5 Tips to Afford a Pet—What Owning a Dog or Cat Really Costs

We love our pets, but they can be expensive! Laura discusses what it really costs to own a pet and 5 tips to cut expenses for a current or new furry friend. This post is dedicated to her sweet yellow Lab, Dixie, who's resting in peace after 17 years of loyal companionship.

Laura Adams, MBA
8-minute read
Episode #497

5 Tips to Afford a Pet—What Owning a Dog or Cat Really CostsYears after my husband began pleading for our first dog, I reluctantly gave in, still thinking it was a terrible decision that would ruin our house and cramp our lifestyle. But it only took a few minutes on the drive home with our soft, sleepy, 10-week-old yellow Lab on my lap to fall completely in love with her.

Dixie was our furry child for almost 17 years until she got old and just wore out. We saw her slow decline over the last few years and an accelerated exhaustion over the last couple of months. We waited for her to give us a sign that she was ready for a final rest, and on April 20 we had to say a very difficult and teary goodbye. But there were far more joyous moments with her than sad.

My only previous pet was a cat that I had begged my parents for during middle school. They didn’t want an indoor animal, so our compromise was that the cat would live outside in our spacious yard and the adjacent empty and overgrown lot.

I named her Sally and we always called her Sally Cat The Alley Cat. She was wild and independent, coming close only for food, occasional affection, and glimpses of our small family from her perch on the brick window sill outside the kitchen.

It doesn’t matter what type of animal you have, owning a pet can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But it can also be expensive and most people drastically underestimate the cost of a dog or cat.

In this post, I’ll discuss what it really costs to own a pet. You’ll get 5 tips to cut expenses for your existing or potential new furry friend so he or she is more affordable.

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How Much a Dog or Cat Really Costs

One report from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the leading veterinary charity in the United Kingdom, found that 12% believed their pet would only cost up to $650 USD over its lifetime. A majority thought the total would never top $6,500.

The real cost is much higher. According to the PDSA, the average cost for a dog is between $27,000 and $43,000 and a cat from $22,000 to $32,000. That includes everything from the initial purchase price and spaying or neutering, plus ongoing costs of vaccinations, grooming, toys, litter, and food. Expect to pay more if you travel and need a frequent pet sitter or boarding services.

According to the PDSA, the average cost for a dog is between $27,000 and $43,000 and a cat from $22,000 to $32,000.

I ran a report for all of Dixie’s expenses, including vet visits, boarding, food, and supplies for the past five years, and the total is about $17,000 or $3,400 per year. She was incredibly healthy, so most vet visits were for routine vaccinations, checkups, and an occasional sickness or skin irritation. We fed her premium food, treats, and supplements, which made up about $4,000 of the 5-year total.

I don’t have handy records to go back for Dixie’s entire life. But if you multiply $3,400 a year by 17 years, it comes to about $58,000. That’s 9 times more than what survey respondents estimated on the high side. Yes, she lived a long time and we probably spoiled her more than most.


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a frequent, trusted source for the national media. Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers is her newest title. Laura's previous book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show.