The cost of pet ownership: The good, the bad, and the ugly

This article is part of relationship month at Get Rich Slowly.

As a dental hygienist, my girlfriend Kim meets lots of interesting people and has lots of interesting conversations. Last week while cleaning a patient's teeth, the topic turned to pets.

“Two years ago, we didn't have any animals,” Kim told her patient. “We were on the road in an RV. Today? Today we have three cats and a dog. Honestly, I'd be fine with more animals. We love them.”

“We love our animals too,” her patient said. “We might love them a little too much. Recently, we moved. I'd say 90% of that decision was based around our dog. Is that wrong?”

Kim laughed. “It's not wrong,” she said. “We did something similar ourselves.”

Pets are expensive, Kim and her patient agreed. Are they worth it? Yes. Yes, they are. But as with most things in life, pet costs can quickly get out of control if you let them. It's important to find a balance between the needs of your animals and your own financial well-being.

For the past two years, Kim and I have been working to find where that balance is for our family.

Meeting Tahlequah

Near the end of our 15-month RV trip around the United States, Kim and I stopped to visit my cousin in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. For a week, we left behind modern life to enjoy the slower pace in this isolated 100-acre creek hollow. We enjoyed the communal meals (during which several families dined together at once). We marveled at the light show provided each evening by the fireflies. (There are no fireflies in Oregon.) And we lavished love on all of the animals: the cows, the chickens, the cats, and the dogs.

Especially the dogs.

A few weeks before we arrived, one of the farm dogs had given birth to a litter of puppies. Kim fell in love with them. “I think I want to take one home with us,” she said.

“Maybe on our way back through,” I said, trying to be the voice of reason.

Kim meeting puppies

Our plan was to turn east toward Memphis, Mississippi, and Alabama. We'd then drop down to the Gulf Coast, cut over to New Orleans, then make our way into Texas. “Dallas isn't far from here,” I said. “When we get there, then we can decide whether or not we want a dog.”

For the next month, Kim and I spent our evenings reading about dogs. Both of our families had dogs when we were growing up, but neither of us had owned one as an adult. We learned about different training philosophies. We discussed discipline. We discussed costs. We discussed what adding an animal would mean for our relationship as a couple.

“Do you still want the dog?” I asked Kim a few weeks later as we pulled into Dallas.

“Yes, I do,” she said.

After spending a few days with my pal PT (from PT Money), we returned to my cousin's farm in Tahlequah. Kim's puppy was still there. “Hello, Tahlequah,” Kim said as she petted the pup. “How would you feel about moving to Oregon?”

Tahlequah seemed happy about the idea. Kim was even happier. She turned to me and smiled. “With this dog, I thee wed,” she said. And that's how we entered a new phase in our lives.

Puppy Love

We've now had Tahlequah (or Tally, as we call her) for 18 months. The experience has been awesome and frustrating at the same time.

Tally is a mutt but she's 100% hound (a mixture of beagle and mountain cur, the latter of which is the newest registered breed at the AKC). She's ruled by her nose. If she gets on a scent, her entire brain shuts down and instinct takes over.

Yesterday, for instance, I was walking her off-leash (with permission) through the neighbor's property. She stumbled upon the spot where the local deer had bedded down the previous night and she was off like a bolt, streaking across other neighbors' properties (without permission). It took ten minutes to get her back on leash. (Or just now, as I was writing this paragraph, she spotted the squirrel that lives under our house. She's now barking barking barking incessantly out the window and she will not stop.)

Mostly, though, we love her — and she loves us. Kim and I have become those obnoxious pet parents who take their dog with them everywhere. (We're not even ashamed of it!)

Driving with Tahlequah

At first, adding a puppy to our lives seemed like a reasonable financial decision. Before we picked her up, Kim and I spent maybe $100 or $200 on puppy supplies, such as a crate, a collar, a leash, and a variety of toys and tools. After we left my cousin's house, we stopped for a couple of days in southern Kansas. While there, we took Tally to the vet for a checkup and her first series of shots. That vet visit was under $100. (In retrospect, that's because we were in southern Kansas.)

“This dog isn't so expensive,” I said. Hahaha. Little did I know…

Pets Are Expensive

Upon returning to Portland in June 2016, the cost of pet ownership began to mount.

