The high cost of cats and dogs: Are pets worth the money?

Kris and I don’t have kids. We have cats. We have four of them.

Our “children”: Nemo, Simon, Maxwell, and Toto.

We’d have more, but Kris won’t allow it. She says I’m in danger of becoming the Crazy Cat Gentleman. On the whole, I cannot imagine my life without these animals. They bring us joy and fulfillment, and the cost is minimal.

Under normal circumstances, our four cats cost us a total of about $750 a year, which is roughly fifty cents per animal per day. That’s a bargain! The problem, of course, comes from abnormal circumstances. Once every three years or so, one of the cats costs us a small fortune.

In 2001, our beloved Tintin died of diabetes. In 2004, Toto suffered from heat stroke. In 2006, Nemo developed mysterious lesions on his legs. And this year, Simon took his turn at the veterinarian’s office. Last weekend, he became lethargic, and he stopped eating or drinking.

I took Simon to the vet on Friday, where they administered a subcutaneous fluid injection to hydrate him. Total cost? $224.70. Unfortunately, his condition did not improve over the weekend. On Monday, Simon and I returned to the vet. They kept him for the entire day, running tests and taking x-rays and, much to his chagrin, force-feeding him with a syringe. Total cost? $422.23.

Nursing Simon through his illness (“fever of unknown origin”, which seems to be vet-speak for “I’m stumped”) cost us $646.93, or nearly our entire yearly budget for all four animals!

The High Cost of Cats and Dogs

Last year, The New York Times ran an article about the financial implications of pet ownership. Alina Tugend wrote:

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association asked 580 dog owners and 402 cat owners to record the amount they spent in the last 12 months on specific pet-related items. The dog owners spent almost $2,000; cat owners about $1,200. If you want a real deal, small animals came in at just under $300.

In 2001, Steph Bairey at researched the estimated costs of common pets. Though she doesn’t explain her methodology, she found that:

  • Dogs cost about $730 per year.
  • Cats cost about $355 per year.
  • Rodents cost about $160 per year.
  • A tank of fish costs about $200 per year.
  • Birds cost about $770 per year.
  • Lizards cost about $745 per year.
  • Snakes cost about $520 per year.

These numbers seem high to me. $355 per year per cat? (Or $1200 per year, according to The New York Times?) Each of ours runs about $200. $520 each year for a snake? Kris and I owned a snake for many years. Sanderling ate one $2 mouse every fortnight. With some very minor miscellaneous costs, she might have cost us $60 per year.

Worth the Cost

Some personal finance bloggers have written that pets don’t make economic sense. Maybe so, but neither does television — and neither do children. But not every choice is made based on the economics of the situation. Some things transcend money. For me, pet ownership is one of those things.

Sidenote: While researching the cost of pet ownership, I kept coming across references to pet insurance — health insurance for dogs and cats. Is this for real? I can’t imagine buying such a policy. Do any of you insure your pets? Is it cost effective?

I’m pleased to report that Simon is doing much better. He had the vigor to outrun a stray dog this afternoon (by climbing 20 feet up our redwood tree). We don’t regret spending $646.93 on his medical care last week, but the process made me think: How much is too much to spend on the health of an animal? Kris and I are fortunate to have savings and solid incomes. We can afford to take care of our animals. But what if it would have cost $2,000 to help Simon? Or $12,000? How much is too much to spend on a cat?

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There are 237 comments to "The high cost of cats and dogs: Are pets worth the money?".

  1. RobertD says 07 March 2009 at 05:21

    Pets can be expensive, but like anything in life they can have benefits as well.

    The problem most people get into is buying more pet then really fits into your life. If you are of modest means owning a large purebred will be very costly. Purebreds are less healthy than the average mutt is. And large dogs eat more then small ones.

    But the cost issue comes in when you fail to plan for them in your budgeting process. Often the biggest of their bills show up as an annual expenses (tags and the vet). So you need to have planned for them.

    We also need to stop and think about the life and environment you are offering the animal. Buying a large dog if you live in an apartment or a small home is far from ideal for them. They need the room to get their exercise and to be active. I grew up on a farm we never had to walk our dogs, by night they had ran themselves out on their own. For a smaller animal a small backyard maybe all the space it needs, so be realistic, otherwise you are going to need to spend a lot of hours exercising them, and those hours may cut into your family time and earning option time.

    Pets can be a real benefit but you really need to think about your life style before getting any. They need a relationship with you and do you have the time to give it to them, and can you afford what they cost? If you answered yes to both then go ahead.

    All the best from RobertD at

  2. Kermit says 07 March 2009 at 05:27

    Tree frogs cost around $150 per year!

  3. Stephen Popick says 07 March 2009 at 05:28


    As you know we have a black lab named Ari who is our wonderful dog. She has insurance, and it is worth it. Last year we upped her insurance to a higher plan, which I think costs 20 a month. For her, x-rays and sedative are the expensive components. After we went to a new plan, Ari developed two fatty lumps, very large (several pounds). We’ve had one removed, and the other comes later next month once she’s recovered. Our insurance saved us over a thousand dollars.

    Year to Year, Ari doesn’t cost much (500 for the year), and we get alot of benefits,including exercise!

  4. ash says 07 March 2009 at 05:29

    It’s definitely a value issue, which makes it different for everyone. I would never pay for chemotherapy or major surgery, but some people’s pets are worth that much to them, and I can’t argue with that.

    For me, I the age of the pet (I have cats) and the nature of the illness are really big factors, and I think I would draw the line somewhere around $1000. But it’s hard to judge, the circumstances can vary so much.

  5. Jason says 07 March 2009 at 05:33
    I’m a veterinarian and get the question about pet insurance frequently. There are a lot of plans out there and I encourage people to do their homework. My understanding is that generally the premium is starts low and remains low if you began insuring your pet when they are young and keep the policy active throughout their lives. Also, most plans work as indemnity plans (again, as I understand it). So, you’ll still need to pay the veterinarian’s fees up front and then be reimbursed by your insurer.

    Nonetheless, I’ve had many clients tell me that they wouldn’t have been able to do life-saving procedures if it wasn’t for the insurance policy that they have on their pet.

    Still, my advice is to begin an interest-bearing savings account for your pet while they’re young and put a small amount ($25/month over 10 years will get you a long way, even with specialty care) in each month for emergency and specialty care, not for routine care. (In this way, you don’t lose control of your money like you do when you pay a premium on an insurance policy.) Regardless of what kind of pet you own, you’ll need that money someday.

  6. MarjorieC says 07 March 2009 at 05:40

    I, sadly, made some poor decisions in the fall which led me to spend outrageous amounts on my pet guinea pig at the vet’s office. Coupled with a vacation with wealthier companions (that was pre-planned when I had savings!), I started 2009 in debt for the first time in 9 years. I regret spending as much as I did, because of my current situation, but I don’t regret it because it was only ‘a pet.’

    Regarding pet insurance, does anyone have experience getting pet insurance for an older animal? (My cat is 16.)

  7. gfe-gluten free easily says 07 March 2009 at 05:46

    I’ve never regretted money I spent on our pets. Believe it or not, cats and dogs benefit greatly from no grains in their diet. Illnesses like arthritis, hot spots and skin conditions, diabetes, etc. can often be resolved by feeding your pet gluten-free or grain-free foods. They do cost more, but the rewards are worth it. Dogs and cats are by nature hunters, so it makes sense. Grain was added to their food as cheap filler. A vet talks more about the issue here: Everyone I know, including myself, who has put their dogs and cats on gluten free food has seen a big improvement in their pets’ health. The dog that might have been having a hard time climbing into the bed before starts running around and playing like a puppy. It’s amazing.


  8. Another Reader says 07 March 2009 at 05:49

    You can cut the costs of veterinary work by learning to do some things yourself. Administering subcutaneous fluids and syringe feeding can be done at home and it is much easier on the cat.

    Some problems and diseases can be tested for over a period of time and as you discover or eliminate causes, you eliminate expensive tests and procedures that would otherwise be recommended. However, when you are dealing with an undiagnosed ailment where the cat has stopped eating and is dehydrated, a blood panel and abdominal x-rays are hard to avoid.

    Keeping your cats indoors will cut your vet bills and your cats will live longer, healthier lives. Outdoor cats have an average lifespan of less than half of indoor-only cats.

  9. Barb1954 says 07 March 2009 at 06:02

    Our two cats are indoor animals — at $500 for a purebreed Abyssisian, we wouldn’t risk their health by letting them outside. Plus who wants to get a kitty kiss from a pet with chipmunk breath? The extra amount you quoted for cat ownership could be the cost of cat toys — they do get bored with the same old play things (hey, don’t we all?)and need some variety. But as I like to say about our fur babies — they’re loving, adorable, and they don’t require a college fund!

  10. lulugal11 says 07 March 2009 at 06:02

    I have a cat (Dinero) and a Betta fish (Rex). Dinero costs me $10 a month in pet rent because I live in an apartment.

    I do not have insurance on him and don’t plan on getting it either. I spend about $9 a month on litter because he poops a lot and I buy the expensive odor control clumping litter. It is a high cost but it is worth it because you simply CANNOT smell the poop at all…even when you are in the room with the litter box. I have tried cheaper brands but this is the only thing I found that keeps the smell away and I love coming home and not even knowing that I have a cat. I even left him alone one weekend and came back to a closed up house with three days of cat poop and cat pee and could not smell a thing!!!!

    Other than that I bought a big bag of dry food (about $8 after coupon) that looks like it will last about three months at the rate he eats. He eats tuna and canned sausages which I have a stockpile of and which are cheaper than the wet cat food.

    So while I might be spending about $20 a month on him…the joy my cat brings me is worth more than that.

    I can’t remember the last time I spent money on the fish. I bought a pack of pellets that he eats and he eats about 4 of those per day so it lasts a few months.

  11. Avery says 07 March 2009 at 06:08
    My cat costs me about $250/year between food, litter & deodorizer, box liners, etc. I don’t buy him a ton of toys (he is WAY happier with the rings of milk jugs) or treats. Luckily, my aunt is a vet and will update his shots every couple of years for me in exchange for Thanksgiving Dinner! He is solely an indoor cat, so there is no reason he needs to be vaccinated every year according to her.

    However, I did have a kitten prior to him that got very very sick at about 6 months of age. It’s a long story, but suffice to say I spent about $800 and he still had to be put down at the end of the four-day ordeal. I didn’t regret spending the money, even though I was a very poor college student, because he had the opportunity for a long, high-quality life if he would recover.

    I can’t give a set number I would spend on a pet. I’d spend $2000 on a young pet with a great chance for full recovery. I wouldn’t spend $7000 on a 15 year old cat that would need treatments every day the rest of his life. For me, it’s as much a question of life span and quality of life as it is of money.

    And the happiness my pet(s) bring(s) me is worth more than I’ve ever spent on them combined.

    Some great ways to keep down pet expenses:
    – Some vets, especially in rural areas, will trade services if you’re skilled in something.
    – Trade off pet sitting with friends and family; boarding cats and dogs while on vacation gets VERY expensive.
    – Shop the sales, as always.
    – Pets love stuffed animals, toys, and blankets that are ugly free hand-me-downs just as much or more as those you buy at Petsmart. Watch Craigslist for free supplies, and look for creative things a pet might like to play with. A 2 cent bobby pin amuses my cat way more than a $5 feather toy!
    – Keep your pets leashed/indoors. Prevention is the best way to protect them from disease and injury.
    – Shop online for supplies like high-quality ID tags, collars, etc. You’ll likely get better deals and better products. I have a great source on eBay for cat collars. They’re adorable and personalized, and way cheaper than the store.

  12. Kitty says 07 March 2009 at 06:11

    I live with 5 cats and they are certainly less expensive than children (or husbands for that matter!). I agree strongly with the previous commenter that there are certain things you can learn to do yourself and if you have a good vet they will teach you to do these things. I administer sub-Q fluids regularly to my 19 year old. A case of lactated ringers (enough to last 4-6 months) is only a few dollars more than one session administered by a vet.

    I also agree that keeping your cat inside is the best money-saving thing you can do.

    As far as how much I would spend? The most I have ever spent was $1400 for leg surgery on my 1 year old. She was in pain, it was something easily fixed, the fix was permanent, and I thought it was entirely worth it. But my attitude is that by taking these cats into my life I have made a firm commitment to provide them the very best life possible. I will admit that I have one credit card that I keep at zero balance at all times specifically for vet emergency care if needed.

  13. E says 07 March 2009 at 06:14

    Just wanted to say, I’m sorry to hear Simon was sick – I just went through the EXACT same thing with my 8 1/2 year old cat Gabe (who, oddly, is a ringer for Simon!)

    Same results from the vet, same costs, and thankfully, my buddy is home and back to his usual self. And I realized that I need a separate, special fund for kitty emergencies.

  14. Roxanne says 07 March 2009 at 06:17

    The little monsters are worth every penny.

    Mine went to the vet last night while I fly off on vacation. So I woke up this morning without corgi butt in the face. Not cool.

    Life isn’t worth living if you don’t wake up to a dog every morning.

    And if you don’t like the cost become a serial-vet-dater. Saves a fortune. 🙂

  15. Chris says 07 March 2009 at 06:17

    We don’t have children but have one cat. We pay monthly pet insurance, which so far has covered all the shots, exams etc. he needs for $29/month. So far, it’s saved us a bunch of money.

  16. DJS says 07 March 2009 at 06:25

    We spent money on cat toys when our two were younger, but we quickly found there are countless low-cost and no-cost ways to entertain these two. They love wadded-up paper–it’s easy to bat around. Bring out a cheap feather duster and they go bananas. Now that these two siblings are about to turn 18 years old, they seem to prefer empty boxes to curl up in. I swear one of them stands by while I open the box, knowing he’s about to get a new, cozy bed.

    The cost of caring for our cats has been minimal through the years. Haven’t tracked it exactly, but they have always been in great health–no vet bills other than the annual check-up. That could change, now that they are “elderly,” but I’m convinced it’s because they’ve been house cats all their lives. When we first got them (from a “free kittens” ad), our vet told us there’s no reason to allow cats outdoors. Like the previous poster said, he said it would likely cut their life span in half. Glad we listened to him.

  17. R.D. Hammond says 07 March 2009 at 06:50

    There is no upper limit.

    Seriously, you’re taking care of a living thing. Would someone say, “Oh, at one point do we cut off the spigot on our kid?”

    I realize this is an extreme view, but still.

  18. Tordr says 07 March 2009 at 06:52

    Pet insurance is expensive but so is unexpected veterinary expenses. So from a financial standpoint it does not make sense to insure your pet. That is unless you cannot bear the burden of unexpected veterinary bills, or if you are going to get one of your pets pregnant.

    The point about insuring a pregnant pet is that there is a much greater chance of problems with the pet during a pregnancy. My story: My parents have dogs, and one of the dogs had puppies last summer. There where complications during birth so my parents ended up with a veterinary bill of $2000. So if they are ever thinking of getting another dog pregnant then they will insure that dog.

  19. Sarah L. says 07 March 2009 at 06:59

    We’ve insured our Weimaraner since he was young (2.5 yrs. old). It’s around $50/month right now (he’s 11). Our policy includes a cancer rider and also some wellcare coverage for some basic “maintenance” care we get every year, like heartworm exam, some vaccines, annual health screen, heartworm and flea/tick meds. The wellcare part definitely pays for itself, and in recent years the regular coverage has also paid for itself. This was not always true when the dog was younger and healthier.

    We’ve had mixed success with payments for larger medical issues. With our current dog the insurance has paid quite a bit on our claims. With our previous dog, however, we were disappointed in the amount the insurance paid for some emergency care he received.

    Our dog is older now and stands to have more health problems in the next couple of years, so we will keep the policy for this dog. With future pets we will strongly consider self-insuring by placing a set amount into a separate fund for pet health care.

  20. The Personal Finance Playbook says 07 March 2009 at 07:02

    My wife and I really want to get a dog sometime in the near future. The cost is something that’s been bothering me a little bit. For my wife, it’s the extra work required to keep everything clean.

    Hopefully we’ll have one soon;)

  21. mountainLaurel says 07 March 2009 at 07:04

    I think pets fall into that category of yeah, from a pure budget-spreadsheet point of view they may be a financial loss, but are you really going to deal with a complete lack of fuzzy joy in your life? What else are you going to do with that cash that will give you the same amount of happiness – buy a bigger TV?

    About the insurance -I like the savings-account idea from Jason @5; I just can’t imagine buying insurance for a pet in a year or so when I graduate college & won’t have health insurance myself, but finally move into my own place & can get a cat or maybe a ferret or something – my beloved older kitty will probably stay with my mom, keep her company & not have to deal with the stress of a move.

  22. Mac says 07 March 2009 at 07:11

    Having just spent $1000 over a month to treat our blocked cat, I can relate. The unexpected expense has definitely has definitely altered our plans in the short term.

    We did have an Emergency Fund set up for Vet expenses, which was promptly consumed in the first two visits to the vet.

    Our thought was to apply what the monthly premium for pet insurance would be to the emergency fund, that way if we never had a vet emergency the money would still be there, rather than consumed by premiums and lost forever. Now, after having an emergency, we are thinking that pet insurance may have been a better idea.

  23. Kathryn says 07 March 2009 at 07:15

    I think it’s so interesting how often people discuss what’s financially savvy, without factoring in quality of life. What is the point of being smart about your money if you’re not living your life in a way that is authentic and full. I’ve even heard that some studies show that pet owners tend to be healthier and have a longer life expectancy than non-pet owners…

  24. cherie says 07 March 2009 at 07:20

    Just went through a bad financial mess with our pet – ugh!

    Our 8yo lab who always ate lumber of all kinds and got upset tummy-ish acted oddly – I assured the kids [here’s where it was stupid] that it was the asme and took her to the vet – I then proceeded to find out she had CANCER and needed a spleen removal to live – maybe

    I spent over $5000 for that surgery solely to avoid having my children think an upset tummy winds up in death – if I’d kept my mouth shut [as I will from now on] I would have made a different decision – I adored our dog – but she didn’t live more than another couple of months – was the time we had with her to say goodbye wonderful? Yes, but it was a serious financial blow to our family.

    We havea new lab now – and I plan to start insuring her asap so I can avoid such traumatic choices in the future – as for the cost – don’t forget the cost of puppyhood – UGH

    She takes and destroys so many things her cost is enormous – already this morning she’s eaten two pencils and a tube of toothpaste . . . sheesh

  25. brooklynchick says 07 March 2009 at 07:21

    I don’t have kids (or a live-in partner), and having grown up in a cat family (my mom’s all time high is 7), I have virtually no upper limit on medical spending for my two little guys, as long as it improves their quality of life. So I’ll pay $200 to get their teeth cleaned because their gums are inflamed, $2/can for food that won’t give them the runs, but I wouldn’t pay for chemo that made them feel cruddy.

    Believe it or not, I did have to go into debt to pay for one guy to get his thyroid nuked. Should have had an emergency fund! (working on that)

    BTW, I’ve met relatives in their 90’s in the old country, and they too spoil their cats. I think its genetic!

  26. Melissa A. says 07 March 2009 at 07:23

    Pets are so worth it. I love my cat so much and would be devastated if something happened to him. I can’t wait to get another one.

  27. brooklynchick says 07 March 2009 at 07:25

    Re: Tordr #18

    Sorry to preach, but PLEASE get your pets spayed/neutered, and please get your pets from a shelter. Thousands of healthy animals are killed in the U.S. because no one adopts them.

    I know its off-topic, but I had to. 🙂

  28. Cara says 07 March 2009 at 07:25

    If I didn’t have my two cats, I’d be spending money on shrink bills and Prozac. My fuzzy friends are the best therapy I could ask for.

  29. brooklynchick says 07 March 2009 at 07:27

    As other have said, owning a pet improves your mental AND physical health, probably saving you some money and definitely improving your quality of life.

    Ok, seriously, I’ll stop now. JD, if you are a crazy cat gentleman I am a crazy cat lady. Sigh.

  30. Emily says 07 March 2009 at 07:28

    Yes their worth it! They’re as much companions as they are hobby or sport, depending on what you do with them. I personally draw a line in the sand at $XX that I’ll spend in an emergency for a pet. Try horses, they’ll knock your sox off for expenses! If you board them at a nice facility you’re looking at $6000/year just for board/feed, plus routine vet costs around $250/year, plus hoof care (trims and shoes) any where from $180-600/year….. yes, they’re worth it!

  31. Mary says 07 March 2009 at 07:34

    I used to have three cats, and am now down to one who is 13 years old. I love the little guy, but I don’t think I’ll be in a rush to get another one after he dies. He hasn’t been a very expensive cat to take care of, but the day by day maintenance and the reduced housing choices makes Hypothetical Future Cat an easier concept to reject.

    Sometimes the best treatment is the big ticket item versus a series of smaller, distributed costs. I had a tabby who developed an overactive thyroid when she was 12. The “best” therapy was radioactive iodine therapy, but the thought of paying $1000, having her boarded for a week, then isolating her and her waste for some time after that made daily pilling a more attractive choice.

    But in the long run, the medication costs more and is less effective than the one-shot treatment. Her blood values started getting bad again and she started losing weight again. Plus, I found that after a year of pilling (near miraculous, I know) she was completely fed up and would hide in the morning so I couldn’t medicate her. I finally put $1000 on my credit card and had her treated, and she lived another 5 happy, healthy years before her kidneys went.

    A year after the tabby was treated, the little black cat got the same diagnosis. I think I shocked my vet by immediately whipping out my credit card and asking for the iodine. She was fine for another 5 years, too, before she got a totally unrelated cancer.

    It was worth $200 a year for each cat to have those good years.

