Welcoming a pet into your home (and your budget)

Canada Life - May 01, 2021
Before welcoming an animal into your home and heart, take some time to make sure you also have room in your budget
Woman and her dog playing on the floor

It’s not hard to see the appeal of a pet – who wouldn’t want a furry, feathered or scaly friend to love you unconditionally? And while they can be expensive, most pet parents will say they’re worth it. Before welcoming an animal into your home and heart, take some time to make sure you also have room in your budget. Caring for a creature whose life depends on you is a big responsibility. If times get tough, you want to make sure money worries aren’t affecting decisions about your pet’s wellbeing. 

Over your pet’s lifetime, you’ll have a few startup costs, ongoing costs and possible emergency costs. If you’re considering a cat or a dog, be prepared to spend thousands each year. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association estimates the annual cost of owning a dog at $3,242 and $2,083 for a cat.1

Create a list of estimated costs for items within these three categories. It might seem overwhelming, but once you’ve prepared a workable budget you can focus on the joys of adoption without the stress.

1. Starting out on the right foot (paw)

Your pet’s adoption fee is the most obvious first cost. For a dog or cat, this could be under $200 or it could cost thousands if you’re after a special breed. 

  • Tip: Consider adopting from a shelter or rescue organization. You’ll help change the life of a pet in need. Reputable rescues can help you find a perfect match.

Make sure to find out what’s included in the adoption fee. Vaccinations and spaying or neutering may be included but if not, you’ll need to make arrangements. You’ll also need supplies for your pet’s new home. Depending on the animal, you may need items such as a bed, crate or cage, carrier, leash, scratching post, litter box, food bowl and toys. 

2. Living their best life

You’ll also need to budget for ongoing expenses like food and regular check-ups at the vet. Feeding your pet high-quality food can help them stay healthy. Talk to your vet and do your research, and keep in mind you may have to switch foods at a later stage in life.

Consider your lifestyle. How much time do you spend at home? Do you work long hours or are you regularly on the road? Include costs of looking after your pet while you’re away, like a pet sitter or kennel fees. 

If you’re adopting a dog, be prepared for them to need a lot of exercise – you may need to hire a dog walker if you’re not available. You may also decide to enroll in obedience classes. Some breeds may need regular grooming. And be prepared to replace the occasional household item during your pet’s rambunctious years.

3. Preparing for the unexpected

While you hope it never happens, you also need to prepare for the worst. Your pet may have a health scare that requires costly diagnostics or even surgery. Take a look at the lists from Catster and Dogster magazines to understand the most common emergency visits for cats and dogs. There may come a time where you need to have several thousand dollars available to save your beloved companion’s life. It will be emotionally stressful, but if you’re prepared you can avoid the additional financial stress. Whether you opt for pet insurance or self-insure, make sure funds are available to help you in unexpected and urgent situations.

What did you wish you knew before adopting?

Pet owners share stories about costs they weren’t fully prepared for:

“This is Khloe. She's a Saint Bernese. Although I received her as a birthday gift, I wish I knew not only what the cost of food was going to be, but the grooming costs! She has so much hair. Another big one is the boarding cost that someone might not think about. Not too many people have their hand up to babysit a dog this large.”

- Lori D. 

“This is Sandman. He is 9 years old. I've always had cats, but never a male. I wish I had done a bit a research on health issues specific to male cats. Males are prone to crystals forming in their bladders which is incredibly painful for them and can result in costly surgeries and sometimes death. If I had researched, I would've known to feed him higher quality food to prevent the crystals. Luckily, I caught Sandman's crystals early and it resulted in a few days at the animal hospital, some medication, a crazy vet bill, and a life-long prescription diet. He's been crystal free for 4 years now! He also never misses a Teams meeting.”

- Sara C. 

“Aside from the usual vet bills, another unexpected cost was home improvements! Once, when we went on vacation, even though we left our dogs with a house sitter, our golden retriever ate through the drywall at the front door, all the way to the studs! When we returned, we had to hire someone to fix the wall – but, we love them.”

- Amy G. owner of Marley (L) and Murphy (R)

Alternatives to adoption

Don’t fret if pet ownership doesn’t work for your current financial situation. There are still many ways to bring an animal into your life. Volunteer at a shelter or become a foster pet parent. You could also offer dog walking or pet sitting services in your neighbourhood. There are so many animals in need and many ways to help. It’s also a terrific way to experience different types of animals to consider as a future pet. 

Finally, if now’s not the right time for a pet but you know you’ll want one in the future, work out a budget and start saving now. Animals often have a way of finding their way into our lives at just the right moment. 

Ready to adopt? I can help you fit pet costs into your financial security plan. Contact me today to set up some time.