  • First, vet visits here are more expensive.
  • Second, once we had settled at home, we began acquiring more dog stuff: toys, treats, and so on.
  • Third, Tally turned into a destructive force of nature.

In under six months, our puppy probably did a couple thousand dollars worth of damage. This is embarrassing to admit, but it's true. Tally destroyed shoes — including Kim's favorite pair of leather boots. (Eventually we realized that if we sacrificed one pair of shoes to her, Tally would leave the other shoes alone.) She ate eyeglasses. She devoured my dental retainer. She gnawed on the furniture. She peed on the carpet. She scratched at the doors.

“This dog is expensive,” I said.

Apparently, Kim and I are gluttons for punishment. One animal was not enough. Within a month of returning to our condo in Portland, we decided to expand the family. We picked up two kittens from a local rescue. And not two ordinary kittens. Two sickly kittens.

Over the next few months, Avery and Bagheera made several vet visits, both to get their initial checkups and booster shots, and to make sure they were recovering from whatever respiratory infection they'd suffered from as babies. Meanwhile, we discovered the cats could be just as destructive as dogs. Our kittens were hell-bent on shredding anything made of cloth or paper. They peed on the bed. They destroyed the blinds.

“These cats are expensive,” I said.

All Creatures Great and Small

Throughout last winter, Kim and I enjoyed bonding with our three beasts. The five of us made do in our condo. We walked the dog through the park next door. The cats got a taste of the outdoors from our balcony — but they wanted more. In the evening, all of us snuggled together while binge-watching All Creatures Great and Small.

“Maybe we should move,” Kim said one day last March.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“It doesn't feel right to keep these animals trapped in a fourth-floor apartment,” she said. “They're wild beasts. They want to be outside. They need space to roam.” I agreed with her.

While the animals weren't the only reason we decided to move last year, they were certainly a major consideration. As we hunted for houses in April, we looked for a lot where we could let the beasts outside to roam. Eventually, we opted for a one-acre lot in a semi-rural neighborhood. It was a good choice.

This place is like dog heaven. We have a large fenced yard that Tally can use whenever she wants. At least once per day — sometimes twice — we take her on a two-mile walk through the neighborhood. She sniffs and sniffs and sniffs, tracking the squirrels and deer and coyotes. She digs in the ditch to uncover mice and moles.

Meanwhile, the cats love it here too. They're able to hunt whenever they want. (In 45 days this year, they've caught twelve critters.) They like going outside to bask in the sun. There are plenty of trees to climb and dark places to hide. With the cats, though, there's an element of danger. As I said, there are coyotes here, and we lost Bagheera to them at the end of October. (Yes, I'm aware that many people believe cats should remain indoors. Kim and I believe exactly the opposite. We're aware of the risks faced by outdoor cats, but believe its cruel to keep them confined inside.)

After Bagheera disappeared, Kim and I had a discussion. How many animals should we have here at our country cottage? “You shouldn't ask me,” Kim said. “If it were my decision, we'd have a whole farm: goats and horses and chickens and cows. Plus, more cats and dogs.”

I'm not willing to turn this place into a full-fledged farm but I was willing to bring home two new kittens. At the end of November, we added Savannah and Bisbee to our menagerie.

We now share our home with one dog, three cats, and a whole lot of chaos.

Our current crop of cats

Enough Is Enough

Because I've been carefully logging every penny I spend, I'm able to see how much our animals cost us. Last year, I spent $1763.25 on the pets. Kim — who does not track her spending — spent several hundred dollars too. My best guess is that we're paying $200 per month (or about $7 per day) to care for our companion animals. They are not cheap.

Our pet spending (2017)

In the nearly three months we've had the new kittens, I've spent $1076.83 for their initial examinations and shots. On Monday, we took Tally and Avery for their annual checkups. The dog cost us $376.38 and the cat cost us $404.45.

That's $1857.66 I've paid to the vet in three months. To be fair, I shouldn't have any additional pet fees this year — barring illness or injuries — but there are still ongoing expenses for food, treats, toys, litter, and petsitting.

“Wow,” Kim said on our drive home from the vet. “That was twice as expensive as I thought it would be.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I hate how much it costs. I mean, I want to make sure our beasts are healthy, but where do you draw the line? How much is too much to spend on a cat? Or on a dog?”

