Dalmatian or Golden retriever? Bunny or guinea pig? Tabby or Siamese? These are usually the type of questions people consider when they decide they want to add a furry friend to their family. But what they really should be considering is whether their pocketbook can handle the expense of that animal.
"I think that people need to look at what their budget is and how much money they want to put toward an animal and see if it's feasible," says Chris Gallegos, the public relations manager for the Dumb Friends League, an animal shelter organization.
According to experts at MintLife, a personal finance website, a person should budget between $580 and $875 per year of a dog's life and $670 per year of a cat's life. This would include food, toys, treats, vet bills, pet care and other random costs that Fido may incur.
By taking into consideration these costs, potential pet owners can look at their personal finances and decide how much they are willing to budget for a pet. Obviously, the smaller your budget the smaller the animal will be ($50 per month won't cover all of the expenses for a Great Dane). This is the most important part of the process of getting an animal. Once you've decided how much money you are willing to spend on a pet, you can start the process of looking.
The original price of either buying a pet from a pet shop or adopting one from a shelter will be the first of many payments for your animal. All adoptions from the Dumb Friends League include a spay or neuter surgery, a microchip implant in your pet, initial vaccinations and a checkup with a vet. But Gallegos says that if you were to get an animal at a pet store, those added bonuses might not be included, so you should budget those in with the initial cost of the pet.
While the adoption fees may vary from shelter to shelter, the cost of a puppy 5 months or younger at the Dumb Friends League is $250. Cats are cheaper to adopt than puppies, and older animals cost even less to adopt. Small animals, which includes ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats, cost anywhere from $5 to $50 at the Dumb Friends League.
These small animals, says MintLife, are obviously going to be cheaper in the long run, as they usually don't require some things that larger animals do, such as city licenses or health insurance, nor do they eat as much food.
Most people know to budget for regularly used items such as food, carriers, toys and treats, but Gallegos also warns of "hidden" costs that many don't think of when they are deciding to get a pet.
If you rent an apartment or condo, first check with your landlord to see whether you can have a pet (some complexes have a strict no-pet policy), and if allowed, inquire about any pet fees. If you own a home that has an open yard, you will most likely need to invest in building a fence to keep your dog from running loose through the neighborhood.
Once you have your furry friend at home and are enjoying his companionship, you have the opportunity to save money on some costs. MintLife suggests buying essentials, such as food or litter, in bulk. Checking online for items such as medicine will help you get the same prescription that you would get at the vet but for a lower price.
And last but certainly not least, the biggest thing you need to budget for when getting a new pet is the energy and dedication to owning a dog or cat.
"Time is definitely another cost that a lot of people don't take into consideration on a long-term level," says Gallegos. "When you get something new, you want to spend a bunch of time with it, but then the novelty wears out. Pets, no matter their age, require a lot of time and a lot of attention."