    (I think I’m still paying off the vet bills, but only because I used to have such horrible fiscal discipline. These days, I would make sure that debt was paid off within months.)

  32. Jeff says 07 March 2009 at 07:38

    Don’t forget the cost of pet rent in certain places. Many of us don’t have houses and have to pay rent for the cats. Mine in particular cost $25/mo per cat, and I have 2 cats. That’s $600/year before I pay for anything else.

    Plus, I get to dryclean my couch cushions once a year or so after one gets pissed off and decorates my couch. Total Cost, ~50


  33. Christine says 07 March 2009 at 07:40

    It’s not just medical bills that might crop up. Our cat has done a nice job destroying the carpet in our apartment. I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost our deposit because of her. Still love her somehow, the devil.

  34. Bridgette says 07 March 2009 at 07:41

    I have two dogs – one older rescue (he is about 9) and one purebred puppy (8 months now). Every month, I spend about 100 on high quality food for them. Yes, they eat well, but I do believe that it keeps down the vet bills. My older dog has had some major issues in the past keeping down “regular” dog food, so I switched him to a raw food diet about 9 months ago – and he couldn’t be happier.

    It seems the biggest cost is the 1st puppy year. Between shots, spaying, new crate and pen, and everything else, I think I have spent at least 1000 in the pups first year, plus the cost of the dog. Its worth it though, she is so darn cute. But if you really want to save money on a dog, ADOPT one that is already fixed and up to date on shots.

    I spend about 60/mo on insurance, and I don’t know that it is worth it. But I feel that if i cancel it, my older dog with inevitably get sick, so I may keep it for him, and start a savings account for the little one.

    Pet rent is another thing to factor into your animal budget. My apartment charges a $500 fee upfront, plus $25 a month per pet. This is a huge ripoff, and part of the reason we are thinking about buying a house (with a doggie door and yard) when our lease is up.

    No, they do not make financial sense. But I lived halfway across the country from my friends and family last year – I couldn’t have done it without having my dog there with me.

  35. kelle says 07 March 2009 at 07:42

    Excellent advice from Jason the vet.
    Children and animals would be safer kept in the house, but it’s not mentally healthly for either. Small pets are also excellent teachers for children.
    It pains me to see my cats bring in a dead chipmunk to show off for me, but it’s their nature.
    I don’t think I would ever try to save money by playing vet.
    A friend told me an interesting story about her uncle who learned to spay (farmer, not vet) female cats and would do it for the locals for the cost ($2-3)of whatever he put them to sleep with.
    My husband would also turn into a crazy cat gentleman if I let him, but he doesn’t clean up after them.
    I grow catnip every year for the cats and myself. I have to cage it so they don’t ruin the plants. I make myself tea, it stinks simmering, but I love the taste.
    J.D. your children are beautiful!

  36. Jessica says 07 March 2009 at 07:42

    We bought pet insurance through VPI last year for our cat Baxter.

    A few months later, when he ate too much grass and it became impacted in his intestine, the vet bill for surgery and care was a whopping $1000.

    VPI paid $800 of that…. certainly WELL worth the investment of $86 per year. That’s what we pay for a young healthy cat, and includes an employer discount and another discount for insuring multiple pets with VPI.

    Pet insurance also gives us peace of mind, because if something like that happens again, we know we won’t be scrambling for money.

    To share my research, I have found that VPI offers the best pricing and variety of plans. For Baxter, we just have the basic plan to cover emergencies. But they also offer wellness plans that cover routine care, at a higher price.

    Regarding the “cost” of pets…. we are a middle-class family struggling to pay down debt. Without animals, we would probably be debt-free by now. But to us, having pets is well worth the expense. All of our animals (7 cats, 2 dogs, and a bunch of foster kittens) are rescues, so what we are spending money on has much more value to us.

    Side note which I think is worth mentioning: our county shelter has opened a pantry for people who would otherwise surrender their pets because of inability to buy food, due to unemployment or foreclosure. They also have a fund set aside for people who cannot afford emergency care for their pets.

  37. Allen says 07 March 2009 at 07:45

    Although pets can be expensive, they are a great additions to your life and well worth the expense. I save money for my dog in a separate ING account so that when emergencies arise, and they will, I can make a decision based on quality of life for my dog, versus “can I afford this”. I spent $2000 when he was 4 years old because and I have no regrets. He is currently almost 7 years old and do wonderful.

  38. Joel says 07 March 2009 at 07:52

    I’ve also come across a pet savings plan. Similar to an HSA (without tax benefit of course), but is a great way to save for those unexpected (and expected) expenses. Quite honestly it makes some decisions a little easier when you have already saved up some or all of the unexpected cost.

  39. amber says 07 March 2009 at 07:52

    Three years ago we discovered that our beloved 15 year old tortie had cancer, and that her kidneys were shutting down. If we had thought for a second that dialysis, kidney transplants, or any other medical procedures would help her live longer, I don’t think we would have batted an eye at spending the money.

    But she was in pain, and tired, and ready to go, so we made the choice to euthanize right then. We still miss her horribly.

  40. Patricia says 07 March 2009 at 07:56

    I have 3 cats and I tend to feed them all high premium foods and I refuse to feed them anything cheaper, recession or no recession. I also keep them indoors because it actually keeps them safer and prolongs longevity according to the ASPCA website. I used to have pet insurance but I got rid of it years ago when Clark Howard said it was a waste of money. So instead, I set up an ING Direct “Pet Fund” and each month I automatically save a small amount of cash for each pet which I use when I have to take them to the vet. I also bought this new automatic cat box that actually uses less litter which has saved me so much money esp. since each box of litter costs me about $12. My next project to save on pet expenses is to attempt to brush their teeth, which would save me hundreds of dollars down the road in dental care. Wish me luck!

  41. Lara says 07 March 2009 at 08:03

    This is something we’ve struggled with a fair amount in the recent past. I almost hesitate to post this after all the serious pet lovers who have proclaimed the costs to be worth it. We try to be responsible pet owners. Our pets are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, fed, brushed, exercised, and receive plenty of petting. However, if medical costs begin to get high we will generally choose to put the animals down.
    We live rurally and our cats are barn cats that we have primarily to keep the rodent population under control. Our dog is a very large mutt that we adopted when he was roughly six or seven years old from the humane society. Along with being the family pet, he also serves to keep the coyotes away from our house and thus extend the cats’ lifespans. I don’t object to people spending vast fortunes on their animals if that is where their heart is and they have the resources to do so. However, I don’t think people are cold hearted and cruel if they choose not to spend the money on their animals.

  42. Danielle says 07 March 2009 at 08:05

    My dog Hunter, and my cat Jezebel, are like my children. Jezebel has cost me plenty over the years with a myriad of different and near deadly illnesses, but it has been worth every penny because of the joy I get from having her with me.

    Hunter is only 2, but I’d imagine his vigorous nature will eventually lead to the same, and that too, will be worth it to me.

    As far as pet insurance goes, I’ve considered it, but it just seems like too much money. I put aside money from every paycheck into a ‘pet fund’ for both of them. It covers all of the minor things (regular checkups, vaccinations, and boardings for travel) and usually the more minor medical emergencies. The $1900 I spent on Jezebel last fall came from my emergency fund, and I don’t miss the money as much as I’d miss her.

  43. Kristin says 07 March 2009 at 08:05

    Pets are definitely very expensive-our dog costs us about 2.5k a year, when the dog walker is included (we work long hours). That said-he is a part of my family. I would do anything to keep him happy and healthy.including spending thousands of dollars- I know someone who paid for a heart transplant on her dog. Honestly-if I was in that situation and my dog was young, I would do the same thing. I figure having Seb makes me happier staying home, so I save money that way.

  44. Dave says 07 March 2009 at 08:05

    Two dogs and a 10-gallon aquarium with 13 fish and 4 shrimp…

    I pay approximately $600 a year for coverage on the dogs. Except for a prescription or two, at discounted prices, I think the highest I’ve ever paid out of pocket at my vet is $17. They give me a printout of the list prices of the services my boys receive at every visit. I’d estimate I’ve saved roughly $5,000 over the lives of both of my boys. Add in a monthly bag of food and we’re up to $1200 a year. I buy them the good stuff.

    The fish need some food and new charcoal every month or so. They can’t cost me more than $5 a month, plus electricity for the tank.

    I understand that the author of Free Money Finance is just the messenger, but the message needs to be rethought. Consider what that $1300 or so is getting me:
    – No need for a shrink – the boys listen to whatever we have to say.
    – They need walks every day. Fitness costs reduced.
    – Fish tank also acts as a humidifier for the house.
    – Dogs cuddling in bed reduces the heating bill (unreliable!)

    We don’t have any car payments and rent is pretty cheap. The pets are a reasonable expense that’s well worth it.

  45. Andrea says 07 March 2009 at 08:06

    Your incredulity about pet insurance made me laugh because I cannot imagine *not* having pet insurance for our kitty! It’s only £10/month, and completely and totally worth it in case he has a major accident or illness, which could easily dent a huge hole in our finances. That said, we also had/have pet rats, which we do not insure because 1) it’s almost impossible to get insurance for small rodents and 2) any treatment for illnesses they have are normally relatively inexpensive, even for serious maladies. But cat and dog serious illnesses/emergencies are expensive enough that having the insurance is worth it, and I’d feel remiss not having it for our cat.

  46. Liz says 07 March 2009 at 08:08

    I skimmed the last several, don’t know if anyone mentioned grooming or heartworm preventative for dogs. Large (hypoallergenic) dog grooming $60 month, heartworm preventative around $8 month.) I love my dogs, but have come to the point that I’m not sure I can afford the hideous vet bills any more. Down to one dog from two, and asking myself what I can afford. Several expensive dog deaths in the past had me grateful that this last untimely death cost only around $400 – hurts the heart even worse! Another bill for a simple deep cut had prevously cost me $400. I balance the cost versus what a burglar alarm would cost, but we’ve had illnesses for dogs cost thousands of dollars. How can the average American afford this? It feels like the newer vets are out to maximize what they charge, while caring less if they kill your dog by malpractice.

  47. MITBeta @ Don't Feed The Alligators says 07 March 2009 at 08:13

    I’ve written before about how much our dogs have cost us in the last 8 years: over $30,000!

    Check it out the whole story here:

  48. Aman@BullsBattleBears says 07 March 2009 at 08:21

    Pets are just like family members. I dont question if a child is worth the monthly expenses nor do I question if my elderly parents are worth the money either. To maintain any life costs money and if that life is important enough, you will go through any means to support it. Well that is how I feel anyways.

  49. dora says 07 March 2009 at 08:25

    This completely ignores the most bank-breaking pet fee: sitting. Were it not for pet sitting, we would probably spend $500/year on Otis (dog).

    As it is, even with all our friends who help, we probably spend $600/year on dogsitting. Most dog boarding places in any city i’ve lived charge about $30-$50 *a night*.

    When a friend pet-sits for a weekend or more we usually get them a big gift, like a $50 gift certificate to a store they like. We have found trustworthy college students to stay at our place with him for $20/night, but even that adds up if you go out of town for a 10-day vacation.

    Still worth every penny, but I thought I would put that out there as I haven’t seen anyone mention it yet.

  50. Erica says 07 March 2009 at 08:28

    Re: Pet Insurance – YES! We have two small dogs, both of which we have insured via Banfied’s “premium” plan. We pay $70 per month ($35 per day) for the plan. It pays for itself in one vet visit to have their teeth cleaned per year. It’s like paying for that one visit, only we get to spread it out over the whole year, interest-free! Plus, all their vaccines and any vet visits are at no additional cost on the plan, and we get like 15% off any special Rx they may need, including Heartguard and flea meds. Very worth it, when crunching the numbers. Our current running total savings over the last 3 years of having 3 dogs on the plan — $8,000+.

  51. Stuart King says 07 March 2009 at 08:28

    Hi JD, really like the website and look forward to your e-mails hitting my inbox every afternoon. I live in the U.K. and pet insurance is as matter of fact as car insurance. I have just had a quote for my 5 month kitten Mia which comes to £87 for a year inc all taxes (23 pence a day). It will cover up to £7000 per seperate illness/injury. I see it as a better way to provide care for her than an emergency fund, which could easily be wiped out with one illness or injury. Its easier to put into my yearly budget as well.
    Keep up the good work!



  52. brista says 07 March 2009 at 08:35

    Well, I have 2 cats. They don’t go the vet anymore often than I go to the doctor (which is to say, pretty much never!) so the only time I’ve had a high vet bill was when one needed a cat-hysterectomy for $500.

    I do spend a good amount of money on their food. I don’t buy them the cheapie stuff from the grocery store and I definitely don’t buy IAMS, Pedigree — the ones that claim to be “high end” but have the exact same ingredients as Meow Mix and the grocery store brand. I don’t let myself eat junky food so there’s no reason why I should make the animals eat junky pet food.

    I also have that Tidy Cats Breeze litter box, which is pretty darn expensive. It’s something like $6.50 for a 1.4 lb bag of litter and never on sale. It’s ridiculous. But it’s worth it to me because it’s easy to clean and doesn’t stink up the place.

    I don’t know what the upper limit is on pet-spending. I’ve never been in a position to really worry about it yet. I think having a spending account just for pets is a really good idea, though.

  53. Viki S says 07 March 2009 at 08:36

    Last year, we paid about $1000 to help our 12 year old cat get past a crystallized-clogged urethra. It was a long, emotional ride, but it’s paid off. He’s healthy and still snuggling with me every night.

    However, our 10 year old dog has had “fatty tumors” all over for a few years. His eating habits recently changed, he was straining to go to the bathroom, and vomiting. Took him to the vet and he did an x-ray and a blood work up ($287). Found out he has a 10-12″ mass in his abdomen! We were hoping it was just a fatty growth, but the blood tests showed severly elevated liver enzyme levels. Thus, the large mass is most like his liver and he most likely has liver cancer. It’s pressing up on his stomach, decreasing space for food, and pressing on all of his other internal organs. At what point to we say enough is enough? We won’t do chemo. I don’t want to put him through it. Yes, money is an issue. We don’t have much and I’m on disability for health issues. At his age, there’s not even a 100% chance they’ll get it all. If it was smaller and I thought it would save his life, I might have surgery done.

    We love our pets dearly (2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 bird, and fish), but at some point, you have to think about your family’s finances and take all of it into account together. All of the treatment he’d have to go through would cost a fortune for us that we can’t afford. He’d probably pass away before it was paid off. In the meantime, I’m going to buy quality soft food, his meds, and other things to keep him happy and comfortable. It’s cheaper and helps his quality of life. I want to know I gave him a good life up to the end. I’m sure the cancer will take over eventually, but for now, we’re taking a different route. Yes, there’s guilt, but I can’t put my family (husband and son) into serious debt over it. If I had tons of money, I’d do it though in a heart beat!!!! Animals are priceless!

  54. Traingolfguy says 07 March 2009 at 08:36

    Our cat has been there for the ups and gotten us through the downs of the 16 years that she has been with us. Her kidneys are failing now. We give her subcutaneous fluids twice a day, a shot of Epogen every three days and an enema every two days. Learning how to do those things at home saves us a substantial amount of money and time spent on vet visits. It is less traumatic for the cat and we are able to keep her comfortable and happy. How much are we willing to spend? As long as the procedure is not too traumatic and will keep her overall quality of life, we’ll spend it. We would rather compromise on some other luxury.

  55. mathew says 07 March 2009 at 08:41

    I don’t believe that cost for birds. Or at least, not all birds. Even the best organic parakeet food is only $8 a pound, and a pound will last a month or two per bird minimum. Fresh vegetables will cost a couple of dollars a week, assuming you aren’t buying any for human consumption. Newspaper to line the cage is free, just pick up Metro… So a couple of hundred a year by my reckoning. Even including vet bills every now and again, I can’t see how you’d hit $770.

  56. Tyler Karaszewski says 07 March 2009 at 08:41

    “Are pets worth the money?” — This seems like a ridiculous question to me. Maybe it was meant to be rhetorical?

    How would you feel if someone responded to this thread by saying he hadn’t really considered the cost of his dog, but he ran the numbers, and found he’d be able to save more toward retirement without the dog, so he decided to do the financially responsible thing and took the dog to an animal shelter.

    If you’d asked if cable TV was worth the money, and got that sort of response, you’d feel like you made a difference in this person’s life, helping them to be more financially responsible. But that’s not how you’d feel about the dog, is it? So why even ask the question? What behavior are you trying to encourage by asking it?

  57. Kris says 07 March 2009 at 08:46

    If you’re not sure about adopting a pet because of the cost, you can always become a foster family for an animal through a rescue program. It will give you a chance to see what the costs will be before you commit to owning one.

  58. Hope says 07 March 2009 at 08:51

    I have 3 cats that cost me over $1,100 per year as long as there aren’t any extra vet bills (illness, teeth cleaning) on top of the yearly exam and vaccines. I get a big bag of Science Diet food every month though my vet is trying to get me to feed them wet food. They are worth every penny!

    $400 food and treats
    $435 vet bills
    $120 cat litter
    $50 toys and misc.
    $100 petsitting

    I am going to start a pet emergency fund instead of getting pet health insurance.

  59. J Brown says 07 March 2009 at 09:04

    So, I love the Great Dane. I quickly realized that my vet became my best friend. I can put his family through college. The medicine is based on weight, so if your dog is 130lbs, it needs a lot of medicine. Owners need to realize that there is a cost for owning a pet, but it is WORTH every penny. It is like says is the cost of child worth it. I had to put my dog down last month after 6 yrs of being with us.
    Yes, the kennel, food and vet add up in costs. There are ways around some of these costs. If you buy better quality pet food or RAW diet, it is cheaper and healthier overall. If you keep your dog’s health in check, it will save you money in the long run. If you use a rural vet, they are cheaper. Alternative medicine works wonders and can be cheaper too. Pet insurance can work for some, but most of the time is better to ‘pay yourself’ the pet insurance cost. We paid $1800 for a surgery and did not even think twice about it. The dog was going to die a painful death by bloat, if we did not pay.

  60. Lydia says 07 March 2009 at 09:11

    My mom has two cats (Leo and Ella) and a dog (Chico, a chihuahua), and has insurance on all three. This has been a GODSEND because Chico has had numerous health problems throughout his 8 years; Compressed disc in his spine which requires pain medication, seizures for several years that required Phenobarbital, as well as having to be neutered because of an enlarged prostate, and cancer that was removed along with his left eye. The only thing that my mom had to pay out of pocket was the eye surgery, because she was referred to a specialist that the insurance didn’t cover. Everything else, along with all vaccinations, boosters, teeth cleanings, and nail clippings are covered in the small monthly fee. If I recall correctly, she’s saved well over $5,000 in the past 5 years.

    Even on Leo and Ella, who require much less care than Chico, the insurance is worth the peace of mind. Leo recently got a very bad UTI and had to have several tests run to make sure he got on the right medication. I shudder to think of how much it would’ve cost without the insurance.

    For my mom, the insurance more than pays for itself. For other, more healthier pet families, it might not make sense. I plan to get a cat once I get my finances in order, but I won’t do it without insurance.

  61. Kitty says 07 March 2009 at 09:16

    Tyler – chill out! With the current economic crisis I have noticed a huge increase in the number of stray dogs and cats I see because owners realize they can not afford even the basics. I would far rather a pet owner take their pet to a shelter than just dumping them on the side of the road.

    kelle – Just to clarify my point about pet owners being able to do minor routine care without the assistance of a vet: I do not in any way condone amateur surgery or using rubber bands to neuter male cats and dogs or anything like that. This is cruelty plain and simple. Also routine home care should never take the place of regular vet visits. But administration of sub-Q fluids is easily done by a responsible owner and most vets I know (including my sister and brother-in-law who are vets and own their own clinic) support this because in addition to cutting vet expenses it cuts down on the stress of a vet visit. I have a 19 year old cat who is healthy and has a full bloodwork done by my vet every 6 months but he benefits from receiving fluids every other day. He doesn’t mind sitting on my lap at night while I watch something on basic cable (!) and allowing me to do this in the comfort of his own home. I was taught by my own vet to do this and she gave me the prescription for his fluids and supplies. To crate him, drive him to the office, and have this done every other day would run at least $150 per week and would shorten the life span of this already ancient but otherwise very healthy cat. Doing it at home is far more humane and costs about $3.00 per week.

  62. Kristen says 07 March 2009 at 09:19

    Wow, I’m more passionate about pets than just about anything else, so must comment.

    Pets can be very expensive. Our beloved 80 pound pooch will be 15 years old in the end of April. I firmly believe she has reached this advanced age largely as a result of feeding her expensive, but high quality food. Like us, health is dependent on preventive care and a healthy lifestyle. Her meds these days cost approximately $200 per month. Two vet visits in the past two weeks were another $200.

    For a young pet, I would look into health insurance. I researched it too late for it to be affordable for my pooch.

    As for how much to spend – it totally depends on the people and the pet. There will be no surgeries or major work on my 15 year old pooch – we will keep her comfortable as long as her quality of life is good – but if we had the means and she were younger and needed surgery, that’s another story.

    While I also believe you should not have a pet if you cannot provide for them, I don’t think only the wealthy should have pets. Growing up with animals taught me compassion and caring; I think that’s an important lesson for anyone. There are also way too many unwanted animals in need of a good home. If someone can take care of a pet’s basic needs but cannot afford a major surgery, I don’t begrudge their unfortunate decision to put down the animal if that is their only option.

    I cannot imagine my life without a pet. They add so much joy to my life and ask so very little in return.

  63. Amy says 07 March 2009 at 09:21

    I have found, like many others that 1) I’d be paying a shrink if it weren’t for my two cats, 2) my furniture would be in better shape 3) the most expensive, yet usually-not-mentioned cost is pet sitting!
    I hadn’t considered the idea of a pet saving acct before this article..duh! I will start that. Brilliant idea ya’ll!
    Also – like a few others mentioned, I too have chosen to pay the extra for the grain free, ‘real’ pet food, not the cheapy junk that passes for food. I am hoping that the good food will keep them out of the vet’s office for anything other than regular shots and the occasional cat fight accident. Given that my kid kitties are 1 year and 6 months old, I guess time will tell.
    I don’t do insurance, but know a friend who does. She likes it. I don’t want the monthly bill so I don’t.
    Here’s to pets! They might not be a great financial decision, but from a emotional health and/or quality of life standpoint, they are priceless.

  64. Chibioki says 07 March 2009 at 09:25

    My cat is cheaper than anti-depressants and more effective too, so I’d say he’s worth it.

  65. Whit says 07 March 2009 at 09:28

    In my opinion, pets are well worth the money but you have to be willing to commit the money to caring for them properly. If you don’t think they are worth the money, then do the animal a favor and get yourself a pet rock instead so that animal can find someone who will treat it as it deserves.
    I spent $3000 on my dog last week taking him to a specialist to try and determine what is ailing him. I didn’t bat an eye when I was quoted their fee, I knew it was what had to be done if I wanted to help my best friend . The visit required an MRI and other pricey diagnostics- that’s just the price of technology. Getting upset doesn’t lower the cost or help my dog get better. Getting my dog better is/was my top priority. Finances were a distant second.
    Fortunately I had a bank savings account set aside for my dog (and other sudden emergencies) that I’ve been investing in every paycheck for the last 5 years, so the cost was not as financially devastating as it could have been if I’d been unprepared.
    I agree with Chibioki—my dog is my furry little Prozac. The financial costs are dwarfed (for me) by the benefits of having a furry little best buddy that makes me smile and makes me happy every day.
    No one should own a pet unless they are willing to commit (time, energy, finances, etc) to do all that they can to give that pet the best life possible, and not just ditch them when they become inconvenient. They devote their lives to us, it’s the least we can do to reciprocate the best we can.

  66. Heidi says 07 March 2009 at 09:31

    I have a ten year old cat (Bear), and have recently adopted a puppy (Misha). I wouldn’t give either of them up for the world.

    Bear is fairly inexpensive; he’s not a picky eater, and he doesn’t overeat, so food costs very little. His favorite toy is a pipe cleaner, and I can get bags of those for just a couple dollars. He’s indoor/outdoor, so I don’t have to buy litter either.

    Misha is, of course, more expensive. She’s part lab, so she could eat a horse a day if I let her 😀 I haven’t had her long enough to know what my “yearly” expense will be, but so far it’s worked out to about $100/month. Of course, that includes obedience school (plus a ton of treats for said classes), daycare while I’m in school, and her puppy shots. With time, some of her current expenses will go down. Though the food one will probably go up!

    Ultimately, though, how much they cost is irrelevant. My animals are so much more than just pets to me… they bring joy to my life, they entertain me, they keep me healthy. And they are probably the only reason I am dealing with getting divorced as well as I am. There was a point when the only reason I got out of bed in the morning was because I had to take care of them.

    To me, this is one of those “quality of life” choices. Sure it costs me money that I could save to have pets. Then again, I’m willing to forgo spending money on fancy dinners for myself, if it means I can have a nice dinner at home surrounded by unconditional love. How can you put a price on that?

  67. Lydia says 07 March 2009 at 09:41

    Something I forgot to mention before. My mom uses a litter called “World’s Best”, and she says it lives up to the name very well. She buys the biggest bag, which is 34 pounds, and it costs about a dollar a pound. She’s tried pretty much every other kind of litter, from the traditional grey stuff you find in every grocery store, wheat, you name it. World’s Best, which is plant based and can be flushed down the toilet, is what she calls the most cost-effective. A couple scoops of it lasts 7-9 days, as opposed to Swheat Scoop (wheat based, $11 for 14 pounds) which is her second favorite, which required a couple scoops every 2-3 days. No smell. No waste in your garbage can.

  68. Georgianna says 07 March 2009 at 09:43

    My boyfriend and I had 3 cats and a dog…one of the cats just passed away, she was diabetic for 4 years. She used probably 3 ounces of insulin a year ($300/yr) and in the beginning we were using needles ($110/yr) but then we bought her an insulin jet to use instead ($750 total). She also had various other problems like a recurring infected anal gland ($600 total) and tooth problems because of her diabetes ($900 total) before finally crashing ($1200 total). She needed lots of expensive cat litter because she peed a lot ($120/mo.) and anytime we went out of town we needed a professional pet sitter to come by twice a day to give her the shot ($36/day, plus I straight up gave one girl $500 when I went to Europe for 20 days).

    This is obviously astronomical…since she has died about a month ago I have spent maybe $40 on the other two, it’s amazing! But they are worth the price to us if it comes down to it…children are not, so we are not having any.

  69. J.D. says 07 March 2009 at 09:44

    Tyler wrote: Why even ask the question? What behavior are you trying to encourage by asking it?

    Hm. I think you’re taking this too literally, Tyler. I do want to encourage people to think about their spending, and I am curious about how much folks are willing to spend on their pets, but I think it should be obvious from my own story that I think the answer to the question is, “Yes, pets are worth the money.”

    All the same, Kris and I have discussed many times how much we’re willing to spend on Toto. She’s fifteen years old. She’s a little bitch. I love her, and am glad of the time we’ve had together, but how much would I spend to keep her alive at this point? How much should I spend? I guarantee I would spend more on three-year old Max than I would on 15-year-old Toto. Does this make me a bad man?

    I think there are some interesting topics here, and I don’t think it’s a ridiculous question, or I wouldn’t have asked it.

    I’m probably one of the most pro-animal people you will ever find. I run a site called Animal Intelligence, after all!

  70. Ethan says 07 March 2009 at 09:56

    I looked into purchasing insurance from PetPlan recently for an acquaintance. For a 3-year-old cat it costs as little as $77/yr for a $200 per-incident deductible and 80% reimbursement. $159/yr for a $50 deductible and 100% reimbursement. Keep in mind it’s just that: a reimbursement. Pet insurance isn’t common enough for Vets to have gotten into the business of billing insurance companies and handling the paperwork for you. So you pay out of pocket and then submit a claim.

    A few things I found in my research:

    – If you want to be sure that something is covered before you incur the expense, PetPlan says they will make a determination beforehand for you.

    – If you get coverage before age 10 (for cats) you can renew it for the life of the pet.

    You just have to keep in mind what you are buying. This is perfect if your cat comes down with a treatable cancer, takes very ill for several days, or requires significant treatment for injuries. But it’s not going to make your maintenance veterinary bill cheaper or keep your pet alive forever. It’s medium-to-catastrophic insurance whose primary purpose is to keep you from having to decide between your beloved pet and a big wad of cash.

    A year ago my big, beautiful, teddy-bear tomcat was diagnosed with lymphoma. Between the conclusive diagnosis and several comfort treatments (fluid drainage) over the course of about 6 weeks, we spent a total of nearly $1,400. We didn’t regret it for a moment – we had to know that there wasn’t anything we could do before we let him go, and we had to make him comfortable in the meantime. But it would have been cheaper and easier if we had insured against that eventuality. We would even have had the option of doing a chemo plan if we chose.

  71. Matthew says 07 March 2009 at 10:04

    Pets are absolutely worth it if you consider them part of your family. My wife and I have two parson russell terriers and they are exactly that. That’s not to say that we dress them up like children or anything ridiculous, but we recognize their value to us emotionally and spend appropriate amounts to ensure they eat quality food.

    To feed your animal premium food at a bargain, consider a raw diet. You can purchase human-grade chicken breast from a restaurant supply chain for around $0.25 per lbs, and vegetables are cheap. It’s more work but it’s a higher quality than you’ll find in even premium stores, and cheaper.

  72. carol says 07 March 2009 at 10:09

    Vets bills can be VERY high. My previous cat cost me amost £1,000 in vets bills in the 2 years she was with us (she came to us as a stray) About £650 of that was for a broken leg, the remainder was when she developed kidney failure and unfortunately had to be put to sleep. I have just adopted a cat from a local charity who is young and healthy, but the £125 i pay for insurance seems a small price to pay for the peace of mind it gives me knowing that i never have to face that question: can i afford to treat my cat? Make sure that your insurance is ‘for life’! Then you will be covered continually if your cat develops a chronic illness such as diabetes. Don’t just go for the cheapest policy you can find, they are not all equal. Read carefully what your are covered for and also the terms, for instance usually they insist on a yearly vaccine and dental check up as a minimum, which seems fair enough to me.

  73. Melanie says 07 March 2009 at 10:18

    I have pet insurance on my dog. His premium is about $31/month. We’ve used the policy for root canals (THREE!!!) and for a mysterious event that was eventually deemed a stroke. It’s been well worth it to me. The root canals were needed after I’d only paid probably 3 or 4 premiums and the total surgery cost around $2400. I have a $100 deductible and pay 20% of the remainder. It gives you a bit of peace of mind when you’re in the throes of wanting to give your pet the best care but also dreading the ultimate cost.

    I have no idea “how much is too much” to spend on the health care of a pet. I guess my ultimate criteria is based on what quality of life the pet would have ultimately and even knowing that I have not idea how I’d cope with that question…..Hope I never have to!!

    Thanks for loving and taking great care of your pets!!


  74. MM says 07 March 2009 at 10:22

    I’m always fascinated when I meet people who treat their pets like children. I grew up in various rural areas, eventually on a farm, and animals were always there to have a purpose. Some were there to be eaten, some were there to help out. We always tried to do home care on the livestock, never left them in a situation to cause them suffering. The dogs and cats got basic vet care and the same rule applied. Heart transplants? Subcutaneous fluid injections? Even diabetes treatments? No. Those were things we could barely afford for the humans.

    I’ve kept this attitude as an adult, though I live in the ‘burbs now. When our dog broke her leg, we fixed it. When she hurt her back, we treated the pain but there was no way we were going to pay thousands of dollars for surgery. Amazingly, when we told the vet that, the vet suddenly said we could just treat the swelling instead and she’d prbably be fine. (We did and she is and we’ve changed vets.) Everyone has a different view of what’s reasonable for vet bills and other associated costs of pet ownership, and I do think some vet practices prey on owners who think no cost is too much. I’ll pay for my pets to have a reasonable quality of life, including performing heroic measures to save my son’s goldfish (don’t ask, the fish lived). But there’s a limit, because I do have children, and I won’t spend $4000 that could have gone into their college fund on a procedure that, again, turned out to have been unnecessary.

  75. Krystal says 07 March 2009 at 10:47

    Are the animals worth it? yes, yes, YES! Try telling my mother is law that (we aren’t planning on children).

    I adopted my pup at 4 months and found up about 5 days later he had Parvo. It can be very expensive to treat (and the survival rates are pretty low), but cost for us was under $300 (vet was a family friend, discount from rescuing). When he gave me my options for treatment, I picked the most effective and expensive one, not knowing at the time what it was going to cost. I was already attached at day 5 of his adoption. I didn’t know how inexpensive the treatment was going to be, I assumed about $2000, honestly. But based on my love for animals, this was nothing (even though I was out of control about my finances at the time). Now I am more in control, debt snowball and savings account, and would still make that choice. I just can’t put a price on the lives of my pets. I think a lot of childless pet lovers (and those with kids, too) feel the same way. And yes, I realize they are animals, not children (I am a teacher and spend plenty of time with kids). I don’t take my dog into the grocery store or the spa in a purse.

  76. Aryn says 07 March 2009 at 10:48

    It’s hard to say when something costs too much for a specific pet. I’d probably seriously consider something that was going to cost over $1,000, but it would depend on the expected outcome.

    My parents had to make that choice with our 14-year-old cat. He’d lost half his body weight and was very lethargic, but the vets couldn’t find a cause. The vet considered doing elective surgery to go in and look around, but there was no guarantee the cat would survive, or that they’d find anything treatable.

    Since he was 14 and had lost his brother 4 years earlier (he never really recovered from that), they decided to put him down rather than pay for more treatment. If he’d been 6 and healthy, it probably would have been a different story.

  77. Rainy says 07 March 2009 at 11:07

    I have 5 cats and a dog living with me. I’d say I probably spend a tiny bit over $100 a month on food, litter and other stuff for them. It used to be more, but we cut out their daily human grade canned food and only feed them premium kibble now. They still get a can on Sunday mornings as a treat.

    For me, the decision to pay for surgery hinges on two factors. 1. Is this going to give the animal a long life with quality of life on the other side? 2. How much money can I realistically siphon from my emergency fund?

    I once had a kitten in the kitty ICU on IV fluids for two weeks. He drank Christmas tree water and needed to be supported with fluids and meds until his gut healed enough to keep water and food down. It cost me about 4 grand while I missed that money at times, I had it repaid to my fund within a year. He’s a wonderful, healthy adult cat now with years of life in him, and I don’t regret it. Conversely, we had a cat who got cancer in his old age and we opted not to go for expensive treatments. We supported him until it was time to go, and then we let him go.

    For me it is very much case by case. Though now, with my husband laid off and having to actually live ON our emergency funds and retirement accounts so we don’t lose our house, we temporarily have a lower limit for what we would do. I could still squeeze about 50$ out of the pet budget right now if I wanted to change to less premium food. The cats live indoors to minimize the odds of them getting hurt/sick/injured.

  78. Anonymous says 07 March 2009 at 11:12

    My mutt dog is 14 years old, which is 98 in human years. She’s spoiled. Demands she gets fed on time and walked for at least a mile. I tell her she’s lucky to even have a home (vs all the abandoned dogs)but she doesn’t understand me.
    I buy one special pill for her a month (I can’t afford the whole bottle anymore) so she doesn’t get worms.
    I had to make a decision today and hold off buying her the one pill (which she really needed 2 weeks ago) I’m down to my last $10 till payday next week and I had to choose between her pill or gas for my car so that I can continue to work.

    My dog just don’t understand. But I tell her all the time. It’s a luxury expense to have a pet. I saved her life 14 years ago. I hope she appreciate it. I hope she don’t get worms till next week.

    It’s not easy anymore owning a pet.

  79. b-bo says 07 March 2009 at 11:14

    we got 2 puppies about 6 months ago, and I tell you what! we have realized our pups have SAVED us money. Both my wife and are fortunate to work about a minute apart from eachother and about 8 miles to work. since we got the pups we go home for lunch to spend time with them, we used to go out for lunch most days of the week, which, of course, was a bad spending habit. we also used to eat out in the evening a lot of nights a week. (can you tell one of our vices is eating out? 🙂 ) well now we eat at home more to spend more time with the pups. we rarely eat out at all now. Before we got the puppies we did some calculation to and figured out how much they would *cost* us, but just this month we were going over the last few months realizing we have more $ than usual and figured out it was due to spending time with our pups and less time with restaurant staff, lol. We never expected having pets to save us moeny, but adding them to our family has. When I saw the title of this post, I laughed and showed it to my wife, and we had to share.

    ps- we’d love to see a post detailing the pros and cons and types of deals available for pet insurance. We have been thinking about that idea and having multiple animals increases the likelihood of having to fork over some cash for a sickness/injury.

  80. Amanda says 07 March 2009 at 11:15

    I don’t know if you’d call him a pet, but I have a horse. He is pretty much a walking financial disaster. I would estimate I spend $12-15,000 on him per year. That number doesn’t account for any extraordinary vet bills, simply the routine and maybe one emergency call. Last year he racked up about $5,000 over three months trying to solve a mystery lameness – that put him out in a pasture for eight months recovering.

    There are ways to do it cheaper than boarding him near a city (Boston) in a state that doesn’t have a lot of rural land left, much less taking a lesson a week on him and showing occasionally.

    I’ve given up many, many things to have him. I had to learn budgeting the hard way, right out of college. I live at home right now. I’ve had my savings accounts wiped out more times than I can count. I have to turn down the majority of invitations that come my way from friends because I simply can’t afford to go out on the town more than once a month or so. On and on and on.

    But you know what? I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He is my heart and soul. So yes, to me, he’s worth the money. 99% of people would say absolutely not, and my friends are pretty much constantly exasperated with me, but – he is absolutely worth it.

    To add – I chose not to get health insurance for him. It would have cost about $600 a year, and many companies will not insure horses over the age of 15, which he will turn next spring. They will also not insure previous physical difficulties – he has already colicked, which is pretty much the #1 problem you want the insurance for, and he has already had soundness issues, which are #2. So paying that much for incidental problems unrelated to colic or soundness didn’t make sense to me.

  81. Tyler Karaszewski says 07 March 2009 at 11:39

    I know my last post came across rather harshly. I realized that as I posted it, and even clicked the “edit” button but couldn’t think of a good way in which to make it less harsh but still make the same point. It wasn’t my intention to be mean. I just don’t think the cost of keeping a pet (under normal, healthy circumstances) is something that needs to be justified from a financial standpoint.

    However, when it comes to spending on medical bills? It’s a personal choice. It depends largely on the amount of money you can afford to spend, and how attached you are to the animal. No one is going to judge you for putting down a sick pet, so whatever you can afford without otherwise jeopardizing your financial situation seems like a reasonable maximum. Even then, maybe it’s not worth it on a 19-year-old cat. Still though, it’s personal.

    Many people around the world, with far less income at their disposal than us, keep pets. It’s understood that if these pets get sick, they’re likely to die. These people can’t afford to take themselves to the doctor, let alone the dog. This is understood and no one faults them for this. Likewise, Bill gates might not mind spending $25,000 on experimental dog surgery to keep his dog alive. No one would fault him for that, either.

    Pets can cost almost exactly what you *want* them to cost, but you have to understand that sometimes animals (and people) get sick and die and there may or may not be anything you can (or even should) do about it.

  82. Laura says 07 March 2009 at 11:43

    I’m currently in the UK and have seen some pet insurance ads. They are around £4 a month for a cat, not that much for me, as the veterinary costs can be really high.
    I live in Finland permanently, with two cats, and they are pet insurances available only for show pets and pets of “precious” breed. So they cost a lot.

    If it would be a few euros a month, I would definitely get it. One of our cats had to have one of her toes removed due to an accident – the operation cost 470 euros!

  83. Jenn says 07 March 2009 at 11:49

    My next cat(s) I am getting health insurance for (now that my cat has prexisting conditions that are stable but $$ to insure).

    Wish I had done it. 1500 surgery last year. Of course, the insurance wouldn’t cover his special food either.

    Budgeted for my cat this year:
    $20 pet litter
    $25 food
    $50 vet fees
    $5 misc pet stuff
    So…about 1200 exactly. Funny. Hopefully vet fees are lower for awhile though 🙂

  84. Jez says 07 March 2009 at 11:52

    I just wanted to say that your cats are beautiful!

  85. WendyB says 07 March 2009 at 11:53

    My mother always says, “Everyone has their priorities.” It just depends on what matters to you. I’m sure I win some kind of prize here after Henry the dog had a foot operation that cost us $2000 last year! But since he was having a lot of infections that lasted for months and easily cost us $500 to treat, we’re hoping it will pay off in the long run. (He was born with a birth defect in his paw that makes it susceptible to cysts and infections. We assume it’s why he ended up in the pound.)

  86. Jenni says 07 March 2009 at 11:53

    We don’t insure our family dog … I guess it kind of makes sense, but sounds weird to me.

    Don’t forget the various studies that show having a dog or cat extends your lifetime and makes you a happier person! Can you put a monetary value on that?

    I can’t wait to buy a dog when I’m out of grad school and have a house and a yard.

  87. sandi_k says 07 March 2009 at 11:57

    I had to confront this question when I was in college. It left its mark…

    My cat was 2 years old; I’d moved 300 miles away to college, and he was my only companion. He got mysteriously sick and lethargic, and just huddled up in a corner.

    Antibiotics and fluids helped for a day, and then he was back at the vet. I mentioned I had not seen him use the litterbox since the antibiotics and IV fluid; the vet decided an enema might help.

    It certainly did! There was some sort of intestinal blockage that got dislodged with the enema, and all was good.

    Total bill, in 1988: $800. At the time, I made ~ $1k per month as a part time workstudy student. The $800 was every penny I had in savings, for books in the Spring semester. I took on an extra job over the Xmas break, and made it up.

    (My mother was absolutely *horrified* that I’d spent $800 on a cat – but since I was working my way through college, it was a choice that I made with my money. The dynamic might have been different if she was paying the bill).

    So that’s been my “back of the envelope” calculation of what seems appropriate to spend. About 80% of my monthly gross income. That formula still holds true today – it’s definitely a stretch, but it doesn’t derail my financial well-being to spend that level for my pet.

    Zappa lived another 14 years, and was a delight as a pet. He was a quintessential tomcat, but he was what got me through college most days. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    These days, our cats are indoor cats, and the vet costs have PLUMMETED. No more abscessed wounds from fights. No more bleeding paws from ripped out toenails. No more broken tails from wrangling with a possum. (This happened to Zappa TWICE, and his tail healed both times). And since they’re not outdoors, the vet says that vaccinations aren’t required on an annual basis.

    We still pay for good food ($300 a year for 3 cats); vet visits and thyroid pills for our elderly frail cat Hester; occasional visits to teeth cleaning or other issues. But since The Most Expensive Cat in the World is no longer with us, our vet costs are actually…reasonable!

