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Updated: Mar 12, 2024

9 Eye-Opening Pet Costs Will Make You a Smarter Owner

Owning a dog or cat can cost you more than $1,000 in the first year. Know what you're getting yourself into and save money on pets.
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Owning a pet is one of life’s biggest joys -- until you realize how much your little doggie, kitty, rabbit or goldfish really costs.

Beyond the initial cost of adoption, there’s a long list of expenses that a pet owner will incur over time.

There’s food to buy, recurring medical expenses, toys and treats to keep your furry one happy, grooming costs, training to pay for, etc.

Not to mention what might happen if your pet needs unexpected veterinary care.

You might not realize all of the costs associated with owning a pet when you look into a shelter window, but it’s important to be cognizant of how adopting one could affect your pocketbook.

To help you understand how much money you have to invest in a pet, let’s use the example of a medium-sized dog and a cat.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 43 million U.S. households own a dog and more than 36 million own a cat.

Beyond the costs of adoption -- which can vary depending on the dog or cat you choose, its sex, etc. -- there’s a litany of other bills you’ll have to pay.

Here’s a breakdown of what a pet might cost you with amounts listed based on data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

One-off costs:

1. First Month Veterinary and Medical Bills and Shots

  • Dog: $70
  • Cat: $130

Once you’ve adopted your pet from the shelter, you’ve got to take your new cuddly creature to the vet.

Initial vaccinations, blood tests, deworming, or a microchip are just a few of the costs that you might have to pay right out of the gate.

2. Pet Supplies

  • Dog collar/leash: $30
  • Dog carrier bag: $60
  • Dog crate: $95
  • Cat collar: $10
  • Cat litter box: $25
  • Cat scratching post: $15
  • Cat carrier bag: $40

Cat and dog essentials will cost you a pretty penny, especially if you’re adopting your first pet.

Getting your home ready for your new dog or cat will require that you buy a bounty of supplies whose costs can really add up.

While a few items are listed above, there are other costs to consider, such as a doggie bed, tag engravings, bowls, cleaning supplies, etc.

3. Spay / Neuter

  • Dog: $200
  • Cat: $145

One of the biggest decisions a pet owner may face is getting their furry creature spayed or neutered.

Spaying and neutering a pet has lifelong health benefits and helps prevent overpopulation.

But critics say it can cause weight gain and a change in the dog’s temperament. If you opt to spay or neuter, you can find low-cost programs at the ASPCA’s website.

Recurring costs:

4. Food

  • Dog: $120
  • Cat: $115

What you spend on your pet food depends on how much you want to spend on your dog or cat’s dietary needs.

Commercial, non-organic dry dog food, for instance, will be the cheapest type you can buy.

It won’t be the healthiest though.

If you want your dog to eat the healthiest pet food available, organic is likely the way to go.

A 30-pound bag of organic, dry dog food might cost you between $40-80.

If you want your dog to eat wet food as well, costs will rise to about $60-120.

If paying for food is a concern, be sure to look out for coupons and consider buying in bulk.

You also might be able to save money on cat and dog food by making your own.

In addition, consider adopting a smaller dog, like a chihuahua, which is among the cheapest breeds to feed.

5. Medical

  • Dog: $235
  • Cat: $160

Exams, vaccinations, heartworm preventative measures and topical flea/tick treatments are all recurring medical expenses you should keep in mind when setting aside a budget for your pet expenses.

6. Other

  • Dog toys/treats: $55
  • Cat toys/treats: $25
  • Cat litter: $165

You’ve got to buy some sort of treat (or two or three or nine) or toy to keep your dog or cat entertained.

Unless you want your furry one to chew up your couches and clothes, it’s best to pick up a few toys.

You don’t have to go overboard buying treats for your pet, but little purchases here and there will add up over the course of time.

For cats, in particular, scoopable litter is a cost that could set you back a few hundred each year.

Special costs:

7. Health Insurance

  • Dog: $225
  • Cat: $175

The coverage you get by purchasing insurance for your pet varies and might include a variety of services and treatments, such as spaying/neutering, vaccinations and heartworm medicine.

Annual deductibles vary depending on the policy.

8. Grooming

  • Dog with long hair: $320

Just like humans, dogs need a bath, nail clipping and a cleaning of the anal glands every so often.

Hairy dogs also need a trim.

Grooming costs really depend on a number of factors: breed, condition of the dog’s coat, its length, etc.

To cut down on a dog’s grooming costs, brush your pet’s hair regularly to reduce the need for periodic bathing.

Overbathing a dog will only dry out its skin.

You can save some money by giving your dog a bath at home. Be sure to use shampoo for dogs.

9. Training

  • Dog: $110

Every dog needs obedience training, especially if you’re a new dog parent clueless about what to do.

After all, a dog sitting and rolling over just doesn’t happen automatically. You should be prepared to fork over some money to teach Fido how to obey.

You might be able to save on training costs by doing it on your own -- reading online and talking with other dog owners.

Beyond the costs listed above, you might also have to pay for boarding facilities, pet sitters, dog walkers, and other services that should factor into your pet budget.

Of course, keep in mind that the price tags listed will vary depending on the type of pet you have and where you live.

Overall, the ASPCA estimates that you will pay $1,580 for a medium-sized dog in the first year and $1,035 for a cat.

If you’re thinking of adopting a pet, you can find estimated costs for a range of animals listed at the ASPCA’s website.