Pets bring joy to their owners, filling their homes and lives with an abundance of energy and companionship. But it’s also important to recognize pet ownership encompasses more than evening strolls and furry cuddles: It’s a financial and emotional long-term responsibility.

Outside of providing food and shelter, pets require routine healthcare and pet insurance, care providers and groomers, supplies, training and more. Delve into the costs, commitment and expectations of responsible pet ownership to determine if having a pet is a good choice for you and your lifestyle.


Are You Ready for a Pet?

Some people may get a pet without thinking through all it entails. Pet ownership requires a lot of responsibility, so you need to be ready to take it on before getting one. To determine if you’re ready for pet ownership, there are several factors to consider prior to getting a pet.


What to Expect as a Pet Owner

It’s important to know what to expect when you have a pet aside from companionship. It's good to consider how pet ownership will affect your time, energy and finances. Taking a step back to review the positives and negatives pet ownership brings is a good idea before getting a pet.

The Rewards of Pet Companionship

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 85% of dog owners and 75% of cat owners consider their pets as part of their family. And it doesn’t come as a surprise. There’s no denying that there are several benefits associated with owning a pet. Besides much-needed companionship, your lifestyle and mental health can also benefit from having a pet.


Pets provide companionship.

Isolation and loneliness can often lead to early stages of depression. Some pet owners continuously talk to their pets, which allows them to establish a connection. People with pets are more likely to feel needed and wanted, which gives them a sense of purpose.


They can help you deal with anxiety.

People with anxiety have difficulty enjoying life because they experience excessive, persistent and crippling worry about everyday scenarios. Being around pets lowers your cortisol levels, which results in less stress and anxiety.


You can become more active with a pet.

Of course, it doesn’t apply if you have fish (although even looking at an aquarium can lower stress levels), but if you have a dog, walking it can help both of you meet your exercise requirements.


They can help you widen your social circle.

Pet owners have an immediate common ground — their furry companions! It can make connecting and building relationships with other people easier.


They create an established routine.

Most pets require regular feeding times or an exercise schedule. A consistent pattern can work wonders for your pet’s behavior and it can help you cope with change and build healthy habits, too.

The Realities of Pet Ownership

Now that we’ve explored the various advantages of having a pet, it’s time to take a look at some of the challenges of pet ownership. Having a pet can be costly, time-consuming and require you to make some lifestyle changes.


Owning a pet may eat into your finances.

Having a pet is expensive. Your budget will increase due to your pet’s needs: food, toys and healthcare. You should also consider purchasing pet insurance for preventive and emergency care, which adds to your expenses. It’s a good idea to factor these into your budget before you get a pet. It can give you a good idea of what you can expect.


Your accommodation options may be limited.

Some people travel with their pets. If you are one of them, you’ll need to make sure your accommodations are pet-friendly. Since not all places allow them, it may limit your options and require you to research and contact businesses to ensure you don’t experience any unforeseen complications at your destination.


You can’t leave your pet home alone.

If you have a pet, you can’t just pick up and go on a trip like you used to. Now, you’ll have to hire a pet sitter or have your pet boarded to ensure someone takes care of your pet while you’re away.


Having a pet is energy-consuming.

You can’t ignore your pet just because you’re tired — or even when you’re sick. Older pet owners might not have the energy to take their pets for a walk daily. If you know your schedule doesn’t leave you with a lot of free time, or if you’re not in the best health condition, you may want to consider getting a pet that doesn’t need as much exercise, such as a cat, bird or fish.


How Much Does It Cost to Have a Pet in the US?


If you’re wondering how much it costs to have a pet, the answer is: It varies. Costs can fluctuate based on several factors, such as the type of pet you have, age, breed and size. For example, the bigger your dog is, the more costly it is to feed it. You’ll spend an average of $212 to feed a small dog and a large one can cost up to $400. Additionally, it is typically more affordable to have a mixed-breed pet than a purebred.


Responsibilities of Pet Ownership

Pet ownership is a privilege. It’s easy to say you want one, but do you have what it takes to provide genuine, long-term care? The rewards of owning a pet come with responsibilities, ranging from providing your pets food and water to catering to their need to socialize. You must realize that not living up to your responsibilities can harm your pet, your neighbors and your finances.

Basic Needs of a Pet

Regardless of whether you have a dog, a cat or a more exotic animal, they all have basic needs. Proper pet care is part of your responsibility as an owner and it demonstrates love and care to your pet. From providing the basics to ensuring they have a happy, full life, pet ownership requires dedication and continuous responsibility to your animal.


The Average Cost of Pet’s Basic Needs

When considering the financial impact of owning a pet, it’s essential to detail and estimate your pet expenses so you determine your budget. Although there may be some costs that you could avoid (like accessories) or can’t predict (like an emergency), you can’t skip your pets’ basic needs.

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There’s no denying it — owning a pet can be expensive. That said, there are several ways to manage expenses. Although you can’t skimp on basic needs, it is possible to find more affordable ways to get them without sacrificing your pet’s welfare.