    We have learned how to do some things – when our Burmese has a UTI, we inject antibiotics, rather than pill her. It’s actually much easier to manage her with a shot than a pill. We have administered subcutaneous fluids as well – surprisingly easy. In general, our vet works with us, and appreciates us as responsible pet owners.

    So an unequivocal YES from us…the Crazy Cat People in Northern California.

  88. Gerty says 07 March 2009 at 12:15

    We have a pet care plan with Banfield for our dog. Now, Banfield can be a very sketchy place but the one we use has been very good.

    When I first adopted the dog, he was already 2+ yrs old. A couple months after we got him, he tested positive for heartworms. After he was diagnosed, they explained that I could still sign up for the care plan without penalty and what the cost would be, etc. We signed up, treated him, dealt with some complications that cropped up, and then treated him again when the first round didn’t kill all the little buggers. We were at the vet every other week for nearly 9 mos.

    The pet care plan costs $21.95 a month. It completely covers 2 physicals a year, covers or discounts all vaccines, and covers or discounts most other things he may need to have done. Over the course of the 3 yrs we’ve had him on the plan, we’ve saved over $2600. Without abnormal medical problems, he costs about $1000/yr.

    Worth every penny and would do it again in a heartbeat.

  89. Ed says 07 March 2009 at 12:28

    I’m a veterinarian in Chicago. Studies by the AVMA-GHLIT (an insurance entity for veterianarians) show that ‘too expensive’ for most dog owners is $1200.

    Pet insurance (the ones I recommend are VPI, ASPCA, and Pet’s Best) increase that expense to $2400.

    You can apply for a quote online for most of these companies. Policies start at $22 per month which cover (supposedly) 80% of sick office visits (annual exams and vaccines are not included) after your deductible (typically $100).

    And yes, I recommend pet insurance to all my clients.

    (By the way, you should have your vet do routine blood screenings on your cats every year after 5 years of age)

  90. Nick says 07 March 2009 at 12:29

    My cat was ill earlier this year and I ended up spending $1200 on vet bills and medicine. It was totally worth it and I would do it again.

    My emergency fund is meant to cover emergencies, and a member of the family becoming very ill counts as an emergency. It’s essentially insurance against emergencies.

    I would rather use my emergency fund than buy pet health insurance for 2 reasons:
    1) Statistically, the chances of coming out ahead on the pet health insurance are pretty low. Something very bad (costly) would have to happen in order for it to be worth it (from a strictly financial sense).
    2) There is an upper limit on how much to spend.

    My upper limit is based on two factors, the first being my ability to remain financially solvent. I would not completely drain my emergency fund or go into massive amounts of debt for my cat. The second is closely related, and makes me wonder about the quality of life my cat has. If something truly terrible happens and he can be ‘saved’, but he will have serious lasting issues for the rest of his life, is it worth it? For example, when my cat was at the vet I had to authorize different levels of CPR, but I did not authorize the open-chest procedure because I felt it would be very invasive, strip him of much of his dignity, and put him in a lot of pain for quite some time. I asked myself what I would want if I were in a similar situation – and I decided that I would not authorize that sort of procedure on myself. In addition, I am in a position where doctors would be able to effectively communicate what is happening to me, whereas I can’t even imagine how frightening some of these things must be for a cat who is not informed of whats going on.

    Life isn’t forever and you should enjoy whatever time you have with your pets because you never know when it will end.

    Lastly, everyone is different and for people that gain peace of mind with pet health insurance or are living paycheck to paycheck without an emergency fund, pet health insurance can serve a very good purpose.

  91. J.D. says 07 March 2009 at 12:37

    Here’s a bit of behind-the-scenes trivia that nobody besides me will care about.

    This post was originally meant to go up yesterday, and yesterday’s post was meant for today. I’ve been busy all week, though, and didn’t get a chance to finish this article about pets until yesterday evening. I had to move the gardening post to Friday.

    I know there’s a certain group that loves the gardening stuff, but I think we have a tacit agreement to confine those articles to Saturday. And this pet thing seemed like it would generate discussion. I try to post those sorts of articles on Friday. I mean, look: this article has 90 comments — on a Saturday. Just think of the conversation we could have had on a Friday. 🙂

  92. Terrin says 07 March 2009 at 12:43

    By analogy you could ask the same question about a lot of things including children. Children cost a lot more then pets, and there is no real reason to have them other you wanting to have them. You certainly aren’t doing society a favor. The planet is over populated. Further, we need very little in life. For instance, this computer I am writing this post on. However, the cost of the computer is justified by the pleasure it brings to my life.

    Pets are essentially family members. Mine cost less then children, add invaluable joy to my life, have been proven to benefit humans health, and by providing care for a pet you are being humane.

  93. Sandy E. says 07 March 2009 at 12:43

    I walk my little doxie/corgi mix dog, Charlie, for 60 minutes every single day! (live in CA). I got him from animal control. It was the best $40 I ever spent for my health, both physically, and mentally too, since he’s such a loyal companion, giving me that unconditional love all the time. (I may not be perfect, but my dog thinks I am!!)

  94. Kitty says 07 March 2009 at 12:45

    I think this is a fascinating discussion and glad you posted this no matter what day of the week.

    I tend to spend inclimate weekends knitting and bouncing between Anthony Bourdain on Travel Channel and Pet Cops on Animal Planet while I build up my sock collection. Tony rocks my world but Animal Cops makes me believe that anyone who takes an animal into their life should first be screened and then monitored. Reading the comments on today’s post makes me a bit more hopeful that there are responsible people out there who weigh decisions wisely.

  95. mimms says 07 March 2009 at 13:06

    A couple of things that haven’t come up that I thought would be worth mentioning re: pet insurance.

    First, my bias: I’m one of those people who has paid for doggy knee replacement and major surgery when I felt it was called for. The former was about $3,000 and the latter, $3,500. We paid for these out of a combination of emergency funds, Care Credit (0% interest for 12 months), diversion of planned savings, and a payment plan.

    That said, we’ve decided against supporting the pet insurance industry. After really thinking about the change in care and increase in costs that humans have suffered since the insurance industry got hold of medicine, we didn’t want to encourage development of the same types of problems for animals.

    Now, yes, I do have human health insurance, and I’ll always choose to have it at some level rather than not having it. This isn’t saying that I think people are morally wrong for buying pet insurance. It’s a strategic decision, not a moral one, for us.

    You know that old Vegas saying: “The house always wins”? It sounds like some of the folks here have beaten that.

    I really wonder whether that is going to continue. I suspect that the same actuaries who examine risk for people are doing it for pets, and we’re going to start seeing the same types of issues: denials of coverage, rejections of claims, etc.

    Anyway, it’s an issue that no one had mentioned, and I thought it might be a good conversation.

  96. Anne says 07 March 2009 at 13:08

    If your pet requires treatment you can’t afford, consider surrendering him or her to your local SPCA. Euthanizing them isn’t always the only option. Some shelters will take in injured animals and do their best to save them (see Animal Cops reference in a previous post), and then adopt them out. You may not get to keep the pet, but at least he or she will have another chance at life.

  97. Brooke says 07 March 2009 at 13:32

    I have three bigger dogs, 2 labs and 1 boxer, and they do cost me a small fortune on a smaller income, but they are invaluable to our household. My husband and I have been married for 2.5 years and are waiting to have kids, and we shower these animals with affection. They cost me $1000/year in dog food, $660 in flea, tick, and heartworm meds/year, and $500 in annual shots and heartworm tests. That is $2660 per year just in routine matters, save the many vet visits we make per year due to split toenails, cysts, staff infections, and other ailments they might come up with. In the first three months of 2009 alone I have spent over $400 in vet bills for the three. They tear up my furniture, eat my rugs, shred the garbage, and digest anything that isn’t nailed down, BUT, they are the most affectionate, forgiving, trusting and loyal beings on earth. Our happy family wouldn’t be quite as happy without these three furballs. They might be little devils half the time, but the other half of the time more than makes up for their rambunctiousness. The cost of keeping them healthy and happy is a drop in the bucket, compared to the happiness they bring to my husband and I.

  98. Anne Marie says 07 March 2009 at 13:40

    Like you, my husband and I have cats and no children. Also like you, one of our cats has become ill. Calvin was diagnosed with kidney disease back in July, and he’s now on a special diet and has to visit the vet frequently for checkups and bloodwork. Our pet budget has risen dramatically as a result, but we think Calvin is worth it.

    We adopted our 2 cats with the knowledge that we are now responsible for their well-being, and we have no other pets because 2 are really all we choose to afford right now. (That, and my husband strongly believes in 1 pet per person.) For now, we’re fine with paying Calvin’s extra costs.

    What will we not do? We’re fairly certain we do regular saline IVs with him as his kidneys become worse. We watched friends do this with their cat, and their cat hated it. We believe there are too many animals out there in need of homes to put our animals through painful treatments to keep them around for our sakes. If Calvin needs the IV once or twice, we’ll probably do it, but when it turns into a daily or every-other-day treatment, we’ll just keep him comfortable at home and let him die a natural death (or euthanize if he becomes pained and miserable).

    If one of our pets gets cancer or something, we’ll pay for surgery to remove tumors or whatever, but I can’t see putting a pet through chemo. We have our limits, and when the painful treatments can’t be explained to the pet, it just seems cruel. But that’s just me. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to go to extremes to extend the lives of their pets. They’re beloved members of the family.

    I’ve looked at pet insurance, and it just doesn’t make economic sense, IMO. Save the money you’d otherwise spend on a policy, let it earn interest, then use it to pay for treatments when/if the pet becomes sick. The payouts for PI aren’t that great, from what I recently read.

  99. Michelle says 07 March 2009 at 14:00

    My girls are worth every penny we spend on them…

  100. KC says 07 March 2009 at 14:02

    I’m in the process of paying $3-$5k for treatment for my Golden Retriever’s lymphoma. My dog has shown few signs of sickness and if he wasn’t otherwise perfectly happy and healthy I probably wouldn’t consider the treatment. Some of my friends have said this makes no economic sense. Maybe not, but I have the money (everything will be paid with cash and it won’t be coming from an emergency fund, but rather from general savings) and if I can’t spend it on a beloved family member what would I spend it on that would be better?

    I’m happy to report my Golden is doing great. I know he won’t live forever, but I am giving him possibly 12 more months of a happy good life, and in return I am able to appreciate him even more and prepare myself for the inevitable.

  101. her every cent counts says 07 March 2009 at 14:05

    I grew up without any pets (except a fish won once at a carnival that died a week after) so I can’t relate to the desire to own pets. I understand that for some people, the companionship means the world to them. What I don’t understand is when people obviously can’t afford to own a pet, yet have one or more of them. I have a good friend who is a remarkable person, really kind and a big pet lover. She, along with her family, are struggling financially. I don’t know how badly, but they all work for the company business and the recession is hitting them hard. Yet she has tons of pets. A dog, a cat (or two), a rabbit, and then there are other various pets in the family at her parent’s house. She complains when her pets get sick and she has to take them to the vet (“I can’t afford it!”) but doesn’t ever think of getting rid of her pets (or not getting more). They make her so happy, so I see why she has them, but then I don’t understand how if you don’t even have an emergency fund built up and your checks keep bouncing, you can have so many animals to have to pay for. On the other hand, I have another friend who has one dog who is her life. I’m sure she spends a small fortune on him, but she’s in her late 30s and being as she’s single in the big city, it makes sense for her to have a dog. I guess it just depends on your situation.

  102. Anne says 07 March 2009 at 14:07

    For me, what you spent on your cat would be way too much. But I have four kids. We have two cats who live outside. They are almost ten years old and frankly, for outside cats that is pretty old in my opinion. I have never had a pet that lived that long. (Other cats I previously owned were killed by dogs; dogs were killed by cars). I am thinking the fact that we don’t live on a busy street and people don’t generally allow their dogs to roam helps. However, the male, even though he is neutered does tend to get in fights with other cats. A year or so ago one of these fights necessitated a visit to the vet after hours. I told my husband I was not spending two hundred dollars to take care of “Herbie’s” cuts. We opted for not stitching etc. (just antibiotics), and kept the cost down to just over a hundred (I think). Herbie healed just fine and the experience did not keep him from later getting into more fights with cuts that we also let heal on their own. I just cannot afford to run to the vet every time he has to stake out his territory.

    These cats are technically the “property” of my two oldest boys (now 21 and 15). I don’t particularly love them but I believe they do keep the rodent population down (we live on two wooded acres). I wish they didn’t leave us their “presents.” They don’t get a lot of attention (fortunately they don’t need it; I will say though that I am fairly convinced that Herbie thinks he is a dog) but they get fed and my boys do still feel very attached to them (and probably give them more attention than I realize; just because I ignore them doesn’t mean everyone else does!)

    I have thought when they die I would probably consider replacing them with a kitten or two, because I know my younger boys would enjoy them (then I say to myself, are you crazy? and have another ten or fifteen years of dead squirrels in the garage?)

    Bottom line, people will always have pets – for themselves, their kids, whatever. I personally think what some people spend on their pets is excessive. People are more important and I would rather give that money to charities that are feeding and aiding the poor or abused. But that is just me. And yes, their cost should be taken into account before acquiring a pet, for the sake of everyone in the family, including the animal that is going to be dependent on its owner for everything.

    P.S. To the poster who said having children is not necessary because the world is overpopulated, you are wrong. As a matter of fact, in our country, if not for immigration, we would have negative population growth. There are other countries where they are actually providing incentives to people to have kids because their negative population growth is threatening their ability to sustain their economy (I believe Italy is just one of those countries). Children are a treasure. I feel sad for anyone who thinks otherwise. Just because you don’t want them doesn’t mean they are a burden to society. What a sad thought.

  103. leigh says 07 March 2009 at 14:39

    my little parrot has pulled me through some incredibly hard times in my life. she is also very young in comparison to her expected lifespan. she is, however, high maintenance. i probably spend $350/year on her.

    her quality of life adds to my quality of life. so if something were to happen to her, my primary concern would be her quality of life. if she were miserable, i would feel awful for inflicting that on her. but if it were something she could easily recover from, with only minimal or short term pain, i wouldn’t hesitate.

    i think considering your own benefit first is a bit selfish when considering whether to extend a pet’s life- my mom paid vast amounts of money to keep her cat alive because she wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and for the last year or so of his life he couldn’t eat or drink without it coming back up. he slept in a corner waiting to die until i sat her down and pointed this out. it was very difficult. 🙁

  104. Ellen says 07 March 2009 at 14:42

    I have two small 6 lb. dogs, now around three years old. I’m freelance in entertainment, so I require myself to have vet insurance for both animals as a condition of having them. If they were to get run over or have some other catastrophe which required me to choose between expensive treatment that I could not afford or euthanasia, I would never forgive myself. The peace of mind of knowing that I can provide basic care to my animals is worth the cost, as much as I wince when paying it. As it turns out, my pets have had illnesses each year totalling insurance payouts of more than the cost of the policies, so so far it’s proved to be a fortunate decision.

  105. Deanna says 07 March 2009 at 14:48

    I have found that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so investing in the health of my animals (which may mean a higher monthly pet maintenance budget for good quality food) is an investment toward the probability of good health in the future. To help offset the cost of the high quality pet food i feed my flock I contacted the manufacturer and offered to do pet food demos at local pet stores. So I make some extra $ per month on my own schedule patting dogs and talking to pet owners about pet food and I get some samples & coupons from the company. Very cool! I also incorporate healthy & effective alternative medicine strategies into the care of my animals. For example, I have a dog w/ epilepsy. Instead of putting him on seizure medicine which is toxic to the liver over time and therefore can cause additional health problems & heartache I use what’s called “the icepack method” where I place an icepack at a certain point on my dog’s back at the onset of a seizure and he snaps right out of it. I have a cat with chronic renal failure and find to be a great resource for cheap but quality medications & supplies. (I administer sub Q fluids to my cat…JD I would have charged u much cheaper than your vet 😉 I have a ton of suggestions, ideas & feel-good animal related stories and welcome pet lovers to sign up for my monthly pet newsletter by going to

  106. Kitty says 07 March 2009 at 15:04

    Anne – how sad and how narrow minded. On so many levels.

  107. Bether says 07 March 2009 at 15:07

    I adopted a dog this past December, and when I did, I e-mailed my aunt, who is a veterinary radiologist. I figured she would have some good advice to give me about maintaining the dog’s health, etc., and she did.

    But before she told me that stuff, the very first thing she advised me to do was to start an emergency fund for the dog. As she explained it: as a vet, particularly one who spends her time reading x-rays and MRI scans, she sees people spend fortunes on their animals every day. She knows that as a young adult three years out of college I don’t make much money, and that I was adopting a young dog. (Molly’s three.)

    Saving the money now while Molly’s young and healthy will give it good time to earn interest and grow before she’s old.

  108. wolfgirl says 07 March 2009 at 15:19

    The puppy my daughter got last year saved my son’s sanity. The dog is worth almost any price.

  109. Hel says 07 March 2009 at 15:37

    We always had cats growing up, and I can think of several times in my life when my parents paid out thousands of dollars for care for a pet we had.
    When I got my first kitten when I was on my own, I got pet insurance for my kitten, two different policies in fact, banfield and sheltercare, and felt it well worth the money, for the same reasons I feel health insurance for humans is well worth the money.
    The pet insurance for the kitten covered all his necessary shots and vet visits for the first year of his life. Unfortunately, the kitten turned out to have FIP, which is fatal. He had a LOT of vet visits, none of which I paid a penny for, and when it was finally decided by the vet and myself and my partner that he was suffering, the cost of letting him go without pain (several hundred dollars) was 80% reimbursed by the insurance plan.
    If I hadn’t had the pet insurance, I’d have faced serious financial straits in the kitten’s care. Instead, I paid $30 a month up until he died, and the only out of pocket expense I had I was reimbursed for. I think pet insurance plans are an absolute winner for shelter cats or any cat that one doesn’t have from birth. They’re probably a darn good deal for outdoor cats as well, and the lower cost plans that cover accidents and illness are good even for indoor cats in my opinion.

  110. Tim says 07 March 2009 at 15:49

    If you can afford them and understand what being a responsible pet owner means and execute, then who cares what it costs. There are plenty things in life that cannot be summed up by cost alone.

  111. Chamoiswillow says 07 March 2009 at 16:00

    I am the proud owner of three pomeranians and three horses. I believe that one should not have an animal unless you are prepared to care for it as you would a child. To wit, I have spent over $30k on one of my horses as she was going blind. At one point, her medications cost $1k per month. Throw in 3 eye surgeries and innumerable vet visits, I ate up all my savings, took out a home equity loan, sold several other horses, and do not regret a penny. She is the most amazing animal I have ever had the privilege of “owning”, though the truth is I am hers, completely. She has taught me more about courage and grace and acceptance than I ever thought possible. I would do the same for any one of my animals, although I sincerely hope I never have too!

  112. mnementh says 07 March 2009 at 16:09

    Pet insurance can be great, but be sure to check what the policy will and won’t actually cover. Often they exclude genetic or hereditary disorders, which means that the most likely problems your pet is to develop, like hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd or adrenal disease in ferrets, won’t be covered.

  113. Jennifer says 07 March 2009 at 16:14

    We don’t have any children either, but we have my beloved basset hound, Putty. I always sum up the way we feel about him in one easy way…..I’d go without food before I’d let Putty go without anything. I can put no value on the joy he adds to my life. We put away a small amount of money each month in a savings account for him in case of anything he needs that’s above and beyond our monthly budget. If he needed something I couldn’t afford, I’d just go out and get a second job to pay for it….without a second thought.

  114. P says 07 March 2009 at 17:07

    Owning a pet has health and emotional benefits that are incredibly valuable:

  115. Urchina says 07 March 2009 at 17:17

    I didn’t wade through all the previous posts, so forgive me if this has been posted before.

    For us, boarding is easily the most expensive part of pet ownership. But we can afford it at our local Humane Society. For a $25 annual membership, they will board cats for $8/night/cat and dogs for $10/night/dog. Each animal has its own cage, run, and daily feedings. And yes, this is boarding — our pets are kept separate from those available for adoption (different buildings).

    Our local HS also offers low-cost vaccinations at about 1/4 the price of the same vaccination at our vet.

    All in all, our membership to our Humane Society saves us over $600/year. It’s an amazing bargain.

  116. Lllama Chris says 07 March 2009 at 17:26

    I don’t think pets are a financial decision. I don’t think everything should be looked at from a financial point of view, and the joy and love that pets (in my case, cats) can bring into ones life are far greater than financial considerations.

  117. Alyssum says 07 March 2009 at 17:37

    $160/yr for a rodent!? My hamster has cost me less than $20/yr, including my (free) adoption fee!

    I was a vet student for several years, and was very wary/curious about pet insurance. I wanted to be able to give my future clients a good breakdown and did an extensive research project into the economics of it. Turns out, if you start when the animal is a baby, it almost always pays for itself in just normal regular health visits, and if you have any crises in the pets’ life at all (bound to happen at some point), then it’s DEFINITELY worth it (assuming you can afford the payments in the first place). Of all the ones I researched, I would suggest VPI (veterinary pet insurance) due to its ease of use, reasonable costs, helpful staff. All this said, my kitty does not have pet insurance because we live paycheck to paycheck. When we dig ourselves out of this hole, pet insurance is something I’d like to get, though.

  118. Karl Katzke says 07 March 2009 at 18:35

    Dogs can be expensive. Free dogs are usually the most expensive.

    I have Eowyn insured via PetCare Health Insurance against exactly what you pointed out — an emergency visit that would (previously) have ended up on my credit card.

    Much to my chagrin, the insurance deductible is rather high (although the cost is low, $25/mo), so we rarely get reimbursed by it. On the other hand, if we even have ONE emergency call, an entire year of insurance is paid for by what I’d get back on the 24/7 clinic fee itself. I think it’s worth it.

