How to Financially Prepare for a New Pet

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Cute puppy waiting for a new owner.
Pets cost money! