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Paws and Effect – The annual cost of pet ownership and how to reduce costs

There is a good reason that an estimated 74 to 96 million cats and 70 to 80 million dogs live in the U.S. With wagging tails, slobbery kisses, and little whiskers that make for adorable Instagrams, pets give us that warm, cuddly feeling inside. They are part of our family and our best friends, but they can also be a substantial part of our personal budget, especially since owning a pet is a long-term commitment that can last for a couple of decades. In 2016, it was estimated that over $62 billion was spent collectively on pets in the U.S.

According to the ASPCA, the first-year total cost of owning a cat is estimated to be $1,070, and for a dog it is approximately $1,270. For each additional year after that, the cost can be over $500.

The greatest costs are vet fees, spaying or neutering, annual medical exams, pet health insurance, food, training, and litter. Depending on your situation, there could be other costs too like kenneling and a pet deposit if you are renting. A survey from the American Pet Products Association estimates that cat owners pay an average of $196 in routine care and close to $400 on surgical visits; dog owners shell out an average $235 annually and $551 on surgical visits.

This is not to discourage you from adopting a furry friend, but simply to inform you of the additional costs, expected and unexpected, associated with pet ownership. There are also several ways to reduce your monthly pet ownership costs through simple changes listed below.

Shop Around for Pet Insurance

If your pet contracts a major illness or has an accident, the vet bills can rack up fast. Therefore, obtaining pet insurance is a good preventative measure to cover those emergency vet visits and treatments. Also, if your new puppy goes missing a policy can cover costs such as a reward for finding it. Some policies also cover legal costs if your pet gets into a legal snare, like biting a neighbor who ends up suing, that will require hiring a lawyer. While this may seem counter-intuitive for saving money, an insurance policy can protect against unexpected exorbitant costs. Depending on the type of pet, its health needs and projected life expectancy, the rate will vary among carriers so be sure to compare policies to ensure you are getting the most coverage for a competitive price. Typically, a policy on an older pet will cost more, as will the price for an urban pet compared to a rural one. ValuePenguin has a great pet insurance comparison tool with inputs like species, age, breed, and reimbursement level.

DIY Treats

Like packaged human food, packaged dog treats can contain preservatives, unnecessary fat, calories, and chemicals. They can also run up a hefty receipt at the pet store. Keep your pet happy with homemade treats. Look to Pinterest for DIY recipes using wholesome ingredients like oats and peanut butter that you can buy cheaply in bulk.

Cut the Kennel

A quality kennel can run around $25 or more a day for your fur baby to have a place to stay while you’re away. Get together with your other pet-loving friends and form a care group that  take turns caring for one another’s pets when away.

Furry Finance

Even if you do not take active steps to reduce the costs of pet ownership you will still need to budget for at least the essentials—food, litter, dental and health care, and grooming—every month. Include this in your personal budget and review it with a trusted financial advisor.



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