Saving & Budgeting

How to budget for a pet: 4 costs to consider

Take time to consider the costs of adding Fido or Fluffy to your family before you fall in love with that cute face.

There’s no doubt: owning a pet can be very rewarding. It doesn’t take long for an animal to become a treasured member of your family. Pets require commitment, both emotionally and financially, but the companionship they offer in return can be priceless.

Before you make the commitment to bring a furry friend home, take time to understand the costs of adding a pet to your family.

 

Did you know? About 90.5 million U.S. families own a pet. That’s about 70% of all households, according to a survey conducted in 2021 by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Dogs, cats, and freshwater fish are the most popular. Pet ownership by species (as a percentage of the U.S. population):1

Species Percentage
Dog 21%
Cats 14%
Freshwater fish 4%
Bird 3%

 

1. Costs of bringing your new pet home

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the average cost to own a pet in the first year can total hundreds of dollars. Costs can include:

  • Purchase price from a breeder or pet store, or cost to adopt from a shelter
  • Cost to spay or neuter (this may be included with your shelter adoption fee)
  • Initial vet visit, which will include an exam and vaccinations
  • Microchip, which can help you find a lost pet
  • Crate or pet carrier
  • Litter box, collar, leash, bedding, food bowls and other items
  • Obedience training

 

2. Ongoing costs of pet ownership

The cost to keep your pet fed, entertained and healthy adds up quickly over the years. When considering a pet, calculate the cost of:

  • Food
  • Annual veterinary visits (which can include dental care)
  • Flea and tick treatments
  • Litter
  • Toys and treats
  • Grooming
  • License
  • Boarding or kennels, pet sitting fees
  • Dog walking services
  • Electronic tracking devices

Did you know? Here are some of the basic annual expenses for owning a dog:1

Expense Dogs
Food  $287
Food Treats $81
Kennel Boarding $228
Toys $56
Vitamins $81
Surgical Vet Visits $458
Routine Vet Visits $242

 

3. Pet insurance

Often, the biggest expense of owning a pet comes when you least expect it. If your cat tries to battle a raccoon or if your dog eats your tennis shoe, you could be facing big expenses at the vet. Some people purchase pet insurance, which can cover everything from illness and injuries, to poisonings, testing, and surgery. Coverage and costs vary widely, but you could spend from $250 to $500 a year. It’s easy to compare options, so take time to research policies and shop around. Your vet may have some recommendations as well.

 

4. Cost-cutting tips

Ask almost any pet owner and they’ll tell you that the benefits outweigh the costs of owning a dog or cat. To keep pet ownership affordable, there are many ways to save.

  • Consider getting your pet from a shelter. Adoption fees are typically much lower than purchasing from a pet store or breeder, and most rescue animals have already been spayed or neutered. They may even have their initial shots.
  • While it may seem counter-intuitive, buy high quality pet food and don’t skip the annual vet visit. This will help you avoid expensive health issues down the road.
  • You may be able to save by ordering your pet’s food online instead of from the vet. Also consider pet food and medicine subscription services.
  • Learn how to clean your pet’s teeth, clip their nails and groom them at home. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars.
  • To avoid expensive costs of trainers or obedience school, turn to friends, books, or online videos for tips to train your dog or cat.
  • Trade pet-sitting or dog walking services with friends and neighbors.
  • Instead of buying pet insurance, build your own savings fund to help you cover emergency pet expenses like vet bills. Visit any Alaska USA branch or call our Member Service Center at 800-525-9094 to set up a Share Savings or Premium Savings emergency savings account.
Puppy sitting next to his parent on the floor while she budgets.

Your new best friend

Your decision to bring home a cute puppy or cuddly kitten is usually an emotional one, filled with excitement. But before you decide who is going to walk the dog or scoop the litter box, have a candid discussion about whether you can truly afford to add a new pet to your household.

The average lifespan of a pet can be from 10 to 16 years or more, making this both a personal and a financial decision you’ll live with for years.

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