Can you really afford a pet?

Woman with a cat and a dog.

About 5 years ago, my husband and I decided to adopt a tiny, 3-pound puppy we called, Sofia. We rescued her from a dirty, dingy puppy mill. She was actually covered in newspaper ink when we found her.

After cleaning her up and buying all the necessities a puppy needed, we introduced her to our entire family. While we thought socializing her was a great thing to do, little did we know that puppies as small as she was needed to be handled with extreme care and actually, not handled at all. Too much handling (picking her up, cuddling her) was actually bad for her health and she ended up getting sick because of it. We took her to the emergency vet the following day because she wouldn’t stop vomiting and she was extremely lethargic. That was a $1,000 bill we definitely were not expecting.

Now, that is an extreme example of what can happen when owning pets but it illustrates an important point. Many people don’t really consider the costs of pet ownership. Ask yourself this important question: can you really afford a furry companion?

Costs can exceed $1,000 your first year of owning a dog or cat and can cost an average of $10,000 or more over the life of the pet.

According to, costs to consider during the first year include:

  • Spaying/Neutering: approximately $200
  • Initial medical exam: approximately $120
  • Supplies (leash, collar, crate): approximately $200
  • Food: approximately $50 - $75 (depending on size and brand)
  • Training: approximately $110

Costs also vary depending on the type of animal you own. Dogs and cats have very different needs.

Annual costs that many people neglect to consider:

  • Annual checkups which may include vaccinations that can be required depending on the state you live in
  • Litter
  • Toys and treats
  • License (check your local county to see if that’s required)
  • Pet health insurance
  • Flea/tick medication
  • Disposable bags
  • Bedding replacement
  • Grooming

It really does add up!

As a long-time pet owner, I highly recommend making a list of items needed and saving a little each month to go towards your pet’s needs. I opened a separate share account that I transfer money to each paycheck. This covers vet visits and other items my 3 dogs may need throughout the year. And the budgeting tools included in We Branch Online Banking can be extremely useful as well. Our pets are family members and should be treated as such.

If you have considered your finances and what it will take to own a pet and know you cannot afford one just yet, consider fostering! You will be able to help a pet find a temporary home while you experience temporarily pet ownership. And all without the long-term costs. It’s a win-win. You can find out more about fostering here.

And by the way, Sofia is a perfectly healthy and rambunctious 4-pound Chihuahua who turns 5 years old in February.