THE COST OF OWNING A PET
Anyone who has ever had the opportunity of owning a pet will tell you the same thing - they are not just a pet but they are a beloved member of the family. We know from our own experiences as children, and those of our friends and family that have pets, that they are treated and cared for just as their own child. Owning a pet is a wonderful experience and studies have even shown that pet ownership has proved beneficial to both our health and social well-being. We all want the best for our pets just as we would our own family, but with that comes significant commitment and inevitably, significant costs.
Both of us have recently explored the idea of bringing a pet into our homes and continually hear the same line from everyone “it’s an enormous commitment, both time and money.” So, as young investment professionals we did what we know best, looked at the data! We were amazed to see that it not only requires a large commitment of time, but also requires planning for the costs incurred during the lifetime of a pet, which are ever increasing given the increased sophistication of medical treatments available. In fact the American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that in America alone 58.5 billion dollars was spent on pets in 2014.
We decided to look at the costs associated with owning either a cat or dog given these were the two most common household pets owned based on surveys conducted by the APPA, and the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), along with similar figures from the Canadian Animal Health Institute.
The initial purchase price for pets can vary whether you decide to purchase directly from a breeder or adopt from a shelter (which often charge a fee) and will also vary widely based on the breed. In addition, there are one time start-up costs such as vaccines, tags/microchips, spaying/neutering, toys, leashes, scratching posts, crates, litter boxes and training that average to around $565 for dogs and $365 for cats. There are the annual expenses, food being the largest with approximately $15.2 billion spent in the United States in 2014 alone. There are also routine expenses such as grooming, treats, litter etc. As you can see the first year of ownership if you include the initial cost of the pet itself, is over a thousand dollars or higher, with annual expenses ranging between $700 and $1200/ year depending on the type of pet and the breed. But wait, we haven’t even touched on the elephant in the room, the vet!
Veterinarian care is by far the largest expense of owning a pet and is often over looked during the initial excitement of adding a new family member. In fact a 2015-16 survey from the APPA showed average annual vet costs for dogs of $1,436 and $1,141 for cats. Couple that with the annual expenses noted above, and over the course of a 10 year lifespan your dog or cat could cost over $20,000.
While there are many factors to consider when deciding on whether or not to purchase a pet, there are steps to take to prepare for the costs over their lifetime. First, create a monthly budget of what you can afford. There are numerous websites that have worksheets for preparing budgets, specifically based on the type of pet and breed. Also consider utilizing online sources that compare foods. Food is a huge cost, as we already noted, and there are some costly organic brands that are not all they are cracked up to be. Second, negotiate on the price. Breeders want the best for their animals and even go through interviews with potential owners to ensure that they are a good fit. If the breeder feels you will be a great pet owner, they will be willing to negotiate on price. Lastly, set aside an emergency fund as an emergency surgery for pets can cost thousands of dollars and if you are not prepared may leave you with a very difficult choice.