernese Mountain Dog2) or even 150 pounds (e.g. Great Dane3)! So, when you’re choosing a dog, be sure to consider how big it will grow—and consequently how much it will eat. According to the ASPCA, you’ll spend about $55 a year on food for a small dog or $235 for a large breed. In fact, they estimate that overall expenses can total $580 to $875/year depending on your dog's size.1

To microchip or not to microchip

A collar and tags with your contact information are essential (and inexpensive). Marked with your phone number, they ensure that Rover will find his way home if he sneaks out. But what if your dog is lost while his tags are off? Or if your indoor kitty makes a break for it? For many pet owners, the answer is a microchip. Inserted under the skin and costing around $50, a microchip contains your contact information and can be scanned at a shelter or vet’s office.4

Making arrangements for your pet when you travel

Rental reminder: Pet deposits

If you rent, first check your lease to see if pets are allowed, then determine if your landlord requires a pet deposit. It could be a one-time fee or assessed annually, and typically covers the cost of cleaning or reparing any potential damage after you've moved out.

Pets need daily care and attention, and while you may be able to leave them at home during the workday, you’ll have to plan for longer trips. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a holiday vacation, you’ll have to decide how to care for your pet while you’re gone.

One option is to bring your four-legged friend along with you. If you’re flying to your destination, contact your airline. Some airlines will allow you to buy a ticket that allows you to bring a small dog or cat (in a soft-sided carrier) into the cabin, while other companies may insist that that your pet is crated and stowed in the cargo hold. If you’re staying in a hotel, check to see if there are extra fees for bringing pets—there often are.

A second option is to send your pet to a kennel. Ranging in amenities from basic (concrete floors and an outdoor area bordered by a chain link fence) to luxury (rugs, furniture and gourmet pet food), kennels can cost anywhere from $12 to $112 per day.5

Is pet insurance right for you?


If your pet’s bills are adding up, it might be time to insure him. As the bills from the veterinarian rack up—whether from a recklessly inquisitive pup who likes to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, or an elderly cat with a medical regimen—you may want to consider pet insurance.

Policies can either be purchased through an independent pet insurance company, or added on to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Depending on the coverage, monthly premiums can range from $10 to $90.6 Before signing up, however, check the fine print. Some policies may only cover accidents or exclude pre-existing conditions.

One final calculation

While pet ownership can seem expensive, remember what you’re getting out of it: a new family member whose every purr or friendly bark can bring a little cheer to your household.

Learn more and take action

  • Looking for more information about how much a pet really costs? Contact your local chapter of the ASPCA. They can help you better understand not only the monetary costs but also the time commitment of owning a pet.
  • If pet ownership may be in your future, make sure that you have enough room in your budget to cover the expenses. Check out for tips on how to set a budget and stick to it.