Pets are cute, make excellent company, and even offer important health benefits like decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
But, they can also be very expensive. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the average first-year cost of having a cat is just over $1,000; that of a medium-sized dog is nearly $1,600. (A fish, however, will only set you back about $230 per year.)
Pet costs easily include adoption fees, food, litter boxes, toys and treats, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, training classes, grooming, dog walkers, boarding when you go out of town, and more.
Make sure that you can really handle a pet before you take the plunge.
Our app of choice is Healthy Pet, which actually lets you comparison shop for veterinarians. We also love the website Vet Help Direct, which helps you figure out what to do when your pet is in distress. If Buster is sneezing in the middle of the night, can you handle the problem on your own, or do you need to shell out for a vet? This website has the answer.
Additionally, we've compiled 5 catch-all tips for reducing your pet costs. But, before you make the commitment in the first place, take our quiz to find out whether you're ready for a furry (or scaly?) friend:
1. How big is your home?
a. You could run laps in it.
b. I have adequate space for my needs.
c. I live in a shoebox. With roommates.
2. How often are you home?
a. I am a total homebody.
b. I work 40 hours per week and travel occasionally for work and pleasure.
c. I use my apartment to sleep. And sometimes not even for that.
3. How much wiggle room do you have in your monthly budget?
a. Splurge, shmurge. My budget’s a guide, but I have a cushion for whatever I want.
b. I don’t have a ton of room, but could make it work if I had to.
c. My budget is pretty darn tight.
4. Do you tend to plan ahead for the future, or are you more of a free spirit?
a. I swear by my daily planner. Nothing takes me by surprise.
b. I take things as they come.
c. Every day is full of the unexpected! Trying to expect anything makes it all less fun.
5. Beyond your budget, do you have spare cash on hand for the next year?
a. Everyone envies my savings stockpile.
b. I’m not rich, but I have enough.
c. I scrounge a lot. Cereal for dinner!
If your answers were…
Mostly As: You’re more than ready to welcome a pet into your life. You’ve got some financial stability, enough room to accommodate an animal, and you plan ahead. You’re clearly not taking this decision lightly.
Mostly Bs: You should probably take some time to think about whether this is the best time to get a pet. You might consider waiting until conditions – financial, living situation, or otherwise – are more ideal.
Mostly Cs: We recommend you wait until you have a more stable schedule/paycheck/living situation. We know that it’s hard to look in an animal’s eyes and not take him or her home, but waiting will be best for both of you. When the time is right, you’ll be able to provide a good, stable home.