“I'm willing to spend as much as we need to keep the dog healthy,” Kim said. “But we live in the country. Our cats go outside. As much as I love them, we have to be realistic about it. They have great lives, but those lives will probably be short.”

“Well, now that everybody is up-to-date on their basic shots, now that we know everybody is healthy, maybe it's time to stop doing annual checkups for the cats,” I said. “What do you think about taking them in only if they're sick or hurt?”

“I think that's how it should be,” Kim said. “That's how we did it when I was growing up.”

“Same here,” I said.

Special offer: My brother Tony owns a business that produces animal nutritional supplements, including dog treats. For the rest of 2018, he's offered to give GRS readers a 20% discount (and free shipping) on orders for dog products totalling over $20! Visit Majesty's Animal Nutrition and use the promo code tally20 at checkout. (I have zero financial stake in this, by the way.)

Cutting the Cost of Pet Ownership

Kim and I have decided that, in effect, our cats only have catastrophic health care coverage. (Although I'm worried that this could be a false economy. We'll see.) Meanwhile, we're discovering ways to cut the cost of pet ownership — especially on the everyday stuff. For example:

  • We've been drying dry dog food and dry cat food from Amazon via their “subscribe and save” program. About once every three months, we need an extra bag of food. When we do, I buy it at Costco.) We also buy treats via Amazon.
  • We're buying wet cat food at the local Wal-Mart, which seems to have the best prices.
  • We've learned to buy our pet toys at the thrift store, not the pet store. Two weeks ago, for instance, we bought Tally six or seven stuffed animals (stuffed animals intended for kids, not for dogs) and paid less than $20. Once garage sale season begins, we'll explore that route too.
  • When we can remember, we buy cat litter in bulk at a local pet store. It's way cheaper than buying smaller packages.
  • When possible, we're paying people we know to take care of our animals when we're gone. Not only is this better on our pets, but it's less expensive for us.

Thankfully, Tally's destructive nature has diminished as she's become a teenager, which saves us money. She hasn't shaken it completely — she ate my best hat a few weeks ago — but mostly she's learned what she can chew on and what she can't. (More importantly, Kim and I are very vigilant about leaving stuff where the dog can get to it.)

We would love to hear experiences from other pet owners. Do you have animals? How much do they cost? How much do their annual vet visits cost? Do you have pet insurance? Why or why not? If you do have it, how do you feel about it? What other tips do you have for keeping the cost of pet ownership low?

On a semi-related note, here's an amazing story about a woman who adopted an older dog — only to discover it's the same dog that she had to give up when she was a girl.

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Eileen
Eileen
2 years ago

I don’t have cats, but don’t they need annual (or bi-annual) shots for general prevention and health? Rabies (particularly if they are outdoor)?

I’m presume with 4 pets, you probably have a pet sitter at home as opposed to boarding. The reason I mention is that pet boarding places require certain shots in order to be boarded.

Yes, pets are expensive. We have one dog and I’m amazed at the costs of a healthy dog. I think my dog got flu shots for a few seasons before I did, lol.

Adam
Adam
2 years ago

I work in the animal health field — so thanks, indirectly, for my employment! When we got a rescue dog in 2012, my company was owned by a nationwide vet chain. So we got free vaccines and significant discounts on other products and services. It was fantastic. That gravy train dried up back in 2015, though; so it goes. Gus is a 60-pound shepherd/golden mix. It was tough going for the first few months (we lost a rug and some baseboard trim), but we crate-trained him and found the right kinds of toys and it worked out pretty well. Now… Read more »

Carly
Carly
2 years ago

We had, and then dropped, pet insurance, and I regret it. It seemed pricey, at $480ish a year, but we’ve had our dog ten years, and in the last two years we’ve probably spent almost $10,000 on his health (he had pancreatitis twice in a year). IIRC the pet insurance would have covered 60-80% of the costs. Basically we would have spent $4,800 on insurance, plus another $3000-4000 on his care…but we would still be ahead by $2000-3000.