    If you look insurance, make sure you note the exceptions. There are usually breed exceptions or procedure exceptions (i.e. most will not cover hips, although PetCare does) in place.

  119. sunny says 07 March 2009 at 18:40

    I hope your poor kitty feels better soon!

    I don’t have pet insurance but wish I’d signed up for it when my dog was a puppy! He’s allergic to some vaccines and has had a total knee reconstruction. He’s only three but now has preexisting conditions.

    I don’t even want to think about what he costs us. He’s worth every penny though, there’s nothing like coming home to a dog who thinks you hung the moon.

  120. Jess says 07 March 2009 at 19:03

    At one point I considered getting insurance on my horse.

    I spend $3,300 on board and feed for her, around $400 on routine vet care, and then around $250 on hoof trimming. This is the bare minimum to care for her. I’m lucky to live in mid-Missouri where the costs are much lower than other parts of the country.

    I’m a college student, and at one point I was working two jobs and going to school. If I didn’t own her, I could have easily worked only one.

  121. Pet Snake Terms says 07 March 2009 at 19:26

    I’ve owned many snakes and lizards and haven’t ever managed to have them cost anywhere near the numbers the “research” claimed. Only way I can figure that is if they interviewed people who had taken their snakes to the vets several times throughout the course of the year.

    As to your question if pets are worth the money, I’d say it depends on what else that money could be spent on. If you’re neglecting your family then there’s a problem. If you’re neglecting your six pack of Pabst Blue ribbon it could be a good thing.

  122. WereBear says 07 March 2009 at 19:29

    Well, of course they are worth it!

    However, a consideration I use isn’t money as much as the return; and the strain it might put on the pet.

    For instance, I wound up taking my oldest cat (then eight) to the vet for a routine checkup and teeth cleaning. Imagine my shock when the vet called and said during the cleaning they had discovered a serious infection that had almost reached his brain, and he needed emergency surgery.

    His upper fangs were apparently congenitally malformed and had created the situation. We were okay spending the $600, because the vet felt we had caught it in time, and little Puffy should make a full recovery. Which he did.

    He didn’t show any signs of illness, but then again, Puffy is a special case.

    But if he had been eighteen, he might not even have made it through the surgery, much less the two weeks of wrestling antibiotics into him.

    I’ve known people who will go for expensive surgery with dicey outcomes. That is their decision. But we also have to consider the pet; a human being has a much longer contemplative horizon, and will endure many traumas knowing what they are fighting for, and have perspective on their illness.

    Our pets do not have this same perspective. I don’t think it can be a cruelty to let an animal go when the outcome is uncertain and the suffering is.

  123. Jenny D. says 07 March 2009 at 19:51

    One of our two had to have surgery earlier this year, between the emergency vet at 10pm and our regular vet the next day, it was about $650. I felt bad because we really didn’t have that kind of money at the time, but aside from making some household changes, $650 was not much to pay for the joy I get from this kitty and his sister.

    Or as my husband says, cats are cheaper than therapy…

  124. Violet says 07 March 2009 at 19:52

    @Karl Katzle and brooklynchick, I agree that free dogs can be the most expensive. With purebreeds, it really depends on what breed of dog you get as to whether they have genetic health problems. I have a whippet, and they have no significant genetic problems.

    The other benefit of choosing a particular breed is that you know upfront whether the animal will fit well into your life and home. I chose a whippet because they’re perfect in apartments, happy, placid and don’t require brushing or bathing (except after the occasional muddy walk).

    Having said that, I did spend quite a few months keeping an eye on the local shelters’ websites for whippets, hoping to get a rescue dog. Unfortunately they’re few and far between, and always snapped up the minute their details go online because they’re such sweeties. 🙂

  125. SeekingLemonade says 07 March 2009 at 19:55

    “The High Cost of Cats and Dogs: Are Pets Worth the Money?”

    try these on for size:

    The High Cost of the Moon and the Stars: Is the Sky Worth the Money?

    The High Cost of Inhaling and Exhaling: Is Breathing Worth the Money?

    The High Cost of Food and Snacks: Are Meals Worth the Money?

    The High Cost of Reading and Writing: Are Schools Worth the Money?

    The High Cost of Policemen and Firemen: Are Local Services Worth the Money?

    The High Cost of Boys and Girls: Are Children Worth the Money?

    …OK… that’s enough. We don’t have any pets, not any children.

    The answer to the original question, is, like almost all questions: It Depends.

    Since we’re all different, we will find different answers to common questions. It is in the asking and the consideration we find our own answers, not in a deciding based on others’ experience.

  126. dayes says 07 March 2009 at 20:49

    if it meant that i could bring my dog back, there is no amount of money that i would not spend. but because it was more humane to put down my 14-year old dog than let them perform massive invasive surgery (gastric dilatation) that had a low chance of success, i spent $1300 instead of $4000.

    meanwhile, i’ve had the same 3 turtles for the past 20 years, and averaged over all that time, they cost me less than $20/yr. but the dog was definitely a more rewarding pet than my turtles.

  127. Mebs says 07 March 2009 at 21:16

    The pet industry in the US is in the billions of dollars and I find it hard to comprehend how people spend so much on it and not nearly as much on humans. To know thousands of children die daily from lack of food and water, geez, what good are we as human beings?

  128. Becca says 07 March 2009 at 22:11

    I had pet insurance for my cat for a couple of years while I was a grad student, but I don’t now. For me, the big reason to have pet insurance was that it kept the cat’s health costs much more predictable. If something did come up it would be more a question of if the treatment would help the cat’s quality of life, rather than whether I could afford it.
    I stopped having pet insurance when we got into a better place financially and a vet bill of several hundred or even a couple thousand dollars would not be too much of a hardship for us.
    Since pet insurance doesn’t have negotiated rates like human health insurance, it’s likely to be more expensive than saving up for the cost of veterinary care.

  129. Marietha says 07 March 2009 at 22:29

    I put money aside for pet emergencies that way I am in total control of my available treatment options. I have two cats that I absolutely adore and love and would spend whatever I have in their emergency fund to maintain their health and well being given it provides their continued quality of life. I accepted this when I made the decision to become their guardian Mom and promised them that I would always take care of them to the best of my ability. I belong to them and they continue to bring me love and joy every day, my connection to them is priceless.

    That being said, I spent over $300, a small amount, in vet care on my feral cat very shortly after he adopted me three years ago. I subscribe to a holistic lifestyle and decided to educate myself about holistic animal care and feline dietary requirements.

    After my once feral male became domesticated, I allowed him to go outdoors during the day as he’s very active and becomes bored easily indoors. He unfortunately has gotten hurt twice during his kitty adventures. One of his injuries was so traumatic and painful he was laid up for almost 3 weeks. Fortunately, his injuries were not life threatening, but serious enough to consider a visit to the vet for an exam. However, I opted out and treated him myself with homeopathic remedies while administering sub Q fluids. I also was supported with the encouraging guidance and experience of an online holistic cat group when I had any questions/concerns.

    This may not be an option for some people as it does require time for study of homeopathic remedies for animals, along with the courage and confidence to diagnose and determine the course of treatment. My cat healed from both of his injuries just fine.

    Treating yourself and/or animals with homeopathic remedies for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries can save you plenty of money over time if you’re willing to study and learn as much as you can.

    Lastly, given these economic down times, I’m positive we’ll see a wide turn toward alternative health practitioners, modalities and remedies.

  130. Shannon says 08 March 2009 at 00:08

    This may be a little too personal but since you’ve mentioned it so many times on this blog I was wondering why do you guys not have any children? Please feel free to ignore this question if you don’t wish to answer.

  131. Suzie Bee says 08 March 2009 at 03:08

    We have two cats, Atticus and Zebedee, and have pet insurance. We searched around to find the most comprehensive one possible and it has proven useful. Atticus trod on a rose thorn and it got stuck in her foot, which started to get infected – insurance paid to have it removed. The insurance is mainly useful in that we’re unlikely to be suddenly burdened with a huge vet bill, so it stops any really nasty surprises.

  132. Bernhardina says 08 March 2009 at 04:39

    I agree with WereBear (#122). If an animal suffers, you have to let it go. Costs are irrelevant for this decision.

    J. D. a tip: One of our cats had the same symptoms, the same treatment, and we paid nearly 500 Euros for it. When she showed the symptoms again I made a cup of camomile tea, and mixed it with water (very light tea). After six hours she ate again, the next day half of the tea was gone and she was her usual (greedy) self.

    Saved us a lot – not only money but also in an emotional way (It was hard to see her suffering).

    Perhaps it might be worth a try the next time.

  133. Amy Stoller says 08 March 2009 at 04:39

    When you adopt a rescue pet, your pet is rescuing you.

    Didn’t have insurance on my late kitties; wish I had, but plans available then were not good. Have insurance now on rescue dog; will review yearly to see if worth it financially.

    Wouldn’t trade love for and of pets for all the tea in China.

  134. Dog Lover says 08 March 2009 at 05:43

    This is a dilemma that almost every pet owner faces. My cat had a tumor as large as a baseball in its gut which was blocking it’s digestive system. Our vet was pressuring us to do invasive surgery and chemotherapy. We decided not to. And the cat turned out to live another 1.5 years in relative comfort despite the fact that the vet thought that he would only live a max of 6 months even if he had gotten chemo.

    But it’s really tough to make these kinds of decisions. As a general rule I’ve decided not to spend more than one thousand on any one procedure for a pet.

  135. Caitlin says 08 March 2009 at 05:51

    $200 per year for a tank of fish? That must be for tropical fish, which require heating and a lot of maintenance. I used to have gold fish and it cost me about $20 a year – I cleaned the tank myself. The initial set up costs were higher but I had the gold fish for seven years so the average was low.

  136. Lara says 08 March 2009 at 07:09

    I’ve read all 129 posts and have found the variety of views to be rather interesting. I am extremely curious – amongst those who claim they would be willing to spend vast amounts on their pets, what percentage do not currently have dependent children? My budget allots roughly $2500 per year for my children’s education. This money goes for part-time preschool, swimming lessons, college account funding, and one or two fun outings. One or two serious pet maladies could easily wipe this amount out. As few people have infinite resources, I think it might be easier to spend heavily on your pets if you are only taking things away from yourself.

  137. Jennifer says 08 March 2009 at 07:22

    To Shannon, who asked why they don’t have children:

    As a couple who also don’t have children, I’d recommend you never ask this question of anyone but your closest friends. That is more personal than “how much do you weigh?” or “how much money do you make?” If you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking somebody those questions, don’t ask them personal questions about their reproductive choices or abilities.

  138. Thomas says 08 March 2009 at 07:30

    I think the premise of your question is faulty. In other words, you start by concluding that the cost of owning pets is high. Moreover, in comparison to what?

  139. smineo says 08 March 2009 at 07:35

    too many comments to read, so i apologize if this has been posted already. i have insurance for my pug, through vpi – the best plan they have costs me $35 monthly. i recoup most if not all of that yearly by submitting vet bills. so basically it balanaces out to near zero and if something drastic happens, the dog is covered. i had some friends tat put themselves in a $20k hole from their dog, so the first thing i did is get insurance. also i use carecredit for large vet bills (like $900 allergy test), which allows you to pay off interest free for a period. its accepted at my dentist as well, which allowed my wife to get invisaglin braces.

  140. Incredulous says 08 March 2009 at 08:03

    To “Shannon”: I wonder why anyone would ask such a question and what their need for knowing is? Yes, it IS a personal question that I can’t imagine why someone would make others uncomfortable, simply to satisfy their “curiosity”? Either the people questioned don’t want or can’t have kids…consider what business is it of yours and the fact that no matter what the reason, it is a question you should NEVER ask another person again. “Just wonder” in silence and exercise some tact

    ” Shannon says:
    08 March 2009 at 12:08 am

    This may be a little too personal but since you’ve mentioned it so many times on this blog I was wondering why do you guys not have any children? Please feel free to ignore this question if you don’t wish to answer.”

  141. Terrin says 08 March 2009 at 08:06

    Actually, in the United States the growth rate is fairly constant. As you point out immigration (both legal and illegal) plays a part, but in the US we also have a fair amount of wealth which allows the death rate in relation to the birth rate to be relatively low. We keep people alive for much longer then any other time in history, and population growth is constantly exceeding deaths. Further, all of this can be verified by doing a simple Google search. Good resources are the US Census and the United Nations (that constantly warns that the world cannot sustain our current population growth rates). There are plenty of books dedicated to the problem of over population.

    You are correct that there are European Countries (or is at least one) implementing measures to grow the population. I am not familiar with Italy, but France is one. However, France’s motivation is to grow the tax base. The thinking is the more people, the more taxes they can raise. However, for that theory to hold up those people have to have jobs.

    The United States’ unemployment rate right now is at about 9 percent. This doesn’t include the millions receiving unemployment. More people means a heavier stress on the economy because more jobs are needed to support those people. Ultimately, the quality of life for all decreases especially when the United States supports the exporting of jobs out of the Country.

    Countries like China are experiencing problems with over population that is why they have policies that prohibit families from having more then one child.

    Don’t kid yourself, over population is a real problem. Moreover, I never said children are a burden. Too many people are though (whether they are old or young). I love kids. I just recognize that people should have them in moderation and the government should actively make this very real problem known. They should do that for the sake of children who will inherit the problem.

    More on point, you have kids for yourself, not any one else. The same is true with pets. Both cost money. My point was, children cost more.

    You write, “To the poster who said having children is not necessary because the world is overpopulated, you are wrong. As a matter of fact, in our country, if not for immigration, we would have negative population growth. There are other countries where they are actually providing incentives to people to have kids because their negative population growth is threatening their ability to sustain their economy (I believe Italy is just one of those countries). Children are a treasure. I feel sad for anyone who thinks otherwise. Just because you don’t want them doesn’t mean they are a burden to society. What a sad thought.”

  142. carol says 08 March 2009 at 08:15

    Anne-Marie – “I’ve looked at pet insurance, and it just doesn’t make economic sense, IMO. Save the money you’d otherwise spend on a policy, let it earn interest, then use it to pay for treatments when/if the pet becomes sick. The payouts for PI aren’t that great, from what I recently read.”

    I have to disagree. It is not ONLY about making economic sense. As i said in my previous post, my cat cost me about a £1,000 in vets bills in about 2 years. My current policy costs just £107 per year from pet plan with a £60 excess fee. Even if my cat lives another 18 years, costing me £1,926 (30p per day), it’s got to be worth it. Ok, so she may never get that ill/or have an accident that costs me a lot of money. But What people are forgetting is that insurance is there to cover those emergencies (the unexpected) that you COULDN’T otherwise afford. My policy means my cat is covered for life, meaning they won’t suddenly refuse to insure her if she develops a chronic illness, and they will pay up to £4000 per year for vets fees, £750 for complementary treatment, amongst other things. You pay insurance for the peace of mind it gives you. Would you risk saving for your own health care or do you have insurance? I suppose it depends on whether you would be prepared to lose your cat/dog simply because you haven’t yet saved enough money to cover the vets bills. Try explaining that to your children. I wouldn’t like to. At the end of the day, if you can afford it , you should do it, if you can’t, do the best you can for your pet at the time.

  143. Honey says 08 March 2009 at 08:20

    @ Anne and Terrin, scientists estimate that a sustainable world population is 2 billion. The current world population is 6.7 billion and growing. We have FAR too many children:

  144. Katybeth says 08 March 2009 at 08:42

    Can we afford a pet….this is the question people need to ask themselves before they add a pet to their family or before they add another pet to their family. It’s never a “free pet” the initial investment in never the point and “love” will not take the place of “cash” when an animal needs medical care.
    There are a few money savers though: Vaccinations, ask your vet what your pet really needs. There are some shots you can skip, X-rays, ask what will happen if we wait 2 days. In some cases waiting and watching for 2 days will solve the problem. Many pets do not need dental care–even if you don’t brush their teeth regularly. Question your vet and do your own research on this procedure. Natural remedies are also available for reducing plaque. Do your dogs nails once a week (I’m not sure about cats) a torn nail is painful and can cost you a vet bill in excess of $400.00 . Many pet medications can be bought on-line for less. Just ask your vet for a prescription, saved money by using warehouse clubs for people/pet medication. Don’t fall in love with your vet to the extent you forget it is a business relationship, and usually your vet is NOT the best person (nor is their job) to help you do the right thing when it’s time to do the right thing–There job is offer you options…which you have a choice about taking. And finally most of time you can avoid the animal 911 if you just stop and allow your head to clear of panic–exceptions of-course could include signs of bloat (do you really know what there) injury by car or other moving objects. If you feel like you want to take your pet to the vet at noon, GO! When night sets in and your pet still seems “awfully sick the urge to panic and head to the very expensive 911 pet urgent care will be at it highest.

  145. Katybeth says 08 March 2009 at 08:51

    Comparing pets and children is ludicrous especially when it comes to medical care. There is no question of “to much” with children, is there? The only way to know the difference between loving your pet “like a child” and “loving a child” is to have a child. Having said that I would never argue with someone about “how much” they loved anything.

  146. KF says 08 March 2009 at 09:01

    I feel sick over news stories about people ditching their pets due to economic woes. That’s inexcusable. When one chooses to adopt or buy a pet, you make a life-long commitment to that animal. The animals have no choice in any of this, and their lives are in our hands. I would always prioritize my pet’s needs over mine if I were in an economic squeeze. And their most basic costs can be made low enough to fit into any budget, even if it meant that I was doing grunt work for a little extra money on the side.

    Also, I suggest not trying to save money by saving on cat or dog food. The stuff that’s sold at the grocery store should not be counted as food. It’s disgusting filler. Again, most cats and dogs are captive and are entirely dependent on their human for food. Have the heart to sacrifice some of your own extravagant spending on food to buy real, healthy food for your pet from a real pet store.

  147. David Broudy says 08 March 2009 at 10:03

    Coupla things:

    1) cheap cat food WILL eventually cause kidney and bladder crystals that require subcutaneous fluids and other treatments. If your cat is trying to pee every five minutes and howls while doing so, there’s your $4-5/bag savings. I learned this the hard way when I was a poor grad student. I tried high-end and even raw foods but settled for IAMS senior-cat chow which he likes and doesn’t yack up like the expensive stuff. $15 for an 8lb bag. C’mon.

    2) If your cat develops an overactive thyroid, and many do as they age, the radiation treatment is permanent but once the thyroid is destroyed (which is what this treatment does) the cat will need a daily +thyroid pill for life. Mine has this problem and he still gets a daily -thyroid pill (methimazole) for life to treat it, so why bother with the radiation treatment? Shop online and you can get 100 5mg pills for $30 or so, far cheaper than or your vet. I use

    3) My old guy needs a major teeth-cleaning and possibly extractions. He’s probably about 15, pretty old for a male, and it’ll run $6-700 because of general anaesthesia and additional IV and monitoring because of his age. Otherwise he’s in fine shape aside from the hyperthyroidism and a resulting heart murmur. But if he were to develop anything debilitating e.g. cancer that requires frequent, expensive treatment, it’d be Magic Needle time, more to keep him from suffering than anything else, but the mean practical side would also have a say. Up to $1,000 or so, once, fine. Monthly, no. Pets are not children.

  148. Jennifer says 08 March 2009 at 10:55

    David Broudy: Being a human who survived thyroid cancer and takes a replacement hormone and having fostered a dog with thyroid problems, let me correct one thing. An OVERactive thyroid (hyperthryoidism) means it puts out too much hormone….so they do have to have the radiation. You wouldn’t add hormone to a pet (or person) who is already producing too much of it. Only with an UNDERactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can you treat with additional meds only.

  149. pepper says 08 March 2009 at 13:36

    J.D., your cats are adorable!

    Easy answer to your question for me: My cats are family members and give me unconditional love every single day. How can you put a price on that?

    I have been building emergency funds for them their whole lives specifically for the crises that are bound to come up. Sure, it’s meant making some small sacrifices in other areas, but I do it gladly. No, I don’t do pet insurance, given my negative experiences with human health insurance.

    One of my cats became seriously ill last fall, and I spent about $8,000 on her care. Roughly $2,000 of that was for a misdiagnosis and treatment that did nothing for her. The rest was for correct diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Aside from the reason stated above, I did this because (1) she was her old self once she got a correct diagnosis and they got her symptoms under control, (2) her cancer was uncommon, so it’s not clear what happens with treatment, (3) she did not have any other health problems, and (4) most importantly, she was a total fighter and was not telling me she was ready to go.

    Eventually, she did let us know the treatment wasn’t working and it was time to let her go. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat. My only regret looking back is trusting that first vet who obviously did not know what he was doing.

    With cats at least, if you do three basic things — spay/neuter, keep them indoors, and feed a decent-quality food (i.e., one that is not corn-based) — you are almost guaranteed 10 years during which they might cost you pennies a day. That gives you a lot of time to prepare for their health issues later in life. My own view is that if you cannot commit to providing care to a creature that is totally dependent on you and might live 15-20 years, you should not get one.

    As others have noted, there are some easy ways to economize on routine pet care:

    * Buy things like pet food and litter in bulk, and store it (keep the food in an airtight container). If you have just 1 or 2 pets, join forces with another pet owner.

    * Sign up for cards from stores like PetCo and PetSmart, so you will be qualified for their discounts and notified of their specials.

    * Look at alternative pet stores. For example, if you live within reasonable distance of a rural feed store, you can often get some great deals there.

    * Sign up for loyalty/frequent buyer programs such as those offered by Nutro ( and World’s Best Cat Litter (

    * Watch for coupons and rebates, such as one from Feline Pine (, and monitor boards where specials on pet care are posted.

