Puppies – what’s not to love? More than half the homes in America include a fur baby as part of the family but fully 98% of pet owners underestimate the true cost of their pet or pets. If you’re considering adding a dog to your family, it’s a good idea to make sure you know how to budget for your new pet. Here are some costs to consider, whether you’re getting a cat, dog, hamster, bird, rabbit, guinea pig, or other household pet.
• Getting your house ready for a pet. Puppies are rambunctious; after all, they’re basically kids who put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. Kittens, too, and they have claws that can also chew up your furniture. Trash cans are not off limits to either species. So before you bring your new buddy home, lock up anything hazardous (again, like you would with a toddler in the house) like antifreeze, paint, cleaning products, or pest control products. Consider rearranging and/ or installing child proof locks to keep your pet safe. You may need to invest in a storage bin or two to keep items safely tucked away from your pet.
• Initial purchase or adoption costs. Pet adoption is rarely free, but we do recommend adoption over purchasing a puppy from a pet store, who may be buying puppies from a commercial breeder that could be running a puppy mill. Try your local Humane Society or no-kill shelter instead. You will pay a lot less, and you could be saving a pet who has lost it’s owner due to death or a move. Some shelters will include or refund the cost of spaying or neutering your dog or cat, and many shelters give their dogs and cats initial vaccinations before they’re put up for adoption. If not, you’ll need to include those costs in your pet budget.
• Finding the right veterinarian. No matter where you get your pet, you will need to register him or her with a veterinarian you feel comfortable with, and have all the required vaccinations, as well as spay or neuter your pet if needed. Vaccinations will need to be updated annually, and your budget should include funds designated for unforeseen veterinary expenses. If you adopt a dog with prior medical needs, you may need to purchase medication. Shop around for the best deal; many online pharmacies can fill your vet’s prescription at a significant savings to you. Veterinarians often double the price of the medication and add delivery or dispensing fees.
• Food, food, food (and treats!). Let’s face it, your pet’s gotta eat! The bigger the pet, the more food you’ll need to lay in. If you’re planning on a dog, you can save a lot of money by making your own dog food at home. It isn’t difficult, and you can feed you dog nutritious, fresh food without any additives or chemicals for about half the cost of commercial dog food. You can also make your own pet treats at home with just a few ingredients.
• Toys and equipment. Collars and leashes and crates, oh my! Then there are the toys…these costs can add up quickly and before you know it you’ve spent your grocery money for the month. Here is a list of things your pet will need:
o Food and water dishes
o Leashes (you should have more than one)
o ID tags (or implanted ID microchip)
o Dog beds (again, more than one is a good idea)
o Baby gates if you’re keeping your dog within certain parts of the house
o Pet steps or ramp if you’re getting a smaller or older dog who may need help getting into the car or up on the couch to snuggle with you
o Sweaters for smaller or older dogs living in colder climates
o Doggie (or kitty) door
o Kitty litter and litter box
o Cat condo (climbing/ scratching post with cubbies)
o Diapers for older dogs
o Pee pads
• Training. Budgeting for dog training is smart for any dog you adopt, even if he or she comes to you already trained. Training with your new pet will bond the two of you, and he or she will learn to follow your way of doing things, which may be a lot different than the former owner’s. Basic obedience classes cost around $100, and help you establish who is in control. These type of training classes are well worth the investment, since you will likely be encountering other pets and owners on a regular basis and you need to know what you can expect from your pet in public.
• Doggie day care or boarding costs. Whether you drop your pet off daily for socialization with other dogs or only when you travel, you’ll need to consider this cost into your budget. Especially if you travel regularly for business, you will want to have a facility lined up where you know your pet will be well cared for in your absence.
The benefits of pet ownership are undeniable. Pets bring joy, love, goofiness, companionship, and adventure to our lives, but these expenses are important to budget for when you’re considering getting a pet. You are basically adding another family member who will have their own specific needs and expenses, so be sure to consider the big picture before you go looking for your special new best friend.