There’s no way to predict these things but we do regret cancelling it…something to consider.

carly
carly
2 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I think if you don’t do pet insurance, I would take the money that would have gone to pet insurance and put in a separate account. I wish we had done that instead of just assuming we wouldn’t need it. For the first 8 years that was true, but as the dog has crossed solidly into big dog “elderly” years, more and more things pop up that cost money. He’s on special food, he needs anti-inflammatory meds AND shots, etc. He’s lucky he’s so damn cute.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
2 years ago

Don’t most rescue organizations require you to promise to keep cats indoor-only?

Joe
Joe
2 years ago

We have 3 cats and we’re down to one now. She’s 17 so she might be gone soon too. We only take them to see the vet when they’re sick. That usually means they’re ready to go. She’s an indoor cat and she’s fine with it. We spend around $200/year on food and kitty litter. I’m from Thailand and people think of pet differently there. They are pets and they are more like partners or servants. Dogs are used to protect your house from prowlers. Cats are helpful to keep pests out. If one dies, then you can get another.… Read more »

Brandon Cronan
Brandon Cronan
2 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

J.D. I would propose that it’s part of a large, worldwide, science-based, cultural trend that realizes animals are more than simple biological automatons put on Earth to be used as tools and for consumption by humans. They share with us humans similar evolutionary ancestors, and because of this they share similar biological structures, including nervous systems and brains. I think it’s obvious to most dog owners that dogs have feelings. They feel pleasure when you rub their belly, they feel pain when they get hurt. They get anxious when you’re not around. They make conscious decisions based on past experiences.… Read more »

Angela L.
Angela L.
2 years ago

I’m down to one rescue cat at this point. I had two previously but had to put one down a couple years ago due to cancer. When I first rescued my cats I looked into pet insurance but, at that time, there were a lot of prohibitions with pre-existing conditions. And since mine were rescues with various issues, most of their subsequent illnesses wouldn’t have been covered. I don’t know if that’s changed in recent years since this was more than a decade ago. I do still hear about people who have pet insurance and have to argue with the… Read more »

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
2 years ago

A few years ago, my daughter got a guinea pig. Not much later, the critter was put down next to my sewing. And promptly ate a straight pin. We raced him to our vet, which had recently converted to 24-hour status. Fortunately for Bubblegum (the pig), the pin was lodged in his cheek pouch and hadn’t gone into his tummy. They gave him a whiff of gas to relax him so he wouldn’t fight them, then presented us with pin (in a test tube) and a bill for $300. Could have been worse, I guess.

Tze
Tze
2 years ago
Reply to  Tina in NJ

Tina, that’s a shocking amount for a small procedure! Then again, prices do seem very different in every country. For $300 I got intensive surgery for my guinea pig (removal of cancerous womb and after care) in Germany. We’ve also had a similar situation like yours that set us back only $75. But a friend who lives in Norway pays $300 just for a regular check on a critter, so…in that case, you got the better deal. 😉 We’ve owned several guinea pigs and despite their size, they really can put a strain on one’s budget. People have scoffed at… Read more »

Barb
Barb
2 years ago

I’ve been a life long pet owner, and I was surprised to see how much more dogs cost compare to cats. I spend as much on my dog in one year as I did on each of my cats for the entire 10 year life span. The dog food and treats cost more, and not only do they cost more but the dog eats more than the cats did. The main cost difference is the boarding/house sitting. The dog cost between $20 and $35 per day for day or overnight boarding, and in contrast the cat cost about $15 every… Read more »

JoeHx
JoeHx
2 years ago

I have a dog and my wife has a dog. We actually started dating because we both were (are) obsessed with our dogs. I sent her a message on the dating site because she mentioned her dog in her profile.

They can be expensive. Their yearly vet visit is about $300 each. Then there’s food and toys. Boarding can be expensive too if you need to leave town without them. Thankfully we normally can get my in-laws to watch then for free.

Debbie
Debbie
2 years ago

I have two cats: one a 4 year old DSH tabby rescue, the other, a Tonkinese (12 years old) from a breeder. Both are largely indoor cats but do go outside into a large fenced patio. Last year, I spent an average of $231 per month while in 2016, it was only $81 per month, $63/mo. in 2015, and $58/mo. in 2014. The difference: a lot of vet bills when the rescue cat developed Irritable Bowel Disease. Additionally, the two decided that they don’t like each other and I’ve had both tested and have tried various drugs for anxiety. Fortunately,… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
2 years ago

This is why I don’t own cats or dogs.

