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By: AgFed Credit Union

Welcome to AgFed Credit Union's MoneyDig blog! 

Get confident about your personal finances with a number of articles, tips, advice and more.


Understanding the True Costs of Owning Pets

 Apr 12, 2021
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Are you thinking about expanding your family with a pet? Before you head to a local animal shelter, it's a good idea to consider the financial commitment adding a new member to your family brings. Pets can provide companionship and cuddles, but they also need to eat, go to the vet, and be cared for regularly. As a pet parent, you’re responsible for seeing to their needs.

To make sure having a dog, cat, or other furry friend works with your budget, add up the initial, ongoing, and surprise costs associated with pet parenthood.


Calculate the Upfront Costs

How much you need to pay for a pet upfront depends in large part on where you find the pet. If you go to a pet store, you'll have to purchase your new companion, which can cost anywhere from $20 up to several hundred dollars, depending on the type of animal or breed. If you find your furry friend at a shelter, you might have to pay an adoption fee, which can range from about $50 to more than $200, depending on the type of animal and their age. 

Your new friend is likely to need some gear when they come home with you. Dogs, cats, and rabbits need a carrier to safely make the trip to their new home. Dogs often need a crate to sleep and hang out in as they become accustomed to their new surroundings.

Some upfront costs you can expect with a new pet include:

  • Carrier: $50
  • Crate: $50-$150
  • Litter box: $20
  • Collar and leash: $25
  • Cage (for small pets): $50-$100
  • Scratching post: $15
  • Spay/neuter surgery: $150-$250
  • Pet comfort needs (pillow, bed, toys): $50-$100


Add Up Ongoing Costs

Pets also have ongoing expenses that you will want to plan for before you decide to add to your family. They need food, vet care, toys, and possibly pet sitters. Some pets need regular grooming, too.

A few regular expenses you can expect to have as a pet parent include:

  • Food: Anywhere from $50 per year for a small rodent to over $400 per year for a large dog. The type of food you feed your pet will also affect its cost. Higher-quality food tends to be more expensive than lower-quality pet food, but can also help your pet live a longer, healthier life. 
  • Medical care: Anywhere from $70 to several hundred dollars per year. Your pet will need vaccinations and routine check-ups to make sure they're in good health. The sooner a vet detects a problem, the easier and cheaper it is to treat.
  • Cat litter: Around $150 per year, depending on the brand of litter and how many cats are in your family.
  • Pet health insurance: Around $200 per year, depending on the age of your pet and the type of animal. Pet insurance could help reduce the cost of vet bills if your pet were to become ill. Since different policies offer different types of coverage, it's important to do research before buying to make sure your pet's policy will protect them (and protect your wallet) in case of illness or injury.
  • Pet sitters: The cost of a pet sitter will vary considerably based on how much attention your pet needs. If you work outside the home every day and have a dog, you might have to pay someone to walk them daily. If you have a cat and often travel, you'll most likely need to hire a sitter to check in on them when you're away from home.  
  • Grooming: $50+ per session. The cost of grooming depends on the services you purchase, the length of your animal's hair, and the type of pet you have.


Don't Forget the Surprise Expenses

Pets can be full of surprises. Your new dog might eat your favorite pair of shoes, or your new kitten might swallow some tinsel. Sometimes, those surprises can be pretty expensive, especially if they involve a visit to the vet. To be on the safe side, you might want to have a pet emergency fund set up, with a few hundred dollars saved. That way, you'll have the money to cover the cost of whatever surprise Fido or Kitty throws your way.

We’re Here to Help

Pets have a way of bringing us joy and often offer the perfect companionship. While we may not be able to help you pick out your furry friend, we can certainly help you become financially prepared for pet parenthood. Opening a special savings account with payroll deduction or automatic transfers is a great way to put your savings on autopilot.

Simply email us at or give us a call at 202-479-2270 get started.


Your Turn

Are you considering adding a furry (or scaly or feathery) friend to your household this year? Tell us about it in the comments!

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