    * Learn to do nail trims and tooth brushing yourself, and stay on top of them.

    * Use free or low-cost spay/neuter and vaccine clinics, after verifying that they are properly credentialed and such.

    * Check out online pharmacies and vet supply stores for expensive meds.

    * If your vet is recommending care that seems odd or excessive, ask questions and do your research.

    * Request quotes for care up front, and ask which items (if any) are optional. For example, a young, healthy dog may not need the same preoperative workup as an older dog with pre-existing conditions.

    * Call around to compare costs on vet care. Sometimes, just getting outside of the city will save you a bundle.

    * Save items such as E-collars and leftover medications, as you may need and be able to use them again in the future.

    Then … take all of the money you have saved and put it into that interest-bearing pet emergency fund. It will be there for the day you need it, and you won’t have to make any agonizing decisions based on finances.

    (A side note: Regarding the radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, if it is done very carefully, with titration of the dose to kill off just enough of the overactive tissue but not too much of the normal tissue, the cat will seldom need medication for the rest of his/her life. But occasionally, the treatment works too well or not well enough. Also, with most hyperthyroid cats, owners can choose between the radioactive treatment and antithyroid medication for the rest of the cat’s life. David’s cat is getting an antithyroid medication, which suggests his earlier radioactive treatment did not work well enough. David, the facility I used for my cat’s radioactive treatment guarantees that in most cases, they will get the cat’s thyroid level into the normal range, or they will repeat the treatment at no additional charge. So you might want to ask about that.)

  150. rdzins says 08 March 2009 at 13:47

    pets DO NOT = children/humans

    Not saying pets do not provide much joy and contentment however our society has gone so far with it that we think animals are people, look at the example of the lady getting malled by a chimp, or even stories of family dogs killing babies. And the hap hazard pet owner justifies the action of the animal? I view this as irresponsibility.

    I also find that alot of people who really can not afford to have pets have many of them, that also is a disservice to the animals.

    I think at times we tend to be selfish both ways by doing whatever we can to keep our pets/loved one around without looking at what there suffering or quality of life.

    With that said if you looked at everything from an economic stand point you probably would not have either kids or pets since they are both expensive.

  151. M says 08 March 2009 at 13:57

    My mother bought my husband and I a baby pot bellied pig about 5 months after we were married. It was a complete and utter surprise. We now have a new rule in the family – no buying others pets without consent!
    That being said, it was a rude awakening. They say pigs are like 2 year olds…at all ages!

    In the past year and a half, he has gone from 8 pounds to 180 pounds. He eats miniature pig feed ($11/bag of 25 pounds) which lasts 3 months. You have to supplement his food with fresh fruits & veggies.

    We have learned to ask to help with the cost of these fruits/veggies. A friend has an apple tree in his front yard. He came into work talking about how he collected apples from his yard all weekend. We ended up getting over 100 pounds of apples and put in the freezer to supplement our pet’s diet.

    Also, after Halloween, I posted something on freecycle for pumpkins. There was an employee from a company who said they were getting rid of 30 pumpkins. We still have some in our freezer to give piggy as a treat!

    Even though we had 2 emergency vet visits (pneumonia & rat poison), he is well worth it.

    To come home and hear his weird noises, his snout moving a mile a minute and the cutest tail you’d ever see. Not to mention running with him in the yard (he always beats me!), and bringing out the kiddie pool where he sits in it and blows bubbles with his snout. He is so fun to be around, and always gives us something to talk about it. We love him as though he is our child.

    He could never be replaced.


  152. Alex Donley says 08 March 2009 at 15:06

    We have 3 cats(different ages) and 2 dogs and last year we spent $1,100 and the year before (less 1 dog) we spent $780. Even if we lived in New York there’s no way we would’ve spent close to The Times researched cost of $7,600!! Barring exceptions, maybe if we all would spend a little more time walking or playing with our little friends we’d spend less on unnecessary toys and health costs.

  153. Shannon says 08 March 2009 at 15:12

    I’m sorry, I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone (especially J.D.) with my question. Please ignore it.

  154. Jennifer says 08 March 2009 at 18:28

    Pets are worth it, to an extent. We got a dog when we were dating in college. We were broke! She needed 2 major knee surgeries, to the tune of $5000 total, this was 12 years ago too. Yikes! But we paid it and we paid for her and anything she needed for 10 years. She brought so much joy to our lives and our kids lives.

    But pets are expensive. When we found out she had cancer that had spread to her heart and lungs, we knew there was no other option but to put her to sleep, she was really suffering. Even that was expensive. It was heartbreaking!

    We loved our dog so much and really wanted another one. But we knew that financially we didn’t have the capabilities to get another dog right then. Especially if it were to need surgery and you never know what your pet will need and you have to be prepared to take care of them as part of the family.

    Finally this past summer (4 years later) we got another dog. I am so glad we waited, but I am so so glad we have a dog again. As much as the beast of a puppy drives us crazy with his shananigans, we love him so much. He brings so much happiness to our home that I wouldn’t trade him for anything. To love a pet so much and to have a pet love you unconditionally is one of the greatest things to experience.

  155. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 08 March 2009 at 20:13

    My pets cost me less than $10 per month . . . wild birds.

    More of my thoughts on pets:

  156. Katybeth says 08 March 2009 at 21:37

    I won’t argue with your choice for your pet regarding food. However, many a cat, for many a year live a long life…perhaps several on Meow Mix. Many dogs do well and fine on grocery store food–as in Pedigree to name one. Of-course in the old days we did not know better–but our pets didn’t seem to either and lived long health life’s at a fraction of the cost we now pay for food. If your dog or car does not like the food—sit down and explain that when they go out and get jobs…they can buy whatever food they want! Might work with picky kids to!

  157. Laura says 09 March 2009 at 04:14

    Whatever the price for an animal is, the love they give to you everyday is priceless.

  158. plonkee says 09 March 2009 at 04:48

    Does the $750 a year include the three yearly extra vet bill costs? Otherwise, presumably it runs more in the region of $1000 a year (or $250 per cat). I’m not sure what you do with the cats when you go away, but I guess that adds extra cost.

  159. Carrie says 09 March 2009 at 05:23

    My cats and dogs have cost me a fortune over the years but at least they are not going to college! I live in London where pet insurance is common and easy to get reimbursed. In the USA I found it too difficult to get reimbursed. I like the vet´s suggestion in an earlier comment to start contributing to a savings program now for vet expenses later. Most importantly — KEEP your cats inside and your dogs on a leash when walking them (unless in a safe confine). And don´t forget to spay and neuter. Every pet should be a cherished pet and that will not happen until demand exceeds supply.

  160. Cole Brodine says 09 March 2009 at 06:26

    I am obviously in the minority here. Hopefully I’m not going to get crucified by the hardcore pet lovers, but I wanted to share just how cheap pets can be.

    I grew up on a farm, where the cats and dog were all “outside” pets, and were just another farm animal. My Dad used to euthanize them himself when they got sick. He always joked that he wouldn’t pay a vet bill higher then the cost of a .22 caliber bullet. We spent nothing on our pets other then the basic food and shots that they need.

    I didn’t realize that people could buy pets until I was about 13 years old. I just assumed Dogs and Cats just wander onto the farm. If you like them, you feed them and they stay.

    Just a different perspective on pets.

  161. Kate F. says 09 March 2009 at 06:26

    Two indoor cats & one dog – all mixed breeds. All adopted with minimal adoption fees. While my monthly costs for heartworm and flea preventative is about $25, I also was able to cancel my gym membership ($50/month) because of all the walking & hiking I do with my dog.

    One tip I’ve recently learned is that spaying/neutering is more beneficial than just the cost of puppies. Each time a female has a cycle or a litter, her likelihood of cancer goes up. I believe that males are more likely to get testicular cancer as well. So if you’re responsible about that, you could end up saving a lot in the end run by avoiding costly medical treatments for cancer.

  162. Jen M. says 09 March 2009 at 06:35

    Thank you for this post. I am a “cat lady.” Between us, my boyfriend and I have 9 cats. 8 are mine, 1 is his. I stopped rescuing when I peaked at 10 cats (before my current boyfriend.) One went to my ex’s sister when my ex died. Another–Grim was about 21 years old–passed on in December of 2007.

    I think with the higher estimates, it is exactly those unexpected situations that people are factoring in. Plus, possibly animal behaviorists, or training classes (dogs,) special needs, etc. And maybe insurance.

    I do not have pet insurance. About half of my cats are senior cats, and they generally will not cover cats who are over a certain age. Not only that, but it’s pretty rare that we have an incident outside of standard care–shots, etc. I am trying to build up an emergency fund for the unexpected.

    All of our cats are indoor cats, and they would be even if we did not live in a place where that is the law. While I realize that outdoor cats and and do live long, healthy lives, I might posit that accidents might happen less frequently if cats are kept indoors. We have plenty of play and sleep spaces for them, and they have the run of the house, except for the kitchen, our bedroom, and the office/guest room. It’s not a huge house, but they do pretty well. They are happy cats.

    I always appreciate it when someone more in the public eye writes on this subject. I realize that 9 are more than 4, but there are a lot of misconceptions about people with an unusual number of pets.

    As always, love your blog!

    Jen M.

  163. Gabe says 09 March 2009 at 06:48

    JD – did you factor in the indirect costs with the snake? Like the cost of electricity from a heat lamp?

    Also, my friend (who is NOT the most financially responsible guy to say the least) recently took out an unsecured loan to spend thousands of dollars giving his cat chemo. The cat had to be put to sleep 6 months (and almost $10K) later. I LOVE my cat to death, but could NEVER justify that. It’s just cruel to the cat, if nothing else.

  164. Brigid says 09 March 2009 at 07:00

    JD – Your cats are gorgeous!

    I’ve been “lucky” so far. The only cat that’s died on me dropped dead without warning. My head says I would have put him to sleep had it been a long draw out illness, but I’m sure my heart would have put up a huge fight.

    It’s an awful decision to make, but you do have to be prepared for that eventuality. Nothing lives forever.


  165. Jess says 09 March 2009 at 07:27

    I have 3 wonderful dogs, and I cannot imagine my life without them. Like many other posters, they are my therapy.

    I have pet insurance for all 3 at $79 a month. My plan does not cover maintenance care, such as vaccines and heartworm preventive. It has a $100 deductible and a cap of $3000 for each type of illness. The price and coverage has changed throughout the 5 years that I have had my dogs, but it has been worth it.

    My oldest dog was diagnosed with cancer last year, and the costs of treatment (radiation) were greatly helped with the insurance. One of my other dogs got sick from the dog food contamination, and almost the entire cost of care (doggie dialysis) was covered. At this point, at my current rate, I doubt my insurance company will ever recover the costs they have reimbursed me. The underwriters recently changed and I am not pleased with the new “customer service,” so I am currently shopping around for a new pet insurance company, although I may investigate the pet HSA.

    I only recently starting tracking how much I spend on my dogs, but it looks like on average with vet care, food, and insurance, I average about $250 a month for all 3 dogs. This is excluding the costs of unexpected medical expenses.

    Even without the pet insurance, I would have happily paid the expenses. My dogs bring me so much joy — unconditional love is priceless.

  166. LeAnna says 09 March 2009 at 07:57

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been seriously contemplating getting a cat or dog. I foster dogs off and on, and while they can be fun, they are also a lot of work. It will be easier when my yard is fully fenced and I can just open the patio door to let a dog out to go potty, but meanwhile it’s a huge pain in the butt. As a foster, though, their medical, grooming, and food expenses are covered. That reiterated to me that while dogs are more fun, I don’t have the time for one full-time at this point, let alone the money. A cat, though…I’m definitely considering it. I cat-sat for about a month and loved it, even though the old girl was like seventeen or some crazy age like that. Methusalah-cat. Anyway, if I can find the right one, I might take the plunge, but there’s no way I’d spend more than about $500 for vet care in one shot, sorry.

  167. Kayla says 09 March 2009 at 08:00

    I’m not an animal person, so my opinion on this question might be a little skewed, but here’s my two cents.
    After you have pets, I think how much money you spend on them (beyond the basics, of course) is up to the individual. I’m not willing to spend thousands of dollars on a pet, so I choose not to have any.
    However, what makes me angry is people who are struggling just to get by and make the decision to get a pet, without considering the costs involved. (I think the same thing about people who choose to have children when they obviously don’t have the money.) Several of my friends are constantly complaining about not having enough money for their mortgages, yet they have multiple animals. It’s too late, now, but I wish they would have considered the expense before they got the animals. There will always be pets available when you are financially stable.

  168. Nancy says 09 March 2009 at 08:37

    I agree with poster @145. Pets are not children. I’ve got both, and have had multiple cats continuously for over 20 years. While we love our pets, take good care of them, and are happy to have them, there really isn’t any comparison to be made between our 2 little boys and the cats. They aren’t even in the same league. It bugs me when people say we don’t have children but we have dogs or cats. Sorry, my sons are not the equivalent to an animal.

  169. Robyn says 09 March 2009 at 08:44

    I hadn’t really thought of Pet Insurance. I suppose I should get on that! I have one cat, and basically he just needs food, water and flea meds (and lots of love!). He’s outdoor so no clean up with litter and don’t have to buy any either. I live in Southern California so the weather is nice enough for him to be an outdoor cat. Annually he really doesn’t cost me much. I would say perhaps $400 a yr? Also, I have a chip in him, which costs about $15 a yr.

  170. Melanie says 09 March 2009 at 09:01

    I also have pet insurance through VPI. I have had dogs my entire life and never insured them, but seeing how much my parents paid toward the end of their lives, I decided to get insurance when I got my own puppy in December (they have since gotten insurance on their new puppy too). You can alter your plan each year to make the most sense. This year I paid $390 for the year, which includes the “wellcare” option becuase we will be getting him neutered and vaccinated, so adding this coverage made sense. It’s only been 3 month and we have already gotten back about $150 and haven’t even gotten him neutered yet (I think they reimburse around $100 or $150 for neutering). During the mid-years of his life we will knock down his coverage a bit to knock downt he cost, assuming he will be healthy for several years, but will probably ramp it back up as he gets older. I think if you have a large savings account and can afford to pay out a large payment if your pet ever gets sick then maybe insurance isn’t for you, but if you would find it financially easier to pay out a small amount each year for the insurance and then get reimbursed for a majority of a large vet treatment then you should get some insurance.

  171. Scott says 09 March 2009 at 09:50

    My wife and I insure our two cats with Banfield. It covers the majority of the costs for annual shots and teeth cleaning. But we have it mainly to keep our relationship healthy in the event of a pet emergency. We differ greatly on what an acceptable bill would be (she has no limits and I do). Our compromise is to have the monthly pet insurance.

  172. artist says 09 March 2009 at 10:27

    I’m of the same mindset as others who have expressed the quality of their lives is held stable or so greatly enhanced by having a non-human family member to love & be loved by. I love animals. I’ve had gerbils, horses, cats (until we discovered I was too highly allergic), parakeets & dogs. I’ve had just parakeets & dogs since becoming an adult & living on my own. I started with a parakeet in college as I rented & parakeets were okay with landlords. I worked with my parakeet enough that in the evenings he would come out of his palace of a cage & sit on my shirt collar & whistle/chirp a “conversation” with me for a bit while I ate dinner & then he’d nestle up between my neck & shirt collar & nap while I watched t.v. or read. He was very special & very inexpensive.

    Mostly I’ve had small dogs. When you rent one small dog is much easier to get a landlord to approve (as long as you’re really clean, responsible, quiet & pay on time most are great about it – I always came with references) than a cat or a big dog.

    I’ve worked jobs where there have been reduced hours & lay offs (been there too many times in my industry) & my dogs have NEVER gone without. I have, but not my dogs. I shopped second hand stores for clothes & bought generic items for myself or simply went without, but my dogs continued to receive regular vet visits, grooming visits, quality food & treats & toys. The last year of one of my dog’s life I used to joke that I spent more on his medical than my own. It gave us another quality year together & I would do it again in an instant. My dogs are my constant. They’re my closest friends, they’re family. They definitely improve my mental, emotional & physical well being. They’ve widened my social circle (I met some great people waking in the park with my dogs) & protected me & my property more times than I can imagine. They’ve gotten me through my darkest moments in life & joyfully celebrated the best times with me, too. I’ve had mixed breed rescues & pure breds & each one was/is very special & they all share the common trait of unconditional love. I’m a vocal advocate for adopting from, volunteering at or donating to reputable rescue/shelter organizations. When you chose to bring an animal into your life, you take on that responsibility for the life of that animal. If for whatever reason circumstances become so dire that you can no longer properly care for that animal it is your absolute responsibility to find them another great home or take them to one of those reputable shelters. It is unconscionable to me that there are people in the world who will simply abandon them or worse yet to hear they’ve moved out of a home they’ve lost & left them locked up inside to starve to death! That to me is as agregious as child neglect or abuse.

    As for the people who have taken issue with those of us who prefer our animals over children, I must say my dogs are more loving, loyal & better behaved than a lot of kids I know. And yes, they are much, much cheaper. I don’t want children & don’t have any. My dogs are as important to me as your children are to you. I also take exception to people who call their dogs their children – I think that is a huge insult to the dog! And while pet over-population is a problem, we can & should spay & neuter our pets. Unfortunately, there are too many irresponsible people in our society who are producing babies with the full expectation of having the rest of society (thru entitlement programs & charities) paying for their birth & upbringing. I wonder what it costs the taxpayer for the cost of that child from birth to 18? What if we figured that out & offered incentive payments, with the amount increasing as they age, to girls in junior high & high school each year they don’t get pregnant. What if we extended that to age 23? They don’t get the money directly until they get through at least high school & then it’s like a college or trade school fund. If they get pregnant & have the kid & keep it before graduating, they lose everything they’ve earned in their “empty womb” account. At the same time make it less attractive financially to have a kid than it is today. Just a thought.

  173. Jennifer says 09 March 2009 at 10:46

    For those people who have a problem with non parents saying, “We don’t have children, but we have pets”, why is that a problem to you? If we were talking about pets and you said, “I don’t have pets, but I have children” I wouldn’t be offended by it. Just because you think children are wonderful, doesn’t mean everyone has to have them.

    And to everyone who says we spend too much money on our pets, I wonder what they spend their money on. Is it only necessities, with nothing for personal enjoyment? I might be willing to spend a lot of money on my pet and if times were rough, I’d do without something myself, but I don’t spend money on DVD’s, cable/satellite tv, dinners out, movies, excess shopping, etc.

    And for the people who said we should be giving all this money to charity to support other people’s children, instead of to our pets: I do give to charity! Do you give ALL of your money to charity? If not, than I don’t see that you have a right to criticize where I spend some of my money.

  174. Mandee says 09 March 2009 at 10:49

    We budget $150 a month for our pets(1 extra large dog, 2 rabbits, 1 rat)but usually spend about $100-125 unless everyone happens to need supplies all at once. We always look for ways to save money without sacrificing quality. Most recently, when our rat developed a large tumor and could no longer get around on her own, we learned that our local shelter offers low cost euthanasia. For our Rat Bella it was only $5 and they were very sensitive and caring. I thought I’d throw that out there for anyone interested.

  175. CSmith says 09 March 2009 at 10:53

    I saw several comments that indoor cats don’t need to be vaccinated every year and had to comment. Be careful about letting rabies vaccines lapse, even for cats that are indoor-only. A friend of mine had a bat fly into her house. She got the bat out, and she wasn’t bit, but couldn’t vouch for her indoor cats. When she called her vet, she found out she had let the rabies vaccination lapse and, given state laws, her cats could either a) be immediately euthanized (and tested) or b) be put in quarantine for several months. Of course, she put them in quarantine, which had to be at a state facility and which she had to pay for, and visited them as much as she could. Still, better to have just kept up the vaccinations!

  176. Kristina says 09 March 2009 at 11:16

    DH and I made an agreement several years ago that anything over $500 for the vet is to much. We came really close to that last year when we paid about $450 to treat one dog for heartworms. I’m happy to say that our dog is happy and healthy today.

    As far as the cost of pets go, DH and I actually consider our pets to be a type of insurance. We live on two acres in a fairly isolated area. Our dogs make one heck of a racket when anyone approaches the gate. We consider them to be loveable, furry burglar alarms.

  177. Carrie says 09 March 2009 at 11:35

    I am not sure how much is too much, but it seems to be related to if it will be enough to save them or not.

    My brother adopted 2 orange tabby boy kittens about a year ago and a few months ago one morning he woke up to one of the cats throwing up constantly.

    He took the cat to the vet and they said it was either pancreatitis or a blockage in his intestines from eating something non-digestable. The Vet couldn’t tell from the x-ray and both were life threatening.

    They ended up doing emergency surgery that evening thinking it was a blockage and it turned out to be pancreatitis. It cost $3,500 all totaled.

    He feels it was ok to spend that much money because the cats are so young and the sibling gets to keep his brother around. My brother loves these cats and feels like it was worth every penny.

    But on another note both my brother and I spent the first 5 years of living on our own without cats because we didn’t know if we could afford it. When you first move out, having pets isn’t really an option because it’s tough enough to make ends meet.

  178. mhb says 09 March 2009 at 11:55

    I want to thank everyone: we’re thinking about adopting a kitty soon, and all the input is really helpful.

    We have a lot of reasons for wanting to adopt a cat, and the question of cost (we’re saving up for it) and space (one-bedroom apartment) have been the two factors that have made us wait so far.

    As half of a married couple with no children, I would like to reiterate to the commenter above: never, ever, ever ask a couple why they don’t have kids. If you ask other couples that question, you will be disappointed at best, and at worst you’ll be mortified at displaying your lack of tact around a sensitive (and possibly very painful) issue. Do. Not. Ask.