They almost always come with expensive end-of-life care. Surgeries, procedures, medicines, specialized diet’s, etc.

I have parrots. They are long lived, but tend to succumb quickly to illnesses, which they don’t show signs of, as a survival trait, since they are technically wild animals.

Morbid, but cheap. Financially and emotionally. I hate to see an animal suffer long term.

Kristen
Kristen
2 years ago

I have a Tally dog too! Her name is short for Talladega, Alabama, which is where she came from. She seems to think I have done her a disservice by moving her to the cold midwest so she primarily hibernates from November-March and then basks in the sun and sprints the rest of the year. I spent about $2,000 last year between Tally, my cat, and many foster dogs and cats that I took in until they were adopted. It’s worth every penny to me 🙂

Chloe
Chloe
2 years ago

Yes! we were shocked at how much it has actually cost us having a dog. We do our monthly expenses with a category for the dog and one for our son, and often the dog costs more than the kid! (although our son’s food is lumped in with all the groceries). The dog is only 18mths old, and the first year was definitely more expensive with all the initial shots, neuter and we did a lot of training classes too, so the costs should go down significantly now. We have found that it can get expensive to pay for someone… Read more »

Paul Hessels
Paul Hessels
2 years ago

By all means, let your cats outdoors. But don’t feed them; make then find food on their own. Otherwise it’s not a level playing field for the 1 *billion* wild birds that cats kill every year.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/cats-kill-more-one-billion-birds-each-year

Accidental FIRE
Accidental FIRE
2 years ago

I have fish in my Koi pond. They are a one time cost and require nothing more than some algae killer here and there. A $14 bottle lasts all summer.

Of course I can’t really play with them either. But they are very calming to watch.

Frogdancer
Frogdancer
2 years ago

That shot of you and the dog in the car FREAKED ME OUT for a second… until I remembered that you’re in America and you have the steering wheel on the other side of the car!!!

Lizzy
Lizzy
2 years ago

I love animals, but you are right; they can be very expensive. I paid tens of thousands of dollars at the end of my three dogs’ lives. Plus we paid over a thousand on one of our rabbits! I loved them all as family though, and would so it again.

Kristin
Kristin
2 years ago

I’m pretty upset about the difference in how you treat your cats versus the dog. While I can understand allowing your cats outside, I had an indoor/outdoor cat growing up, I’m very concerned about idea that your cats don’t deserve to have an annual vet check-up. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds like you are going to have indoor/outdoor cats but are not going to get them their annual vaccines which includes distemper and rabies, nor provide them with protection against fleas and ticks. I have to say that it seems negligent, not only to your cats but… Read more »

Karen L
Karen L
2 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

I agree with what Kristin said, and I was disappointed in your choices regarding the cats. I always thought you were a cat person, JD.
We keep our cats indoors as we promised to the rescue group (and would have done so anyway). Most of the people we know with cats keep them indoors.

Liz
Liz
2 years ago
Reply to  Karen L

I was coming here to say the same thing. If you’re not willing to provide pets with at least the required annual vaccinations and medications to keep them (and others) healthy, it’s better not to have them.

(Speaking as a cat owner who has twice depleted an emergency fund for surgery, but doesn’t have a dog because they cost too much.)

Debbie
Debbie
2 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

Agree. If the cats are going outside then they need annual visits and shots. If you do not want to spend the money then do not adopt the cats. There should be no difference between how you care for your dog and how you care for your cats.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

Not to pile on too much criticism, but this resonates with me as well, and seems to be indicative of the false belief our society has that cats are less social, loving pets than dogs (or somehow expected to fend for themselves more). I have a dog and two cats, and my older cat (13 now) is significantly more affectionate than my dog. She begs for attention, comes when called, and constantly wants to cuddle. While it can be good for cats to get outdoor stimulus, the trade-off of cat care and dog care in this post seems a little… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years ago

Almost 17 years ago, one of our first cats cost us $750 for her last few hours at the emergency vet (kidney failure). Our gallows humor for unexpected expenses is “well, it’s cheaper than a dead cat.” Or not. That would be, what, about $2000 now? We “self insure” the cats and Chihuahua. We adopted them as mature animals at the humane society, and intend to give them a comfortable home as long as they are feeling good. When an animal gets sick, we discuss how we will handle the inevitable when it comes. A bacterial infection requiring antibiotics? Sure.… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

By the way, our local humane society and animal control center provide low-cost immunizations and spay and neuter surgery to anyone who wants to go that route instead of using an independent vet.

