Last month was a bit of an adventure with our seven year old cat. He ran away (something he’s never done) and we were worried sick. Once we got him back, we spent some money on keeping him healthy.
In addition to taking him to the vet for a check up, we also got him updated on his rabies shot. I couldn’t have imagined the true costs of being a pet owner when we first adopted him. I thought it would be cheap and easy to take care of an animal, but that’s not always the case.
If you’re thinking of adopting a pet, please read this article. It’s my hope that pets get adopted into ‘forever homes’ and that both parties happy. Unfortunately, many pets are dropped off at shelters because the owners couldn’t handle the financial responsibilities.
How much does it cost to own a pet?
Some people don’t realize the total costs of maintaining their pets. They may only think of food and the occasional visit to the vet. Being a pet owner, I can tell you that unexpected things will happen even if your pet is relatively healthy.
If you’re still interested in getting a pet, you should first check out how much it costs to care for a pet. The ASPCA looked at the first year costs of some common animals people have as pets and shared the numbers:
- Fish: $235
- Bird: $270
- Guinea Pig: $705
- Rabbit: $1, 055
- Cat: $1, 035
- Medium Sized Dog: $1, 580
Speaking of the ASPCA, shelter animals can make wonderful pets for your home. Don’t think that they are the throwaways. My family went to the local shelter years ago and they were able to find a kitten with the particular temperament they were looking for. He was very people friendly and loved to snuggle up to you when you fell asleep.
Have a pet emergency fund
It’s important to plan ahead and save money up for your pet. Look at the numbers the SPCA has and budget for your pet’s care. You may want to set aside a dedicated savings account for your pet, or you could add that amount into your emergency fund and keep it in one big account.
We all want to be responsible pet owners, but you have to realize that while love and attention are the main ways to care, you still have to have money. The last thing I’m sure you want is to be forced into an economic euthanasia.
Tips for saving on vet care
While pets are never free to take care of, there are ways you can make it more affordable. The key to saving money on taking care of your pet(s) is not to be frugal, not cheap.
Find an affordable vet you can trust
I’ve had my cat since I was in college and was on a very tight budget. I managed to care for him on my limited budget by utilizing my local animal shelter’s low cost pet clinic. There are shelters around the country that offer this service.
The catch with these cheap clinics is that often have odd hours (whenever they can get volunteers), are based on your income (my shelter was $42k or less), and offer limited services. The shelter I used in Virginia covered my cat’s needs (shots, annual checkups, and flea control) and was incredibly inexpensive. I paid about $15 for an office visit and $12 for his rabies shot.
If you don’t qualify for a low cost clinic at the SPCA, some pet stores have clinics, like Banfield at PetSmart. They offer more services and have regular office hours. The quality can vary with the clinics, so check around before you choose.
Once I finished school and had a higher income, I went ahead and found a vet with more convenient hours and a good reputation with my pet owner friends. I’m happy with my current veterinarian and my cat is doing well.
Schedule regular check-ups
Don’t skimp on getting your pet’s annual checkup. Preventive care can save you money in the long run, as you can catch ailments earlier. Keep careful records of your pet’s inoculations and other health-care services. If you move somewhere else or switch vets, make sure you can provide this information to avoid duplication and/or mis-diagnosis.
This past spring, my cat started urinating blood. We went to our veterinarian, but it hadn’t improved even after a few visits. I took my cat to get another vet to second opinion based on a friend’s passionate recommendation.
When I arrived, I gave the new office a copy of the records I had and the contact info for my original vet. They were able to diagnosis and treat him without spending a fortune on another complete round of tests.
Try some DIY grooming
Depending on your pet, this may be a great idea or a huge stress. Getting my cat nail caps at the vet was too much money and not enough reward. Instead, I bought a Pedi-Paw (or something like it) and I trim his nails as needed. After he got used to the routine, it hasn’t been too bad.
Bathing your dog can be messy, but it also save you some money. If you’re not really in the mood to give your dog a bath, do what my dad did and offer your kids money to do it. It’ll help teach responsibility and earn them some spending cash. Who knows, maybe they can start a side business and do it for the neighborhood.
The big take away is look if the grooming service is worth it to you and budget accordingly.
Consider pet health insurance or a pet care plan
Just like people, pets can have health insurance. Not all policies are equal, though. Some policies can save you some money, but be sure to double-check the fine print. You have to run the numbers and see if pet insurance is a good deal for you. If you want to get pet insurance, some popular companies include:
I think a wellness plan might be a better fit if you find pet health insurance to be too expensive. Many offices offer a package, so ask your vet what their wellness plan is. Having a wellness plan for your puppy or kitten can save you some money during that expensive first year.
I love being a pet owner, but I can now understand why my mom was so hesitant with getting a pet. She made us wait until our family budget could afford handle it, and I’m glad she did.
If you’re a pet owner, what tips would you give to potential pet owners? What unexpected expenses have you incurred? What unexpected benefits have you received at a pet owner?