    Let’s keep talking about cats, shall we? I grew up with a cat and I love them, and can’t wait to have one or two of my own.

  179. Stacey says 09 March 2009 at 12:34

    I agree with CSmith in #175. Never let even an all-indoor cat go without a rabies vaccination. One of my cats bit my finger (accidentally, of course), which led to an eventual hospital stay. The hospital reported the bite, and the police had to visit the house and inspect the rabies tag. If the cat had not been current, we would have had to quarantine at our own expense (or put the cat to sleep, which we wouldn’t have considered).

  180. Michelle says 09 March 2009 at 13:02

    We have a 12 cent goldfish, that has lived over 2 years. Its food costs us maybe 2 dollars a year. HE might be worth that.

  181. WyldKard says 09 March 2009 at 13:59

    $355 per cat doesn’t seem excessive to me at all. We have two cats, one of which is six years old and has developed crystals in his urine because of a genetic disorder. We combat this by no longer giving him dry food, and the increased water content has relieved his condition.

    Since he’s on a particular brand of food, a can runs us $1.59. To make things easier, we serve both cats the same food, which means we’re spending $3.18/day on food, equating to $1,160.70 per year on food alone. Per cat, that $580.35 is already substantially higher than the $355 number quoted, and we haven’t even accounted for litter costs and veterinarian fees.

    Now granted, we’re looking at a “special needs” kitty here, so our costs may be slightly higher than the average cat owner. Still, we’re not accounting for more severe medical problems that many pets have, so I don’t think we’re too far off from the average after all.

  182. Frankenstein says 09 March 2009 at 14:03

    @Lara: You and I are of like minds. And it isn’t surprising that we have similar agricultural backgrounds.

    Growing up around a farm you learn that animals fulfill roles – health (reducing rodent populations), security (driving away predators) and food (you grow what you eat).

    Ultimately household pets are what you make of them – extended family members, substitutes for kids, companions, protectors, etc. But first and foremost they are animals. It has only been through long term domestication/breeding that they’ve reached the point where people can and do anthropomorphize them.

    @Shannon: Don’t apologize for asking. This is a public blog and if JD comments regularly on not having children then he shouldn’t be surpised if someone is interested in why. Children are a huge impact on the ‘cost of living’. This blog is about that very subject. He posts these entries for discussion and to provide information that is intended to be beneficial to a vital aspect of our lives. If you are interested in asking such questions to know what motivates him then ask. As a public provider of information he has opened himself up to this. If he chooses not to answer then that is his choice too. Neither of you should feel any sense of shame or impropriety for your questions or answers. So to the rest of you that are harping on her, if you ever read this post, get over yourselves, butt out and leave her alone.

  183. Nancy says 09 March 2009 at 14:26

    to @ artist: Children are not animals, they aren’t pets, they aren’t companions, etc. They are human beings. There isn’t any equation to “I have children” vs. “I have a dog.” My husband, best friend, brother, sister, parents are not animals. They are people. Just like children are people.

    Love your pets all you want. They simply aren’t the same as children.

  184. E says 09 March 2009 at 14:50

    It’s a personal thing, and it’s case by case. Our old collie had a bout of pneumonia that cost us close to $4000; we didn’t feel it was too much, given a strong bond, and a good chance of recovery and a few more healthy months with us. (We were hoping for years, but you can’t have everything.) We still feel it was worth it. Our two new dogs each cost us close to $1000 within their first few months with us, but that amount seems to me like part of the package when you get a dog, esp. a big one. One is quite young, so we’d go a long way to keep him healthy. The older one, it would depend; would she recover fully? would she suffer? does she have good years left in her? Shelling out the cash is not fun, but it is life. You’d spend it on car repair or a new roof or a vacation; why wouldn’t you spend it to preserve something at least as valuable??

    One unanticipated benefit of spending $$$ on dogs is that my husband FINALLY began to appreciate my frugality! I was able to pay that monster hospital bill, while his credit cards were maxed out and he had no savings. That was a bit of a wakeup call for him.

    Oh, and it’s true that my dogs are not kids. That was the whole point. 😉

  185. Helen says 09 March 2009 at 15:04

    I just paid a $3000 vet bill for a parrot that cost me $700 in the first place. I love my girl and I don’t regret a penny – even if I could have bought four more parrots to “replace” her!

    Pet insurance… Here in Canada, it’s impossible to buy insurance for birds and other “exotics”; it’s for cats and dogs only. I looked into it for my Golden Retriever, but it’s a rip-off in my opinion. For example, Golden Retrievers are susceptible to hip dysplasia, so anything related to this condition would not be covered. Also, if your dog has had any condition at all, even minor, before the insurance is purchased, a recurrence of the condition would not be covered. My dog would never be covered for an ear infection or a skin rash; both of which he had early on as a puppy. You can spend a lot of money on premiums with no assurance that it will ever be worth it. As one person said earlier on, you’re better off creating an emergency account for your pet and earning some interest on the money. Hopefully you’ll have amassed quite a bit of money by the time you have to use it.

  186. Adam Snider says 09 March 2009 at 15:15

    JD, I’m willing to bet that those high “average costs” are the result of including estimates for potential vet bills, though I could be wrong.

    As for pet insurance, I think it’s actually a fairly wise investment if you’re budget is too tight to allow for unexpected vet bills. It’s usually very cheap—something like $5 a month, I believe. On the one hand, it’s an additional cost. On the other hand, is the health of your pet worth it?

    Obviously, it’s a personal decision. I would probably not buy pet health insurance, myself, but I may re-evaluate that position when I actually own my first cat or dog.

    As for the pets being worth the cost? I suppose if you view life as a purely dollars and cents game then, no, they aren’t. But, as important as money is, I think most of us realize that it’s not everything. Pets, like many other things in life, can bring us great joy and, as you say, are actually relatively inexpensive unless they fall ill. To me, pets will always be worth the money.

  187. Lindsie says 09 March 2009 at 15:47

    After a $1200 vet bill for a broken leg, my husband (then boyfriend though) purchased pet insurance for his 4 year old cat Dao. It’s only $15 a month and has paid for itself every year since he got it. My friend Colleen has just finished paying off a $10,000 vet bill for her cat Milo – who sadly passed away two years ago. Most people I know would not have spent that much but to this day, she still doesn’t regret it!

  188. artist says 09 March 2009 at 15:49

    To Nancy – my dogs are indeed my best friends, protectors & companions & I definitely value them just as much as you value your children. Whom we love, whether it be a like species, an animal, bird or fish, does not limit the amount we love. You wouldn’t say a father can’t love a child as much because he didn’t carry it in his womb for 9 months, would you? You wouldn’t say adoptive parents can’t love an adopted child as much as their own birth child, would you? Then why must you draw a line & state that the love we feel for our animal companions is any less real than the love you have for your child?

  189. Alexa says 09 March 2009 at 16:08

    I really agonized about my decision to bring a puppy into my life because I was concerned about the expense and the demands of caring for a dog. It has truly been one of the best decisions of my life. I now understand why people are willing to spend so much money on their pets when they become ill! Still, I think you have to be reasonable about what you can afford. I wouldn’t have a dog if I couldn’t afford to pay for his vet bills. I estimate that we spend about $500 per year on routine visits, medicine and the occasional non-routine emergency. Our dog has been very healthy most of the time, but you can’t usually predict when you’ll have to go to the vet. I’m always saddened to see situations where people have animals they obviously can’t afford and struggle to keep up with their care.

  190. Nancy says 09 March 2009 at 16:09

    It’s not about love. Children are not animals or pets. Never said that you couldn’t LOVE them as much. Just said don’t make the mistake of saying that children and pets are interchangeable. They aren’t.

  191. Pet Guy says 09 March 2009 at 16:33

    JD – Why not just make a “rule of thumb” for how much it’s worth to fix an animal? A value I like is no more than 3x the cost to replace the animal.

    Animal Cost: $200
    Vet Cost: $600 = Too much

    @artist – Here’s a question, would you sacrifice a human life for one of your pets? If the answer is yes, then I hope we never meet. Love your pets all you want, but don’t compare them to humans as far as “worth”.

  192. shanee says 09 March 2009 at 17:05

    definitely get pet insurance!! everyone! if they will cover your pet, you love your pet, are risk-averse, and cannot afford emergencies, it makes good sense. it is usually quite inexpensive, use your new frugality skills to save that cost in other ways.

  193. chacha1 says 09 March 2009 at 17:52

    I recommend self-insuring with a dedicated savings account. We got pet health insurance when we acquired our two shelter cats seven years ago, and sure enough, the first time we made a claim it was denied even though according to the policy the expense should have been covered. A pet health savings account will add up pretty fast and if you never need it, you still have the money.
    Best insurance: keep your animals indoors or in safe outdoor enclosures. Good luck helps, too.

  194. Meghan says 09 March 2009 at 17:55

    One easy way to help cut down on vet bills (and extend your cat’s life) is to make them an indoor cat.
    The outdoors is a hazardous place for cats. Most of the big injuries & illnesses take place when they are roaming around the neighborhood.
    After having a cat hit by a car, another disappear, and a third develop FIV (feline AIDS), I decided to transition my cats to indoors.
    They complained a bit, but are happy with it. The vet bills and illnesses were down and my cat with FIV wasn’t infecting other cats in the neighborhood. I also paid less for annual vaccinations, as some aren’t necessary for an indoor cat.

  195. chacha1 says 09 March 2009 at 18:02

    @Shannon, you asked politely and didn’t demand an answer, so you were not rude to ask what you did. As others have noted, JD is in a sense a “public” person now.
    I’m in the same boat … no kids (though only two cats). This has cost my husband some intimacy with his family (which values reproduction over almost anything else) but it was a joint decision that we’re happy with. And it sure makes our financial planning simpler.

  196. J.D. says 09 March 2009 at 19:45

    Why My Wife and I Don’t Have Children (by J.D. Roth)

    Okay, I’m not actually going to write this essay. But I’m not offended when people ask the question. I get it all the time. As a 40 year old man who has been married for a long time, and who worked many years in sales, it’s a frequent question. My frequent answer is: “We chose not to have them.”

    I know that’s vague, but it’s true. And it avoids arguments. I’ve found that when I try to provide reasons for our choice, people want to judge us or to argue with our logic. I’m not interested in that. We’ve made a decision that works for us, and we’re very happy with our choice. We don’t begrudge anyone else their choice, and we don’t ask people to explain why they chose to have children.

    Kris and I love kids. We love our friends’ kids, and we love our nieces and nephews. However, children are not right for us. Neither of us feels compelled to have them. (And if we did, we’d probably adopt.)

    Vague enough for you? 🙂

  197. Jen M. says 09 March 2009 at 20:09


    Thank you for sharing that. I am the same way. I do better as an animal caretaker (and enjoy it more) than I would as a parent. I knew when I was a kid myself that I never wanted to be a mom, and I’m not, and life is good.

    I do not equate my cats or any other animals with children. They are animals, with animal issues and animal needs. It just happens that I am an animal lover and am willing to make sacrifices so that I can keep my animals and keep them happy and healthy, just as any parent would for their children.

    A note on indoor cats and vaccinations: Where I live, it is the law that all animals be vaccinated against rabies, whether they are indoor animals or not. If you are caught with an un-vaccinated animal, it’s a $500 per animal fine. Also, I feel it’s prudent anyway. What if your pet got out, or what if you had a rat or bat come into your home? Someone here had a story about that.

    I take my vet’s advice on most things, but I will always err on the side of caution with vaccinations. My cats get their rabies shots whtn they come due, even though they live indoors.

  198. Rachel Q says 09 March 2009 at 21:22

    I’m a veterinarian, and I work sometimes at an emergency practice. Many people (including me, actually) are shocked at the cost of emergency diagnostics and treatment. Any care from a veterinary specialist also adds up quickly. And as J.D. just found, even multiple visits to your regular veterinarian are expensive these days.

    I think that what works for people depends very much on their overall financial situation and personal view of the value of veterinary care.

    Many people choose a limit for what they will spend for a veterinary incident based either on their ability to pay at all, or on what they consider a lot of money. Unfortunately, “a lot of money” may buy you less than you want, especially if surgery or hospitalization is indicated. You can open up your options by planning for serious illness and emergencies in advance.

    Options are to save specifically for veterinary expenses, or to buy veterinary insurance. Either way has advantages and disadvantages.

    If you take charge of your own veterinary savings, you retain control of how the money is spent. In addition, you get to keep the money if your pets are fortunate enough never to need it.

    The major disadvantage is that emergencies and specialty care can cost more than you think: easily $1500-3000 for a cat, and sometimes more. For a major problem in a large dog, the $3000 figure is more of a starting point. If you can put down $1000 to $3000 to START your savings account, and then add on every month, you may have a good plan for yourself.

    The problem is that if you cannot make a significant deposit to start the account, your pet will be uncovered as a young animal. Young animals are the most accident prone, and the most likely to have problems that we can fix with the best outcome in terms of quality and length of life. For example, young animals are the most likely to eat foreign objects that obstruct the intestine and require emergency abdominal surgery.

    If you want immediate coverage for a young animal without a large deposit up front, comprehensive veterinary insurance may be a better option. There are some disadvantages, though:

    * You lose some control.

    * You still need cash or credit to pay at the time of service.

    * Coverage for some genetic problems is limited, so check the fine print for this if you have a purebred animal.

    * You need to be careful about which plan you buy. Make sure that you are getting comprehensive medical coverage you can use at any veterinary clinic.

    In regard to the last point, there are two coverage options I do NOT recommend: I would AVOID any plan from a veterinary chain that only covers care within that chain. This is especially true if the chain does not offer a 24-hour emergency clinic in your area. Also, I do NOT recommend anything other than comprehensive coverage. For example, one insurance company offers a plan that covers $600 per year for the 15 most common problems in cats – but $600 is not nearly enough for many of those conditions.

    In short, I definitely recommend making a plan for unexpected veterinary expenses, but the best plan for you is going to depend very much on your circumstances.

  199. Carri says 09 March 2009 at 23:23

    We’ve had many pets over the years. Our first child was a pet shelter cat named Mike. We lived in the woods in New Hampshire and Mike tended to be accident prone. In the first 4 years of his live he was hit by a car, chased and beaten by a raccoon, and fell from a tree, impaling himself on a branch. He also ate a piece of corn cob which was the most expensive of his exploratory surgeries. By the time he was ten, he had no tail, his own bunny hutch (for psychological purposes) and a $6k pet bill.

    As we had human children and more pets. we developed the $250 per incident policy. (for the pets, not children). However, we have blown that budget many times with no regrets. Never as much as Mike though. He was our first baby and an awesome Cat.

  200. Jen M. says 10 March 2009 at 06:15

    Another thing that can save you money is to build a good relationship with your vet’s office. I’ve been with mine for at least 15 years, quite possibly longer.

    I have, many times, had one of the doctors talk me through home care for certain situations, and they listen to me and talk to me like I know something. We talk through all options and all possible outcomes for any options we discuss.

    My vet taught me how to test my diabetic cat’s blood and how to administer the insulin. That’s standard, I imagine, because this cat needed readings 3 times/day. What she also did, though, was she gave me her personal cell phone #, so that I could get in touch with her if there were any problems. (As it turns out, his numbers were all over the place, so we were almost daily micro-adjusting his insulin dose.) Imagine what it would have cost me if I’d had to run into the office every time there was an issue.

    Open and frank communication with your vet(s) can save you a lot of money and trauma.

  201. Battra92 says 10 March 2009 at 07:43

    I have fish. My ex girlfriend bought the fish, bowl, rocks, plastic plant and food for less than $20. 1.5 years later he’s still alive and the food is nowhere near gone. I do need to change his water every now and then (which I should do tonight actually.)

    Fish are nice pets and I’m not allergic to them. I get my cat fix by looking at LOLCats and hearing my friend tell me about hers. Claritin isn’t cheap so I stick to fish. 🙂

  202. Todd says 10 March 2009 at 08:04

    Question: Are pets worth the money?
    Answer: No they are not. They are a waste of resources.
    I do not know a single pet owner that gives their pets the proper attention or training on a day to day basis. Most pet owners treat their animals like toys.

  203. Tom says 10 March 2009 at 09:42

    this question has been asked repeatedly by pet owners new and old. It’s a never-ending question with no real satisfying answer. published a good piece about this question.

    here another one from slate

  204. Miranda says 10 March 2009 at 14:54

    Give me a break. “Pets cost money, so do children and tv.” Houses cost money too. Food costs money too. I think pets are the far most useless and non beneficial thing to have in a home. I can’t believe anyone especially the person who wrote this even compared this to children.

    First of all, children are children and they obviously cost more because human beings need more than a mere cat or dog. And children comes out of people, cat and dogs don’t fly out a female person. And if you consider children to be expensive, then neither of us would have been born and here to discuss this matter.

    My mom ridiculously bought a Shiba Inu and it needs more than ever and I even considered moving out of this damn house. It does not listen no many how much it’s told, it bites furniture which damages it, it barks which disturbs my sleep (can’t even have a good night rest for college), it always has an “allergy problem” and some sort of sickness every single day, it chews paper and jumps onto our table and grabs my research paper.

    Might I also say this dog sheds like a cat and I have dog hair all over my clothes, inside my shoes, and even in my underwear.. even if my clothes just came back from the laundry and never left my room which I don’t even let it go outside. I also got bitten many times for no reason, out of the dog’s selfish needs and bruises everywhere from scratches, bites, everything.

    I am sick of pets and I hate how people never clean up after their damn pets and leave their feces everywhere outside for me to step on.

    Anyone who really wants to clean up urine from the floor, deal with shedding, vets, checkups, having to walk a dog, pick up food for the animal, etc don’t even complain later on that you’re sick of any of these chores, because you chose to do it. Pets are an extreme waste of money and people fall for the trap because they find a dog or cat so “cute” and just bring it home and let the animal whip you into shape by you having to walk the animal or clean up after its mess like a SLAVE.

  205. Miranda says 10 March 2009 at 14:59


    I give charity, about 2.5% of my savings. I don’t buy clothes, I buy food, pay rent, and energy bills. I don’t have a house phone line, only cellphone. I’m not into fashion, I pay my college tuition. I have no pets and will never interested in it.

    People who have pets and consider them “children” are just arrogant and want to show off their money but don’t want kids because they aren’t responsible enough for anything else, instead they take home an animal because it’s such a trend especially in the USA to have a dog barking out a window or chained up in the yard scaring people while they walk on down the block, or start to cry when they found out someone ran over their cat who can’t look both ways before crossing a street.

    Just because you pay charity and you have a pet, doesn’t make you a hotshot.

  206. Infinity says 10 March 2009 at 15:14

    Too many comments to read, so I hope I am not just regurgitating other people’s posts.

    Not everything can be measured in money. Happiness which children or pets bring (yes, children and pets ARE comparable, without question) is beyond money. You still want to put a price tag on that? It is possible. Studies show that people who have pets are better able to handle stress, experience faster recovery from ilnessess (even heart attacks!), children brought up with pets are less likely to suffer from allergies. If happiness is not convincing enough, think of the savings in the doctor’s office.

    To some posters: pets are not for all. More than this: not all people should be having children. Nobody is forcing you to have either. But don’t try to push your judgement on other people, or complain about other people’s pets. You are coming across like pathetic jerks, really. You do not have a license to run this world. Animals have the same right to exist as you or me.

  207. Honey says 10 March 2009 at 15:27

    @ Miranda,

    People who have pets are healthier and live longer than people without pets. This is just one of the many reasons that people have them (compassion and companionship being two more), but the health and longevity benefits are scientifically proven.

    As far as children, you could just as easily make the argument that people who decide to have their own children are arrogant and want to show off not only their money (and many parents don’t have enough money to raise their children adequately) and DNA (which is, frankly, appalling to me).

    Adopting a pet that cannot take care of itself, out of the goodness of your heart, and having the compassion to care for it when it didn’t “fly out of them” seems FAR more responsible to me than having a child just to boost your own ego.

    And you have to clean up vomit, excrement, and a child’s toys, too. There is really not that much difference between taking care of a pet and taking care of a baby except that pets are cheaper and easier to care for (no matter what extenuating circumstance). It’s not like having a child makes you a hotshot, either – plenty of complete imbeciles, morally bankrupt individuals, and even incarcerated criminals have them.

    Personally, I would rather have cats (who are sweet and who have never harmed anyone) than a child whose sense of entitlement leads to insensitivity to others. I donate to charity, too – but only charities that benefit animals because I am so sickened by most human beings. They don’t deserve it, IMO, and animals do.

  208. Jennifer says 10 March 2009 at 16:25

    Miranda, in no way does anyone I know consider me arrogant. The reason I mentioned giving to charity was because another poster insisted pet owners should give to charity instead of spending money on their pets. I never compared pets to children. I have no desire to have children and it’s not because I’m irresponsible, but because I don’t have any desire to have them. When I adopted my dog, it was not “trendy” to have a pet. The only trend I’ve seen related to pets is tiny dogs that idiot celebrities carry in their purses. And, how exactly does having a pet show off money? Houses, cars and designer clothes maybe, but pets? My dog doesn’t bark out the window, nor has he ever been chained outside, nor does he run lose to be hit by a car. And my dog is mostly inside and when my friends and neighbors come to visit, they love spending time with him. I’ve never claimed to be a hotshot…and charity is something you give…not something you “pay.” And 2.5% is nothing to brag about either.