Christine
Christine
2 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

The multnomah animal shelter has a deal with Good neighbor vets, a mobile vet operation. If you are renewing your county license, you can get a free rabies vaccine and checkup and $10 for each addl shot (parvo, bordatella, etc). The GN vet also sets up in various pet stores around town on weekends for cheap vet care. Won’t be much good in an emergency, but a cheap way to get routine meds and checkups.

S.G.
S.G.
2 years ago

I commend you for bravery. Talking about pets is loaded with even more landmines than talking about kids. After all kid care doesnt run the gammut from “i have a dry place for him to sleep, otherwise he’s on his own for food and confort” to “pets deserve more care than kids because they have the same moral value as a human but are more helpless”. I’m not going to talk about where i am on it as I’ve seen too many flame wars. But i will suggest you check with your local pet stores. Many have monthly vaccination clinics… Read more »

Sheila
Sheila
2 years ago

I have to agree with Kristin about treating your cats the same way you treat your dog. Being inside/outside cats, they need vaccinations that inside cats don’t need to stay healthy. It’s a small expense compared to the suffering they could experience. It seems cruel to let them suffer with, for example, dental issues if you don’t deem that catastrophic. Preventive care is, imo, cheaper than emergency or catastrophic care. At one point, we had four dogs and three (inside) cats. Once a year, I’d load up five crates for the 5 small pets and the 2 large dogs and… Read more »

Emily
Emily
2 years ago

I had a beloved cat that became diabetic and I stepped up to daily insulation shots. I didn’t mind the monthly cost, although the lab tests to determine the correct med amounts was hundreds of dollars. But I was absolutely trapped as far as travel went, as the injection had to be administered daily at the same time. Once I paid a responsible neighbor (I thought) and she wandered over hours after the correct time. I was pretty upset with her. Some time after that cat passed I adopted two more and it quickly became apparent one cat had diabetes.… Read more »

Sally
Sally
2 years ago
Reply to  Emily

You might have a cat feeding issue as well as a cat lifestyle issue that you could improve upon if you’ve had two cats develop diabetes. Check out catinfo.org for tips on feeding and https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats for environmental enrichment tips.

Sandy
Sandy
2 years ago

Two things – 1) Have you tried a chuck it with your pup? That thing saved my life with my hound shepherd mix. She will run full out for the ball (I use two because she never learned to retrieve) and it helps get rid of the crazy energy and destructive puppy behavior. A tired dog is a good dog! 2) A lot of pet stores have have vaccination dates where they give shots for both pups and cats. I am not sure of the value of a pet checkup but I am sure of the value of the vaccines.… Read more »

Andy
Andy
2 years ago

I love all the great videos; Tally is such a destructive little sweetheart! We also moved for our dog, from a 14th floor condo in the heart of the city to a suburban house with a fenced in yard. The quality of life improvement for all of us was huge! Our experience has also been that our dog can get pretty expensive. She only destroys the occasional thing, so most of our cost has been in boarding her when we leave town (about $40 per night) and in vet costs. The worst vet cost was when she got heat stroke… Read more »

MrFireby2023
MrFireby2023
2 years ago

A couple of years ago we had an i for Cat and he was only 2 years old and the best car we’ve ever had. He had a blockage in his urethra that required a $2000 surgery. I put him down. I was very sad but that’s way too much $ for a cat when there’s millions of cats that need a home. I regretted my decision for about a year but I recently replaced his absence with a calico kitten and I’ve never looked back. Saving that $2 grand was painful at the time but in the long run… Read more »

Maria
Maria
2 years ago

I have two relatively young and healthy indoor cats (5 and 6 years old). Combined for both cats, we generally spend $100 to $120/month on maintenance expenses (home made cat food using a veterinarian-developed recipe, unscented clay litter, occasional incidental expenses). We also self-insure them at a rate of $80/month (combined) that accumulates in our budget. That number is based on averaging about 4 years of data on vet expenses (including one multi-day adventure involving an emergency vet, and dental cleanings for both cats). So far, it seems to be working. I urge you to reconsider skipping annual exams. Outdoor… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
2 years ago

