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Preparing to become a Pet Owner

Many of us like pets and have at least one around. They are excellent companions and for many, they are like a family member. But, supporting a pet involves some financial considerations; going overboard with pet care can cause a dent in one’s budget, similar to any other recurring cost. Canadian Industry Statistics data (from 2009) reveals that pet and pet supplies stores had combined operating revenues of $1.4 billion in 2009 (up from $1.2 billion in 2008). The page also shows that sales at pet and pet supplies stores have increased 6.3% per year on average since 2000. With continued, if not rising, demand, it is important to review ways to keep pet costs down, while continuing to provide them good care. This post looks at the costs involved, primarily when bringing home a dog or cat.

Consider Adoption

Bringing home a pet from the pound saves money as such pets are bound to cost less than purebred ones. Unless the pedigree of an animal is of great significance, adoption might be a good way to provide home to animals from the pound. Typically, pets from shelters are available after they have been neutered, microchipped, and given their shots.

If opting for a pedigreed animal, then it is necessary to learn their specific behavioral issues, grooming requirements, etc. to prepare and allocate a row on the monthly budget sheet. As with other life expenses, it is prudent to shop around to keep grooming and sterilization costs low.

Other One-time Costs

Depending on the animal, some basic equipment such as collar, leash, food and water dishes, brush, litter box, scoop, and toys may be required. If not adopting, then neutering and microchipping may have to be paid for.

Ongoing Costs

  • Vet. Finding a good veterinarian, who does not drain your monthly budget is essential and knowing about different costs such as consultation fees, teeth cleaning charges, special charges for overnight stays, etc. would help in determining monthly pet care expenditure. The presence of a general emergency fund will alleviate some financial pain if an unexpected visit due to illness or injury is required.
  • Food. Food and treats may cost around $500 per year.
  • Licensing. Although licensing fees may not amount to much (< $50 per year), they still need to be considered while preparing a budget.
  • Grooming. Depending on the kind of animal, nail clipping, haircuts, etc. may be required.
  • Pet Insurance. While I would not buy one, some owners may prefer to buy pet insurance for the peace of mind it can offer. But, as with life insurance, please read the terms carefully and decide if the restrictions placed (certain breeds may not be covered, approved vets may be needed, etc.) are worth the while.

While comparison shopping, also include web stores to see if you can get a deal. Please browse this link to compare prices for food, toys, and medicines.

With it being tax season, it would be remiss to not point out a couple of oddball pet-related tax deductions (among others), courtesy of TurboTax.

Do you have pets? What do you spend on your pet on an annual basis? Are there any other ways to save on pet care that one should be aware of?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.  You can read his other articles here.

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About the author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Marianne March 26, 2012, 11:04 am

    Pets can cost a little to a lot!! Some of that depends on the owner and some of that depends on the health of the pet. Our dog has had few health issues and has been fairly inexpensive to keep. My sister has a dog with a leg problem though that has required surgery on more than one occasion. Her dog has been fairly expensive. Research on the breed can prevent some of this (some breeds are more prone to health issues than others) and the rest is just luck or lack thereof.
    Besides vet bills, pets don’t need a lot but there are a lot of things pet owners can buy. My dog has one ball, no clothes and one leash and collar. This does not seem to be the norm. I am not knocking those who buy more stuff for their pets and in years past we’ve sometimes bought our dog more treats or toys or bones but we’ve settled down to where we are now and she seems happy as usual.
    One thing that I am careful with is pet food. Our cat developed a urinary tract infection when he was fairly young and the vet looked at me like I was an idiot when I told them I bought his food at the grocery store- and I wasn’t even buying the least expensive grocery store brand! I didn’t realize at the time that not all pet food is created equal and because the food that I had chosen wasn’t quite nutritious enough I ended up spending the money I had saved buying the less expensive food on vet bills. That said, we’ve switched from an expensive pet store dog food to a natural brand from Walmart and it seems to be going OK. We switched on a recommendation from our kennel so I felt a little better knowing about her experiences.

  • Michael James March 26, 2012, 12:38 pm

    How things have changed since I was a kid. If one of our pets needed a $50 treatment from a vet, the message would have been “well kids, it looks like Lucky isn’t going to make it.” Now you can’t even have a pet put down for $50.

  • Nolan Matthias March 26, 2012, 1:07 pm

    One thing to consider is the food. A high quality food can be more expensive but require only half of the food. For example, our dog requires 2 cups of Acana food per day, but 3 cups of Purina. The Acana is more expensive, but you use about 1/3 less, and it is better for the dog.

  • Sarlock March 26, 2012, 2:30 pm

    We have 3 German Shepherds and they eat us out of house and home. We use Acana and I’ve found the same thing as Nolan… the food is more expensive, but because of the high quality protein content they don’t eat nearly as much as they do with the lesser value brands. That said, they still easily go through $150+ in food per month ($2,000/year!). We also buy bones for them frequently to keep their teeth and gums clean (and works wonders on bad doggy breath too!). Food combined with other things, it’s about $4,000/year for 3 German Shepherds. But they’re great with the kids and since we live on acreage, they are fantastic at keeping the bears and coyotes at bay… so we certainly get a return value for the money we invest in them.

  • Shaun March 26, 2012, 5:37 pm

    We adopted our golden from a service dog society. We raised him as a puppy for service and when he decided he didn’t want to be a working dog, we got a chance to adopt him.

    We spend at least $100/month on food, and we don’t buy expensive food. However he is a lean 90 lbs.

    Probably will average $200/year in vet bills, $70/year in flea/tick/vaccines.

    He gets lots of toys a presents, so no expense there.

    But it is great to have the big goof at home and he gets me out walking.

  • DAvid March 26, 2012, 11:46 pm

    Don’t forget the costs of the pet hotel if you have to travel without your pet.

  • J March 28, 2012, 12:24 am

    While it’s important to know the costs of owning a pet before getting into it, please don’t be thrifty when it comes to caring for your animal. This doesn’t mean spending $400 on spa treatments every few months or buying expensive toys, but get quality food (or make your own), and for the love of god don’t cheap out when they get sick or injured and need care. You don’t necessarily have to do everything the vet(s) suggest, but that animal’s life and well-being is in your control so be kind.

  • Craig March 28, 2012, 11:34 pm

    I laugh reading some of the comments. People just justify spending $200 a month in food on the family pet and completely agree with Steven Zussino spending $250 for food for his entire family. LOL!

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