    You are apparently very young, very immature and your attitude has been influenced by your mother having a dog that she apparently does not have the knowledge to take care of. The description you have given is absolutely nothing like our life with our dog, with the exception of a little dog hair. (Although in 10 years, I’ve never seen dog hair in my underwear or any clothes I’ve washed.) I can hardly complain about the dog hair, when my husband finds my long blonde hairs everywhere, too.

  209. jawonfloor says 10 March 2009 at 16:46

    Miranda you are an idiot. If you are so miserable living in your mother’s house with her pet perhaps you should move out and get your own place.

    I am unable to have children. My marriage ended because of this. In the past it caused me a great deal of personal grief however I came to grips with the fact that maybe I was put here for another purpose. Purposes. I have many I am sure. And one of those purposes is to provide a home for UP TO 5 cats. They do indeed provide me with an outlet for my need to nurture and therefore, although not a replacement for a child or “equal” to one they are my companions and I love them more than you could imagine with your cold mean heart.

    Many people have told me that I could have adopted and yes I could have but I did not have a husband after the ex left and for me that is a deal breaker although I will defend the right of anyone else to do this on their own.

    ALL of my cats were rescued from shelters for a very minimal cost which included in all cases full spay/neuter and most of the first shots. My latest adoption was a cat who had been up for adoption for 3 years and had “cage rage” and so was considered unadoptable. I got her for nothing because of this and in only 2 months she has gone from a snarling troll to a sweet loving cat who obviously loves where she is as much as I love her.

    My cats provide me with a life of quality and I could not imagine my life without them. If I have a bad day they seem to know and pay me more loving attention. They do relieve my stress. They provide me with hours of entertainment as I watch them play and interact with each other and with me. On cold nights they warm me and when my alarm goes off in the morning I can count on at least one of them to be right there to greet me. I don’t dress them up in clothing but I do talk to them and they talk to me. My oldest is 19 and very healthy but completely deaf. At night he gets on the bed with me while I read for a while and sleeps with his head on my shoulder.

    They shed. I vacuum and have a very clean house. They sometimes vomit and I clean it up. They will sometimes (rarely actually) scratch the furniture but I don’t care. All of my furniture is throw-offs that I refinished myself. I can always refinish it again.

    They don’t eat a top of the line food but a decent one at about $20/month. Their litter costs me about $40/month. Each standard vet visit costs about $60/year. I have a good education and a good job and do not live with my mother and I have the money to provide for their needs and my name alone is on the deed to this house which I bought with my own money that I earned myself and which I keep up with my own blood sweat and tears. I have 3 major credit cards only one of which has a small balance – one is left empty for reimbursable business expenses and one is left empty for unexpected vet bills which I have an online savings account to cover completely. I am not wealthy and not even well off but I have planned my finances well and my cats fit into that and are my priority and as many posters have said before I will go without before my pets go without their basic needs. I made a commitment to them when I brought them into my life so like the mother of a human child I will eat potatoes every meal before they go without food.

    I have been following this post and the comments since it was first posted and some have warmed my heart and some have inspired me and some have confused me and I disagree with some but hands down your rant was the only one I felt the need to address with a response.

    I feel sorry for you.

  210. Jen M. says 10 March 2009 at 16:47

    @Miranda: You seem to be a deeply, deeply unhappy person. I am sorry for that. I truly hope that you find happiness in your life some day, by whatever avenue is appropriate.

    I am truly sorry that you are so miserable. You sound like you need someone to talk to.

    Good luck to you, and best wishes.

  211. Adam Snider says 10 March 2009 at 20:26

    Miranda, why are you so angry? While it clearly sounds like your mother doesn’t really know how to properly care for her dog, I don’t understand why you are so angry about what other people choose to do with their own lives.

    People who have pets are arrogant and trying to show of their money? That’s a very strange comment. Never once have I seen someone with a pet and thought, “They must be rich.” Nor, in my many years of pet ownership, have I ever thought, “Ha! Having this pet totally proves to everyone that I’m rich!” I have found that pets enrich my life, but that aren’t some sort of tool for bragging about my wealth (frankly, I do my best to avoid discussing my money with friends; I don’t know how much money my friends earn and they don’t know how much I earn, and I prefer it that way).

    If pets aren’t for you, that’s perfectly fine, I just don’t understand why you’re so angry about the fact that other people don’t feel the same way that you do.

  212. Charlotte says 11 March 2009 at 19:16

    We are subscribing to the Banfield Wellness Plan at Petsmart.

    Your experience may be different but it is worth it for us. It is not insurance but pre-paid preventive services then you get a 15% discount on all other treatments. We pay $29.95 a month but it includes teeth cleaning (with anesthesia) unlimited office visits, all shots, spay/neuter, all preventive physical exams. The one time our dog had a minor surgery, it would have been about $550, we paid $150. I think the teeth cleaning is also normally $200 per treatment, it was included on this plan.

  213. Chris says 12 March 2009 at 11:58

    It actually costs over $100,000 per pet. You’re not taking into account opportunity costs. Read this:

  214. Michele says 12 March 2009 at 22:17

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Your cat was strong enough to outrun a stray dog? Cats belong inside, where their overall health, life expectancy, AND cost are much better.

    This makes me lose a lot of respect for you, J.D. Unless your “pets” are actually ferals you’re feeding, there’s no excuse for subjecting them to the dangers of the outside world.

  215. Chris says 13 March 2009 at 04:19

    If you are not factoring in occasional extra expenses when budgeting for your pets you will continuously go over budget. Think of it this way – do you budget just for the daily expenses of owning a car or include extra for unforseeable but inevitable repairs? You better be setting aside something extra every month or you will very often blow your budget, and the same holds true for pets. It sounds like you have enough data on those extra pet “repairs” to revise your pet budget to a more realistic level – sock the extra away in savings and when the next “repair” is needed hopefully you’ll have money waiting. And if I can stretch the analogy a little further – just as with cars, expect the repairs to increase in frequency and expense as your pets get older, and plan accordingly. That’s where the analogy ends – because unlike with cars you would not dream of trading in your pet for a “newer model” because of increasing “repair” costs.

  216. Tony Dobson says 15 March 2009 at 16:17

    I’m a bit late to this one, but as a dog owner I do have pet insurance.

    My reasoning? I don’t my dog’s health (or even worse, life) to have to be a financial decision. He’s worth way more than that.

    About three weeks ago I was glad to have it (he had a day’s worth of tests after some fairly constant yelping and hobbling), although I do wonder if in the long run I would have been better off to have put a comparitive amount of money into a saving account. Again though, I wouldn’t have liked to have taken the chance that I’d have had enough at any given time to adequately care for him.

  217. Irony says 16 March 2009 at 09:46

    My husband read these figures to me while we were waiting for our return flight home. Meanwhile, at the petsitter’s, my dog appeared to be near death and went to the ER. My dad turned down nearly $900 of treatment for the overnight stay and took her home after they did what they could for her. The next day he took her to the regular vet and all told it was $1000 of treatment between the ER and regular vet, even though we avoided surgery. Now she has a ‘pre-existing condition’ so I wouldn’t be able to get pet insurance for her.

    But next time I buy a puppy, I’ll be looking into pet insurance. I think it covers accidental things like eating things you shouldn’t and needing several x-rays due to bowel blockage.

    The reason I did not buy pet insurance in the past is it does not cover things like hip surgery, which labs are probably going to need eventually because they tend to have bad hips.

    I did think we didn’t even spend $730 between the two dogs per year, but after that big vet bill, I can’t say that anymore!

  218. Lise says 17 March 2009 at 11:44

    Well, crap, I got to this conversation a little late 😉

    First off: JD, your cats are BEAUTIFUL. The photos in a natural setting especially show them off, too. I have a tendency to worry for cats that are allowed outside, but I also know that once you’ve done so, it’s almost impossible for them to be indoor-only cats again. Maybe that’s something to consider for your next kitteh, JD.

    My husband and I have four cats of our own, too, and often appall my parents at how much I’m willing to spend on them. My general rule of thumb has more to do with quality of life than with cost. I recently spent $2,000+, for example, to have almost all of my cat Lirazel’s teeth removed. She was suffering from stomatitis, an auto-immune disorder where the body develops an extreme inflammatory response to the bacteria in plaque, and the roots of her teeth had become exposed and incredibly painful as a result.

    She was also, which I think is relevant, less than two years old. I knew from other cats of mine that had to have teeth removed that she would recover easily (most cats with all teeth remove learn to chew food with the ridgy part of their palate); and I knew her quality of life would be improved as a result – so I didn’t hesitate.

    On the contrary, my mother’s older cat was recently diagnosed with a mass that ruptured his ear drum and caused him massive amounts of pain and loss of motor control on one side of his face. I was sad when my mom chose to have him euthanized, but from what I understood his prognosis was not good, and he was suffering greatly.

    I’m willing to pay any cost to prolong the life of my pets, so long as that life has any sort of quality.

  219. Marcy says 19 March 2009 at 18:17

    While I absolutely love cats, and realize that they provide alot of mental health boosts to their owners, I am still honestly surprised that the pet topic on personal finance blogs consistently leads to a flood of people that support spending lots of money on pets. I grew up with several cats in the house, but due to a blue-collar financial situation I believe the highest single vet bill for a cat was $300, and it happened only once. We also had a dog for several years that was technically someone elses and rather old at the time we got him. I remember resenting the $200 tooth cleaning appointments for the dog ALOT while we kids got free school lunches and food stamps. All I know is that if I ever have pets I will never spend outrageous amounts of money on them for medical treatments. Draining emergency savings for chemo, etc. for an animal is silly- what happens when the PEOPLE in the family need medical care, or the children need assistance with college expenses. Pets are great, and for people without kids do whatever makes you happy. Personally if I didn’t have kids I would much rather fund a scholarship fund for needy kids with $3000 than spend it on an emergency cat operation. And I swear, I love cats! Just my two cents.

  220. Jen M. says 20 March 2009 at 05:37

    Marcy, it sounds like maybe you should forgo pets, then.

    In any case, do not judge those of us who do choose to have pets and who do choose to budget in their care.

    I will have you know, as well, that there are plenty of people WITH CHILDREN who STILL value their pets and who STILL budget in their care, and the children in the family do not suffer for it.

    Good grief!

  221. Anne says 20 March 2009 at 13:14

    Marcy: Since you will probably be skewered here; I just want you to know I agree with you. While it sounds like your parents had their priorities out of order – I agree that thousands of dollars on a pet is extravagant, a luxury, certainly. I am not the only one on this thread who thinks so either. And I think you make a point that since GRS seems to focus so much on frugality to achieve wealth (and rightly so for most of us) – it seems that to spend thousands of dollars on a pet is counter-productive AND as many others have pointed out, it is sometimes simply because a pet owner is thinking of their own feelings and not necessarily the well-being of the pet.

  222. Jen M. says 20 March 2009 at 14:17

    I think a few people here are missing the point of what “frugality” is really all about. Frugality is not JUSt about keeping costs down, but more about prioritizing spending while keeping costs down.

    Pet ownership is not CHEAP, but it can be achieved and managed in a very frugal way. It can be argued that having children is not frugal either, but again, it is all about prioritizing.

    Since I have pets and they mean a lot to me, their care gets factored into my budget. I have a system for the bigger decisions that may have to be made one day.

    Part of being frugal, as I have said, is achieving best quality of life for EVERYone in the family while keeping costs down.

    If pets do not contribute to one’s quality of life, then it’s best not to have pets. Likewise children.

    JD, have I sort of come close to getting the definition of “frugal” right? It’s not about “cheap.”


  223. Kitty says 20 March 2009 at 15:16

    Nicely put Jen. I have my priorities and amongst the priorities factored in are my cats. Their routine needs and annual vet visits are factored into my budget. Some people have kids, some people go to movies or dine in restaurants or pay to see sports. I like to stay home and experiment with recipes and work in my yard and support my cats. These pleasures cost me nothing. I am not fashionably clothed and I rarely see a movie but $2.48 buys me 5 yard bags and filling them means I am outside and working on my property and filling my days with healthy, good hard work.

    I have a vet emergency fund that I pay into every month. Since this is online I have a credit card that I keep at zero specifically for vet emergencies because it takes several days to transfer from the online savings to my checking account.

    Within my means (which are rather meager) I will do anything in my power for my pet. Because I am frugal and because I am financially responsible I do not bring more pets into my home than I can reasonably care for.

    One year ago I had to put my 10 year old Maine Coon Cat to sleep. For many years he had “faded” and slowly lost weight. Every year we did a full bloodwork and tried several supplements and sub-Q fluids but we never were able to figure out what was wrong. This was not inexpensive but was within my financial means. He was my boy and honestly I would have cleaned out the vet account to make him well. But finally I had to decide to let him go because he was ready and I knew it.

    I think there are far too many animals out there who need good homes. I wish I could advocate everyone adopting one. But honestly, and especially after reading EVERY ONE of these responses I think most humans do not deserve to do so and are frankly incapable. If you do not have a budget that allows for a pet and do not have the common sense to know what is best for them you should not have one. End of discussion.

    My 5 cats are all dumpster babies. They were all found starving and abandoned because no one wanted them. And every day they provide me with more joy than I can possibly describe. Everyone tells me that they are the most beautiful cats they have seen and I know this is true because they have thrived with love and care. The oldest has cost me maybe $2000 over 19 years. The youngest had her leg surgery at $1400 and at 3 she has a long life ahead of her. The middle ones have their annual vet visit and because of good loving care have no issues. But the cost means nothing to me.

    Today my sister adopted an older cat. She and her husband are vets and own their own clinic (unfortunately very very far from me). The previous owner of this cat lost her husband, then her business, then her house. She was compassionate enough to give her cat up to a shelter for adoption. I am seeing far too many abandoned pets on the streets in the past 6 months. If you have a pet and can not care for them properly please do the right thing and go to your local shelter.

  224. Anne says 20 March 2009 at 19:41

    I continue to be frustrated with those who would compare pets to children. There is NO comparison. If you do not want children, fine. But please refrain from comparing the choice of having children with the choice of owning a pet. We do not have children because they will “improve the quality of our life,” but because most people have an innate desire to INVEST in the lives of these wonderful little people who will hopefully go on to make a positive difference in the world. And one of the most positive things we can do as we invest in our children is to teach them to give back, which has been a priority as I raise my four.

  225. A.J. says 30 March 2009 at 14:29

    That is simply your opinion. Others see the world differently.

    I feel bad for people who get so bothered by others having different views on things. Life must be terribly upsetting.

    My husband and I do not plan to have kids, but we have dogs that add a lot of joy to our lives and get us out in the fresh air exercising every day. My husband and I refer to our animals as our kids when it’s just us, but I usually try to avoid doing that around anyone I don’t know for fear of setting them off, kind of the way you’ve been set off here. I think it’s too bad. I should be able to refer to my animals how I want without tiptoeing around people so primed to get upset. But I can’t, so I usually choose to avoid conflict – kind of like I avoid talking about politics with people who have different views than me and tend to get in a tizzy because not everyone sees the world the way they do – god forbid.

    Too bad people can’t be a little more live and let live! (One lesson I’ve learned from my dogs.)


  226. Carrie says 31 March 2009 at 08:57

    I find the most expensive part of owning pets is the around-the-house accommodations you have to make for them. For instance, before every furniture purchase I have to consider our two cats: Will they scratch this too easily? Will it attract a lot of pet fur? Will it hold up to crazy cat wear-and-tear? Because of this, I find myself spending a lot more money than if we had a pet-free home. Most recently, we opted for the leather couch over the fabric one so fur could be easily wiped away. That decision cost us an extra $2000. But snuggling on the couch with two cats without worrying about getting out the lent roller afterward? Priceless.

  227. Patricia says 28 October 2009 at 16:27

    Cat Fancy magazine reported that out-door cats are more prone to coming down with illnesses, hence increasing your vet bill. I have 3 indoor cats,but they still cost money when they get some unknown illness from time to time.

  228. aj says 22 December 2009 at 00:05

    Give me a break about how kids will grow up into these beautiful, society contributing members, etc,etc. Most kids today are considered exceptional if they merely hold jobs & are actually support themselves by their mid to late 20s. How many actually “contribute” to society? Our pets contribute as much or more to society by their calming presence in our lives.They aren’t abusing drugs, drinking, most aren’t even sexually active. How many can say the same for children over the age of 15? This is not to say there aren’t some amazing children, but on the average, your children are no more likely to contribute to society in any better way than our pets…..and I seriously doubt they have a calming effect on blood pressure.

  229. Matthew Hooker says 02 April 2010 at 17:43

    While I too like animals, they are not good for the environment. A medium sized dog has a
    carbon footprint of 0.84 hectares, around twice the 0.41 hectares required by a 4 x 4 driving 10.000 kilomtres(6200 miles) a year,
    including energy to build to car. Cats have a
    eco-print of about 0.15 Hec, slightly less than driving a Volkswagon Golf for a year. Dogs decrease biodiversity in areas in which they are walked, while their feces cause high
    bacterial levels in rivers and streams, making the water unsafe to drink, starving
    waterways of oxygen and killing aquatic life.
    Cat poo is more toxic than Doggy doo-owners
    who flush their litter down the toilet ultimately infect sea otters and other otters
    with Toxoplasma gondii, which causes a killer
    brain disease.

  230. Jennifer says 03 April 2010 at 03:28

    Matthew, what’s the carbon footprint of a human during their lifetime? We’re not having kids, so I don’t think my dog is going to kill the environment. With regards to the feces, wouldn’t the impact depend on how the feces are disposed of? We don’t walk our dog outside of our yard and let him leave feces anywhere. He goes in our own backyard and we clean up immediately. Are you telling me that a dog’s feces contains more environmentally damaging bacteria than ours does?

    Does planting trees have the opposite effect on the environment and make up for a carbon footprint? If so, by what ratio? I’ve planted about 25 trees since I’ve had my beloved dog, which has been 10 years.

    Don’t just tell us our pets are causing damage to the environment. Give us more information. I’d imagine that everyone and everything has a carbon footprint and although I try to be environmentally sensitive, I won’t live in a cave without a life to try and keep from having a carbon footprint.

  231. Ayla says 03 April 2010 at 09:47

    And here we come to realize: the worst thing for the environment is the environment itself. Nature is not a paradise field filled with fluffy rabbits and cheerful lambs, but a ruthless, bloody battlefield. Humans are not an overseeing authority, deciding who lives and who dies – humans are but a part of the system, just as susceptible to battle wounds as anyone else. So let us not judge other creatures on how good/bad they are for the “environment”, but try to enjoy their companionship while we can. They have just as much right to be here as anyone writing to this topic.

  232. Cindy says 01 April 2013 at 09:45

    Pets are getting more expensive to keep every year. I guess it is a growing industry…You should re-phrase the question to: The high cost of pets: Great High Growth Opportunities for Business.

  233. Jennifer says 01 April 2013 at 15:06

    Since I saw there had been a recent comment, I thought I’d add something to what I had said 4 years ago. We lost our beloved dog in November of 2012. We had spent 12 1/2 wonderful years with him. In February of 2012, he was diagnosed with gastric lymphoma. Because he was so healthy otherwise, we elected to treat him. He handled the treatment like a champ and we had 9 more months together. When he became sick and his quality of life was no longer there, we made the decision to let him go.

    In those 9 months, his treatments and meds to keep him feeling good cost about $7500. Since we had been saving for him monthly since the day we adopted him from a rescue, we had about half of that saved. We made the decision to take the other half out of our car fund. My car was the one that was going to be replaced and there was no contest. I’d drive that car for 10 more years in exchange for those 9 months.

    All of my family and friends still talk about our dog and how much everyone misses him. He truly was a member of our family and there wasn’t a single person who didn’t grieve deeply over his loss.

    We recently adopted another rescue dog and started a savings account for him, as well. I can’t say for sure how far we’ll be willing to go should he become sick, but I have no regrets about the money I spent on the one that came before him.

  234. peter says 30 July 2013 at 03:07

    Pets are worth it, even though they cost money to take care of them daily. Pets provide unconditional love and companionship. Pets won’t abandon their owners, if they properly take care of pets. Pets provide entertainment. Of course, not everyone moment of owning a pet will be pleasant.

  235. Scott says 27 August 2014 at 05:29

    With regards to pet insurance, it is a total waste. Take $50 and put it aside each month and by the time your pet is of age to need care, you have a nice nest egg. I was paying $45 a month on my dog who recently turned 10 and was diagnosed with kidney disease. I had paid over $5,000 to VPI, and only filed ONE claim in that time period. They raised his premium to $60 per month since he is 10. I cancelled them. Is it money wasted, maybe, maybe not as you never know what can happen. A savings account is the smarter option.

  236. Reginald says 12 January 2019 at 08:51

    Vets are nothing but scam artists now. This whole “pets are family” liberalization of pet ownership has allowed vets to raise rates and hold you up for the big $$$, using your love for your pet against you when it comes to costs. Additionally, all these big government state laws, similar to forced car inspections, raises prices b/c vets know that by law, you must have it done. It’s ruined pet ownership. I can’t walk in the vets without losing $120, and listening to sales pitches for vitamins, tooth brushes, pet chips, etc. And all the vets around here have stucco clinics with modern art. I’m paying for that?!?! You have to be an upper middle class person to own a dog. Ridiculous.

  237. Nightvid F Cole says 01 March 2020 at 07:13

    If anything the $355/year is surely an underestimate once you account for not just food, but also supplies (litter boxes, rags for cleaning up, doors, gates), boarding costs (or unpaid family friend volunteer hours) when going on vacation, all the vet bills, PLUS the indirect impact of limiting your housing options (many landlords do not allow pets).

    I think the real figure is closer to $1000 /year for a typical cat once you account for all of these, and that doesn’t even account for the implicit cost of your own time.

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