Why not build a big outdoor catio with a kitty door, so the cats can enjoy the (occasional) northwest sun (and maybe poke around a few bushes outside) but still be protected from predation, AND not be devastating to the local bird life, etc. Finding a good vet is worth a lot. Our vet doesn’t have a super fancy clinic, and she cares very deeply for the welfare of every animal. Her prices are fair and she won’t recommend testing or checkups that are not needed (for instance, she recommended skipping one particular vaccination for our older dog who pretty… Read more »

Mel
Mel
2 years ago

“Cruel to have a cat indoors”

Besides choosing to shorten a domestic animals life by quite a lot ( getting hit by cars, attacked by neighborhood dogs, poisoned, cat fights etc ) Any idea how many small animals and birds cats kill?

“oh but its natural”

No. No, it isn’t. Cats are basically introduced to an area and mostly left unchecked. They are not part of a ecosystem. Ask Australia how great cats are.

That view about cats obviously gets under my skin. All my cats have lived long and happy lives indoors. Safer for them, safer the local wildlife.

Sally
Sally
2 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I’m a veterinarian and I agree with JD. Keeping cats indoors their entire lives brings about many health problems. There are pros and cons to both exclusively indoors and outdoors cats, but to say ALL cats MUST live only indoors their entire lives is not fair to the intelligent cat owner who can create a safe situation for outdoor cats. I also wonder if it’s better to live 12 years being bored, stressed, and obese indoors or 5 years being excited, engaged and fit outdoors. Obviously, everyone will have their own answer. It’s a modern ethical dilemma.

Sarah
Sarah
2 years ago

I have five cats that I saved from outside. They’ve all had various health problems, the worst that my cat Wenny cannot have ANY dry food or his bladder becomes inflamed and he can’t urinate, which is incredibly dangerous. My vet wanted to put him on an expensive dry food(which is incredibly dangerous for cystitis) like my other cat with food allergies. All the vet visits were expensive, but I realized that with proper nutrition, I could cut down on vet visits. My cats are fed an all wet-food diet now, and they have all lost weight and are much… Read more »

Mercy
Mercy
2 years ago

We had an adorable golden retriever that we got when he was 6. For much of his life we had pet insurance and that worked well because he got a physical every 6 months and shots were covered too. He was 12 when one day a tumor, that we didn’t know he had, ruptured. The vet said he needed surgery but the chance of survival was 20%, although looking at the vet’s expression I knew he wouldn’t survive. However, so my husband could live with himself I agreed to a surgery that cost $6000, and our dog didn’t make it.… Read more »

Tze
Tze
2 years ago
Reply to  Mercy

That’s good advice, Mel. I was surprised to read how many readers here mentioned going through possible scemarios before/after getting a pet. It can probably help one to be more at peace when having to make that decision.

Ron Cameron
Ron Cameron
2 years ago

We plan to go “animal free” after our beagle dies someday. We’ve never traveled without having to pay someone decent amounts of money to take care of them, and we’ve never stayed “an extra day” anywhere as that would mess up the animal sitting. We look forward to that freedom some day, but I think it’ll be short lived as I can’t imagine not having a dog for very long. Quick note on changing dog food: Do it gradually. We also order most of our food and get a “quick fix” at Costco on occasion. Try to slowly blend from… Read more »

Mike @ NinjaBudgeter
Mike @ NinjaBudgeter
2 years ago

Great article, a good, balanced look at the cost of pet ownership. I would be happy not having any pets and just eliminating the cost altogether, but my wife is a horse-lover. Definitely one of the most expensive animals you can own!

Blake Smith
Blake Smith
2 years ago

Thanks for such detailed analysis. Expense is too often ignored when choosing to own pet. Making pet ownership more problematic then pleasure.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago

So far in 2018, I have spent $4,237 on my three dogs and two cats. About $3,000 of that was due to hip surgery for our St. Bernard puppy (she was severely abused before we rescued her). She will need surgery on her other hip, and our vet recommends surgery on her elbow. I estimate the two additional surgeries will cost over $4K. We moved from an apartment to a house for the sake of our animals, and we are thinking of extending our fenced-in yard for them too (approx $2K to do this). From a strictly financial perspective, adopting… Read more »

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