Can You Afford to Own a Pet?

One of my best friends just got a puppy and, as a dog lover, I am BEYOND excited for her! Since we got our dog a little over two years ago, her and I have been having a lot of discussions comparing our experiences thus far and one thing that has come up a few times is how much things cost. While the idea of getting a pet is absolutely wonderful, and so is the reality pet ownership most of the time, everyone should be sure to determine whether or not they can actually comfortably afford to own a pet. Below I share with you some of the costs associated with pet ownership.

Meet Jack!

For reference, I figured I would share with you how much these expenses are or were for our dog, Jack. Jack is a 3 year-old Great Dane/Border Collie mix, weighing about 75 pounds.

Cost of the Animal

The first and probably most obvious pet expense is the cost to actually purchase the animal. Pure-bred animals always cost more, so if you have your heart set on buying from a breeder, make sure you have budgeted for that. The average cost of pure bred animals varies, but for purebred dogs generally ranges anywhere from $500-$3,000 depending on the breed, location and genetics of the dog. For a purebred cat, the cost ranges from $300-$1,200.

Another option is to adopt a pet from a shelter. There is no guarantee on the breed in this case, but the cost is generally significantly lower. The average cost of cat adoption is $50-$100 and for dog adoption it is anywhere from $100-$500. We adopted our dog for a donation fee of $250 back in 2015.

Pet Accessories

When you first get your pet, you will most likely need to purchase a bunch of things for the first time. Some of these things are food and water bowls, pet bed, toys, collar, crate, litter box, litter and pet cleaning supplies (to clean up any messes). These are just a few items. Depending on the size of your animal, these costs can vary significantly, but when you are purchasing multiple items at once it can add up quite quickly. Pet accessories cost us approximately $600 when we first got Jack (it has since increased, as we’ve had some beds and toys destroyed in the past 2 and a half years.).

Vet Bills

When you first get your pet, you will most likely need to bring him/her to the vet to get checked out. While the office visit itself will cost you, your pet may also need shots. Expect to drop about $300 on this… annually. Unfortunately, shots are not a one-time deal if you want your pet to stay healthy. You may also need to purchase medicine for your pet, such as tick-prevention and heartworm pills. We give these to our dog every month.

Pet Insurance

To help minimize your vet bills in the case that you have any unexpected tragedies, you may want to get pet insurance. Jack’s insurance is $35 per month, but it has already come in handy. Our dog cracked a tooth while chewing a bone and ended up need it extracted. This cost us over $700 out-of-pocket, but thankfully we got reimbursed by his insurance.

Food and Treats

The price of pet food varies depending on the type of food you get. We spoil our dog more than we spoil ourselves most of the time, so we buy all-natural pet food for him. This runs us about $60 per month. Since my husband and I both work full-time, we go through a whole routine before we leave the house that requires lots of treats (this makes our anxious dog associate us with something positive). We spend approximately $25 per month on his treats, give or take.


While you are not required to buy your pet toys, most people do. Thankfully, toys are not something that need to be purchased on a consistent basis, but rather just in the beginning and sporadically throughout the pet’s life as the toys get destroyed or old. We spend approximately $20 every 4 months or so on new toys for Jack.

Pet Care

You may need someone to care for your pet while you are gone, whether you are at work or away on vacation. We have a dog walker come everyday during lunchtime since my husband and I are gone for a minimum of 9 1/2 hours on a normal work day. This costs us $100 per week (super expensive). Occasionally, we also need to pay someone to let him out when we have events and the like going on. This usually costs us about $30 per hour spent with him. Luckily, my parents watch Jack for us when we go on longer vacations, so we save a lot of money. My in-laws also frequently let him out or watch him for us when we are out to dinner or other outings for longer periods of time.


As you can, pets are not cheap. These costs discussed above are for more expensive animals, too. Pets like fish, hamsters, turtles, snakes, rabbits, etc/ are usually significantly less expensive. If you are thinking of buying or adopting an animal, make sure you have all these costs budgeted for first, so that you are not stuck deciding between getting your animal food or getting yourself food each month. As long as you can comfortably afford the costs of pet ownership, I say go for it! Adopting Jack was one of the best decisions we ever made!!

