How much does it cost to own a dog or cat?
Our online research shows the answer depends on whom you ask, and most of the estimates we’ve found are so wide-ranging as to be of limited value to anyone trying to budget accurately for cat or dog ownership.
Still, we hope our research findings will be useful as you consider the financial obligations that come with pet ownership and make best estimates of your own based on your experience and typical purchasing choices. (You know if you’re the sort who would buy the basic $20 litter box or the $650 self-cleaning model.)
In two upcoming posts, we’ll focus on breed-specific acquisition and health care costs for dogs and cats to identify the most expensive and most affordable breeds.
In this post, we look at some average cost estimates for owning any dog or cat, regardless of breed, and conclude with some ideas for saving money on pet care.
As noted, the annual cost estimates range widely—sometimes by factors of 10 or more—with differences amounting to thousands of dollars. Some of the lowest figures and several of the highest estimates seem too low to us, based on our experiences caring for our own and our clients’ pets. Especially for larger pets and breeds prone to health problems, the upper-range estimates for some services and procedures may be substantially lower than real-world prices in our area of the country. In particular, the estimated maximum prices for spay/neuter surgeries seem unrealistically low.
We also note that regardless of the adoption fees listed in the articles we found, the Hendricks County Animal Shelter’s current adoption fees are $70 for adult dogs, $150 for puppies, $20 for adult cats and $70 for kittens. We’ve included the other adoption fee estimates we found for comparison. (See our National Shelter Appreciation Week post for more information about our county shelter.)
As you plan your budget, keep in mind adoptable shelter pets have most likely already been spayed or neutered, fitted with a microchip, vaccinated, dewormed, started on parasite prevention and treated for at least the most urgent health problems presented when they arrived at the shelter. These initial expenses can be considered covered by the adoption fee.
For accurate, written estimates of our clinic’s fees for exams, vaccines and medical procedures for your dog or cat, talk to your veterinarian.
Whether or not any of the following general estimates align with the precise amount you’ll end up spending on your pet, our goal is to raise awareness of the financial obligations that come with pet ownership. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your household, we hope this post will give you an overview of the potential financial obligations that come with owning a cat or dog before you finalize your plans and bring your new pet home.
A Range of Cost Estimates
In a web page published in 2021, “Cutting Pet Care Costs,” the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals itemizes average ongoing costs for both dogs and cats as well as initial and “special” costs.
The ASPCA estimates total initial costs for dogs and cats—not counting what you pay for the pet itself—to be $1,030 for dogs and $455 for cats. Ongoing annual maintenance costs are projected at $1,391 for dogs and $1,149 for cats.
The special costs listed are $300 for professional dog grooming and dental care estimated at $500 for dogs and $300 for cats.
On the Money Under 30 website, “The Annual Cost of Pet Ownership: Can You Afford a Furry Friend?” sets estimated annual expenses at $400 to $4,000 plus one-time costs typically incurred during the first year.
In itemizing cat costs, the article lists these first-year expenses:
- Adoption fee $40 to $300
- Vaccinations $65 to $200 a year
- Spay/neuter surgery $150 on average, $50 to $500 depending on the individual case
- Microchip $45 average
- Initial supplies $86 to $580
- Litter box $6 to $350
- Collar $20 to $50
- Bed $15 to $50
- Crate $20 to $40
- Scratching post $15 to $50
- Food and water bowls $10 to $40
The article estimates total first-year costs of cat ownership at $386 to $1,335 and suggests budgeting at least $1,000.
Ongoing annual cat care costs include:
- Cat food $120 to $500
- Toys and treats $30 to $100
- Litter $30 to $300
- Medical expenses $100 to $750
- Insurance $108 to $360
These yearly cost estimates for owning a cat amount to $388 to $2,010.
Money Under 30 estimates first-year costs of dog ownership as follows:
- Adoption fee $100 to $800
- Vaccinations $115 to $230 a year
- Spay/neuter surgery $35 to $500
- Microchip $50
- Training $30 to $1,250
- Initial supplies $90 to $290
- Collar, harness and leash $30 to $75
- Bed $20 to $75
- Food and water bowls $30 to $100
The site estimates total initial costs of dog ownership between $420 and $3,270 and suggests a minimum budget of $2,000.
Ongoing annual dog care cost estimates include:
- Dog food $120 to $900
- Toys and treats $30 to $200
- Medical expenses, including check-ups, dental care and vaccines $750 to $1,750
- Insurance $280 to $1,030
- Additional supplies $30 to $250
In all, Money Under 30 estimates ongoing yearly costs for dog ownership at $1,210 to $4,130 and suggests budgeting at least $2,500.
For both cats and dogs, Money Under 30 suggests setting aside savings to cover ongoing expenses and building an emergency fund to cover unexpected illnesses and accidents. Pet health insurance, estimated at about $45 a month for dogs and $25 a month for cats, can provide reimbursements for unexpected medical treatments provided the condition is covered by the policy.
