What to consider before getting your first pet

Household 3 min read

Although I had few cats growing up, when I moved out after college I never really wanted a pet of my own. It could be because I lived with a roommate who had a cat, and witnessing how much work and money went into being a pet owner … well, let’s just say it’s no surprise I’ve remained petless for almost a decade.

But, as I approach the two-year mark of being self-employed, I’ve started to rethink the whole situation. You see, it’s hit me that since I left my 9-to-5 office job, I now spend 75 percent of my day alone at home. As much as I love my solitude, having a cute dog or cat to keep me company would sure be nice!

So, before going to a shelter and impulsively adopting as many pets as I’m allowed, I want to be 100 percent certain I know what I’m getting myself into. I can handle pet fur, litter boxes, and scratched-up furniture, but can my budget handle a new addition to the family?

Adopting or buying a pet

The first thing to find out is how much it actually costs to adopt or buy a pet. It’s no secret that it’s less expensive to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue center, with typical costs ranging between $70 and $300. However, in some cases you may want to buy a pet directly from a breeder.

This is something I’m actually looking into since I would love to adopt a cat, but ironically, I’m very allergic. Luckily, there are certain breeds that are considered hypoallergenic that are available through private breeders, though they do carry a bigger price tag. Purebred pets can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 (if not more). That price may also exclude any additional transportation costs if the pet is from a different city or state.

Cost: $70 – $1,500

Getting a pet license

Most places in the U.S. require you to get a pet license now, with the penalty for not having a license being a hefty fine of a few hundred dollars or more. Fortunately, licenses themselves aren’t that expensive, ranging from $10 to $50. Also, the cost can drop significantly if your pet is already spayed or neutered.

Cost: $10 – $50

Spaying or neutering your pet

Speaking of spaying and neutering your pet, this is something that should be at the top of your to-do list. This surgery can cost anywhere from $45 to $500, and it typically costs more to spay female pets. However, if you’re worried about costs, the Humane Society of the United States has a list of spay/neuter programs that are low-cost or free that you can check out. Moreover, you may be able to avoid the expense altogether if you adopt a pet, since most states require shelters and rescue centers to spay or neuter pets before placing them for adoption.

Cost: $45 – $500

Getting your pet vaccinated

While you’re at the vet to get your pet spayed or neutered, it’s important to also book a check-up for your pet to ensure it has a full bill of health and receives all required vaccines (such as the rabies vaccine). The cost for each vaccination shot could be between $10 and $40, and the vet visit itself could range from $30 to $60.

Cost: $40 – $100 for one vaccination

Microchipping your pet

Gone are the days when you can simply rely on a neighbor or good Samaritan to read your pet’s tag and give you call when it’s lost. Nowadays, microchipping is the thing to do. Not only will it last your pet’s lifetime, it’s also fairly inexpensive at about $45 a pop. Moreover, as stated by petfinder.com, pets that are microchipped are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owner.

Cost: $45

Paying for pet insurance

To ensure you don’t find yourself in a situation where your pet needs to be taken to the vet, but you can’t afford an unexpected vet bill, you may want to get pet insurance in preparation for any accidents or illnesses. Pet insurance can cost anywhere from $10/month to $100/month depending on your pet’s breed, species, age and where you live. Pet insurance is also typically higher for dogs and other animals that are prone to more health issues.

Cost: $10/month to $100/month

Everything else!

Everything I listed above is fairly essential, but those aren’t the only expenses you need to save up for. Here is a list of other expenses that may (or definitely will) come up:

  • Pet food
  • Pet treats
  • Food bowl
  • Litter box and litter
  • Grooming
  • Toys
  • Collar and leash
  • Pet bed
  • Scratching post
  • Dog house
  • Obedience classes
  • Travel carrier
  • Pet sitter or pet hotel

On average, it’s estimated that the first year of having a dog will cost you between $395 and $2,455, and $326 to $1,967 each year thereafter. For cats, the first year could cost you between $491 and $3,125, and $310 to $1,169 each year after that.

That’s a big chunk of change, but if having a pet can add joy to your life, then I’d say it’s worth every penny!

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