Does anyone have any additional costs I may have missed?  How much do these things run you with your pet?

19 thoughts on “Can You Afford to Own a Pet?

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  1. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way with a cat. 6 months in and it’s ear puffed up like a balloon. $600 later the cat had a button sewed to its ear and I was wondering what the heck I just spent so much money on. It’s easy to talk yourself into the day to day costs like food but it’s these types of expenses that can kill a budget in a hurry.

    1. Ouch. Sorry to hear that! That’s why I highly recommend pet insurance to everyone. Freak things can be insanely expensive and it’s easier to build $30 or so into your monthly budget than come up with $700!

  2. I spent $5 on nose lotion for my doggo. It’s probably unnecessary but her nose and paws are dry and they recommend not using human lotion because it might soften too much. I just can’t picture my baby with cracked and dry skin. The little things really add up, especially pet insurance. Hopefully we’ll never have to use it!

  3. I’m a stepmom to two cats. We budget $130 per month on them (cat litter, food, etc.). One of them needed all his teeth removed last year 🙁
    Otherwise, I think they’re pretty low maintenance. We have loved ones nearby who can feed them when we go on vacation, which is a privilege.

    One thing I’ve never been clear on is whether or not pet insurance is worth it.

    I’ve always wondered about the cost of dogs because they need to be walked during the day. Some of my coworkers would run home during lunch to do it, but that always seemed so stressful to me.

    1. Lol at the “stepmom” part! $130 per month is a pretty good amount. I mean definitely in line with our expenses (less the dog walker).

      It was def stressful running home during my lunch break, but it beat spending the $400 per month or so that we spend now!

      For us, pet insurance has already been worth it due to the emergency tooth situation we had. But I think it’s similar to humans where people say you never realize how important it is until you have to use it for something!

  4. We have a cat and a dog and yes they expenses can add up. Overall we’ve been pretty fortunate though…a friend of ours has racked up several thousand dollars in vet bills for their dogs. They seem to be at the vet on a weekly basis!

  5. We had a betta fish for several months – Blurry. He passed away and now I’m not sure if I want to replace him yet. The cost was trivial, probably less than $15 for him, his bowl, food, and water cleaning.

  6. Insightful post Courtney! It always amazes me how many people get pets without thought to their lifestyle and finances, and simply make the decision on emotion. As you have outlined, pets can be quite expensive. I have a mixed breed lab, and she has been a wonderful pet. She is about 10 years old now. I first got her when I was in college and living on student loans at the time. Talk about dumb. At that time of my life I had no business having a dog, much less the extra funds for a pet.

    I am glad I have her of course, and wouldn’t trade her for the world, but it is very important to understand the financial implications that come with owning a pet.

    For example, two years ago, my dog wound up with a growth around her rib cage. It was a localized type of cancer, and I have had to pay twice to get that mass removed, at a cost of around $500 or so each time including the meds to go along with it. Fortunately, today, I am in the financial position to take care of unexpected occurrences such as this, but even then it still adds up.

    1. Thanks, Chad! I’m sorry to hear about your dog’s health issues, but it brings up such a good point. People wait until they feel financially-ready to have kids, buy a house, buy a car etc. yet they buy animals without even blinking an eye. While it is great to rescue an animal, the financial cost can put a huge damper on how great it is to own a pet.

      I’m happy to hear you made it work while in college and still have your dog, too! I hate hearing stories about people giving dogs back because they didn’t realize how much work or how expensive it would be!

  7. Hi Courtney,
    My wife and daughters want a dog. I don’t because I’ll probably end up taking care of it. My kids swear up and down that they’ll do it but I’ve owned pets before and know how much work it is. I DID NOT know how much it costs so I’m glad I came across this. I definitely don’t want to pay over $100/mo for insurance, food, treats, toys, etc…thanks for the reality-check!

    1. Hey Darren! Well, you of course could skip out on insurance, but we’ve found it comes in handy. We also have a large dog so the costs do vary, but it certainly is expensive!

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