  • Buy in bulk: This works best when you’re buying food. Since you know it’ll be something you’ll keep purchasing, it’s best to stock up on it. Sometimes buying it wholesale can lead to a lower price.
  • Coupons and compare: If you’re looking for bed crates, litter boxes or scratching posts, don’t buy the first one you see. Shopping around allows you to compare prices, find better deals and take advantage of retailer’s coupons and discounts. This can even apply to finding the right vet!
  • Make adjustments: You may need to reassess your expenses in other parts of your life. Perhaps cutting back on your daily run to the coffee kiosk can help you set aside funds for your pet’s needs.
  • Find pet-sitting pals: Arrange pet care with friends or neighbors who also have pets when you’ll be away for long periods of time or vacations. A pet sitter or boarder can be expensive, so if you can avoid it, do so.
  • Do DIY grooming: Instead of taking your pet to a groomer, invest in grooming tools. Several sources, such as YouTube tutorials, can help you do it yourself. However, if it’s not your cup of tea, buy a brush and keep your pet well-groomed. You may still need to visit the groomer, but not as often as before.

Medical Responsibility and Checkups

Part of being a pet parent is ensuring your pet stays healthy. This goes beyond purchasing quality food and getting in enough walks and dog park runs. If you decide to become a pet owner, you need to understand how important preventative care can be. You don’t want to wait until your pet is ill before getting into the vet. Be proactive and establish a good relationship with a vet office you and your pet like and maintain your agreed upon pet healthcare plan.


The Average Cost of Medical Checkups

Medical care for pets is crucial for their overall well-being, but pet owners have to be ready for its potential impact on their finances. Having a general idea of these costs allows you to set aside funds and make better financial decisions.

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The amount of money you can spend on your pet’s medical care can be overwhelming. There are several strategies that can lower your pet’s medical expenses.

  • Don’t skip your annual exam. Yes, you’ll have to shell out money for this, but it’ll help you detect possible health problems early. It’ll end up cheaper than trying to cure a full-blown health issue.
  • Personalize your pet’s shots. You don’t have to get all the vaccines your vet offers. Identify which ones are optional and make sure you get the ones mandated by state law.
  • Spaying/Neuter your pet. This procedure can prevent deadly diseases down the road like testicular and breast cancer. You can look for local shelters that provide low-cost or no-cost surgeries.
  • Feed them quality food. Think of high-quality food as an investment. It may be more cost-effective than homemade grub. Avoid overfeeding your pet. Obesity often leads to other health conditions.
  • Quit smoking. Secondhand smoke impacts your pets, too. It can cause multiple conditions, such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, eye infections and lymphoma. It may also lead to several types of cancer, the most common being oral, lung and nasal.
  • Consider pet insurance. Purchasing coverage for your pet means paying premiums per month, but it can help with expenses if your pet is seriously ill or injured. If you want routine visits covered, look for a policy that includes a wellness plan.

Should You Purchase Pet Insurance?

Sometimes, no matter how much we take care of our pets, the worst happens. Either they develop a severe illness or are seriously injured. Usually, it’s only when things like these happen that pet owners realize how vital pet insurance is. Unfortunately, unless you invested in it while your pet was in good health, you’ll have to shoulder the necessary expenses out-of-pocket.

The average monthly cost of pet insurance is $27.59 for dogs and $14.96 for cats. It’s a small price to pay for the assurance of coverage against unexpected expenses. Plans are typically customizable, so you can design your plan to fit your budget.


Training and Socialization for Pets

More than providing your pet with the proper nutrition, adequate exercise and preventive healthcare, part of being a responsible pet owner means having your pet undergo training and socialization. Pets don’t exist in a vacuum — you'll eventually expose them to other people and animals. Socialized pets are less likely to become a danger to others and themselves. Training classes help your pets become better behaved.


The Average Cost of Training for Pets

On average, training for pets ranges from $40 to $400. Among different pet owners, it’s those who have dogs who typically invest in training classes. There are several types of training classes you can use for your pets. These affect how much you pay.

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Procuring the services of a certified trainer makes pet training convenient — you won’t have to do the legwork yourself. However, whatever the pay-off is, it’s going to cost you. If you want to find affordable alternatives, the following are some ideas you can try.

  • Take your pet out for a walk or run: Dogs, in particular, have a lot of energy to expend. If they don’t have an outlet, it’ll manifest in annoying behaviors such as excessive barking, digging and chewing. It won’t solve all behavior problems, but you may notice improvements in your pet’s demeanor.
  • Strike a deal with a new trainer: If you know someone who’s trying to get into the pet training business, you may be able to get lower rates. Or negotiate a deal that involves him providing his services in exchange for a review. If you have other pet lovers in your circle, they may even help you out of their own volition.
  • Hit the library: There are a lot of resources that can help you train your pet on your own. Experts have published books and certified trainers have released videos. You can purchase all of these, but a more affordable alternative is checking out what’s available in your local library. You may find the same resources for free.
  • Consider clicker training: Harness the power of positive reinforcement. You can buy a clicker for as low as $2 from an ordinary pet store. You use it to mark a positive behavior and follow it up with a treat. Over time, your pet will associate the behavior with the treat, encouraging them to repeat it.
  • Find low-cost training in local animal shelters: You may be able to find cheaper training classes and seminars. You may also meet on-site trainers who can answer questions about pet behavior at no cost.

Social Responsibilities of Pet Owners

You have to consider the impact of your pet on your neighbors and community. Part of your social responsibility is to ensure your pet is microchipped and registered. It benefits you in the long-run since it can help you find your pet if it gets lost. Other social responsibilities revolve around keeping your pet under control in public places and ensuring it’s confined when at your home.


Getting Exotic Animal Liability Insurance

Although most pet owners prefer to have cats and dogs, others opt for having exotic animals. When you think about exotic pets, most people think of snakes and tarantulas. You might be surprised to find out that some birds, gerbils and rabbits also fall under this category.

Exotic pets may have more unique healthcare requirements and need vets with specialized knowledge. It means that it’s best to have pet insurance. Plans also include third-party liability coverage, which can help you with expenses if your pet causes harm to someone. Claims extend to situations wherein your pet may pose a danger to people, property or other animals.

Leaving Your Pet Alone At Home

Although most pet owners prefer to take their pets with them during trips, it isn’t possible all the time. In situations when you need to leave your pet home, part of your responsibility includes ensuring that it’ll remain safe and well-taken cared for in your absence.

You have several options to ensure this happens and the following can help you come up with a plan if you need to be away for an extended period of time.


Establishing a Pet Emergency Fund

Unforeseen costs can throw a wrench in your budget. Whether it’s an emergency vet visit or repairs to your dog run, these expenses can take your budget off-track. Having funds set aside can ensure that you won’t need to dip into your savings too much, too often.


How Much Should You Set Aside?

Start your emergency pet fund with around $1,000 to $2,000. It may sound like a lot, but you’d be surprised how fast it may go.

Look at it this way: Let’s say your insurance policy reimburses up to 80% of covered expenses and you have a $250 deductible. If you have a $5,000 bill, you still have to shell out $1,200. A different plan — one with a $100 deductible and an 80% reimbursement limit — requires you to pay $580.


Resources for Pet Owners

Pet ownership requires a lot of thought and research. The following resources can help you find your future pet, learn more about the costs of owning a pet and budget accordingly.

Find a Pet

  • PetSmart's Find a Pet: PetSmart’s locator can help you find your ideal pet. Whether you’re looking for a dog, a cat or something more exotic, you can use its tool to narrow down your search in your area.
  • Adopt a Pet Through PetSmart: Adopting a pet is also an option for first-time pet owners. You can adopt through PetSmart or other adoption centers using this locator tool to help you find a nearby PetSmart store or an adoption center to adopt a pet.
  • The Shelter Pet Project's Pet Search: The Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund partner together to educate people and break down misconceptions about pet shelters. Adoptions centers aren’t the only places where you can find a pet. You can find a shelter near you and see if your future furbaby is there using their “Pet Search” tool. It also provides you with adoption fees.

Pet Calculators

  • Cost of Owning a Dog Calculator: First-time pet owners tend to underestimate how much a dog can impact their finances. See how much you’ll need to budget with Omni’s pet expense calculator. You can also add your dog’s size into its calculator. Omni has other pet calculators you can use to help you budget and plan for your new pet.
  • Dog Size Calculator: Several factors affect your pet expenses. If you own a dog, their size often determines how much you spend on food. Omni’s dog size calculator can help you predict your puppy’s adult weight.
  • Pet Food Cost Calculator: Clinical Nutrition Service has a pet food cost calculator at the end of its article. You can calculate your pet’s daily, weekly and monthly feeding costs to help you budget.
  • Calorie Counter for Dogs & Cats: Pet Nutrition Alliance has calorie counter calculators for both dogs and cats to help keep your pet within a healthy weight. Its calculator also provides estimated initial daily calories and a suggested feeding amount.
  • Veterinary Cost Calculator: Animal Advocate Pet Hospital’s cost calculator helps you estimate your general exams, vaccines and dental procedures. You can calculate costs for multiple pets, exam sessions and the number of vaccinations.

Financial Assistance Programs and Services

  • Waggle: For pet owners struggling with veterinary expenses, Waggle lets you create a fundraiser to help you pay for your pet’s needs. Waggle also partners with social media influencers, celebrities and nonprofit organizations, which can help you get grants and sponsorships.
  • The Magic Bullet Fund: The Magic Bullet Fund helps pets with a cancer diagnosis get the financial assistance needed for treatment. You can apply for financial assistance through its website. Or, if you would, you can donate to a fund to help someone’s pet.

About Nathan Paulus

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Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.