More Dog Cost Estimates
In an August 2022 article published at Money.com, “How to Budget for a New Dog,” the author discusses a broad range of estimated upfront costs as well as recurring expenses over the ten or more years you’re likely to be caring for your dog.
Upfront costs cover such essentials as spay or neuter surgery, vaccinations and basic equipment and supplies. One rover.com survey, cited in the article, reported that 38% of dog owners estimated upfront costs at about $500 when actual costs ranged from $1,050 to $4,480.
Money.com projected recurring expenses to range from $480 to $3,470 a year with optional expenses like pet health insurance, dog walkers and sitters potentially adding $1,210 to $4,040 to the total.
Variables noted as impacting expenses are the dog’s age, size and health as well as where you live.
The Money.com article continues by comparing the cost of acquiring a dog from a pet store or breeder to the cost of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. Acquisition costs vary among breeds as do feeding and health care costs. We will explore these breed-related variables for both dogs and cats further in future posts.
In an article ranking states for “spoiled dogs” (Indiana dogs ranked 20th), Forbes Advisor reported on a survey of 5,002 dog owners that asked about spending on such extravagances as costumes, birthday parties, strollers, perfume, pedicures, homemade dog food and restaurant treats, and health care and grooming, relative to expenditures on human members of the household. See the article for details of the survey responses.
In a section titled, “How Much Does It Cost to Own a Dog?” Forbes Advisor reported survey respondents said they spend an average of $730 a year on their dogs, with 41% saying they spend $500 to $1,999 a year and 8% reporting spending more than $2,000. More than a third—36%—reported spending only $200 to $499.
Dog food topped the list of expenses, at 47%, followed by vet bills at 28%, treats and toys at 10% and professional grooming at 6%.
Visit the page for a complete break-down of survey responses about annual expenditures. Bear in mind, these figures are based on the owners’ self-reports of their spending and may not accurately reflect actual costs.
More Cat Cost Estimates
On the ASPCA brand pet insurance website, “How Much Does It Cost to Have a Cat?” the post author discusses the potential costs of adopting a cat from a shelter ($50 to $175) and buying from a breeder (possibly $750 or more) as well as listing one-time purchases of such essentials as a litter box, a cat carrier, collar and ID tag, scratching posts or mats and food and water bowls. Optional accessories listed include a bed, water fountain, cat shelves, window perches and tech gadgets such as computerized toys and two-way video. No price estimates are included for these items.
The article cites ASPCA annual cost estimates of $634 for routine medical exams, vaccines and parasite preventives, food, treats and toys plus a few extras such as catnip or an extra scratching mat.
Unexpected costs may include fixing household damage caused by your cat’s scratching and territory marking as well as unexpected medical expenses for treating illnesses and accidents.
There follows a brief discussion of pet health care insurance as a way to mitigate unexpected veterinary care costs.
In “Cutting Pet Care Costs,” the ASPCA offers these suggestions:
- Schedule regular check-ups
- Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines could safely be eliminated for your pet
- Spay or neuter your pet
- Brush your pet’s teeth
- Protect your pet from parasites
- Don’t smoke cigarettes around your pet
- Consider pet health insurance
- Buy high-quality pet food
- Groom your pets at home
Visit the page on the ASPCA website for details on each tip.
In the Money.com article, money-saving suggestions include:
- Making your own toys and accessories
- Buying accessories like crates and water bowls second-hand
- Do-it-yourself grooming
- Buying food at a discount by subscription
- Using reward and cash-back credit cards to pay your pet’s expenses
- Hiring bargain-priced friends, neighbors and family members as dog walkers and pet sitters
- Taking advantage of senior and military discounts when purchasing products and services for you pet
- Researching grants, financial aid and other resources to help pay for unexpected illnesses and accidents
The ASPCA Pet Insurance article on the costs of owning a cat offers five cost-saving tips:
- Buy in bulk
- Shop around
- Make your own toys
- Make your own cat treats
- Consider pet insurance
In its survey report about spending on dogs, Forbes Advisor advocates buying pet health insurance as the one suggestion for “taming veterinarian bills.” We agree, pet health insurance is a wonderful idea. Be advised, however, that the Forbes Advisor website earns commissions if you buy a policy through one of its links.
Our Money-Saving Advice
The Brownsburg Animal Clinic team reiterates and adds these cost-saving suggestions:
- Consider the costs before you bring a new pet into your household
- Adopt a shelter or rescue animal rather than buying from a breeder
- Let us recommend an affordable, nutritious food for your pet
- Schedule wellness exams when recommended
- Brush your pet’s teeth to reduce the risk of periodontal disease and delay or possibly even eliminate the need for a professional cleaning
- Prevent illnesses (and obey Indiana law) by having us administer the appropriate vaccines for your pet
- Give recommended parasite preventives year-round
- Prevent accidents by keeping your pet indoors or in a fenced yard and keeping potential hazards out of reach
- Consider buying pet health insurance to reimburse you for unexpected major medical costs of treating covered illnesses and injuries.
For a list of charitable organizations serving pet owners facing unexpected major medical costs, visit our Financial Resources page.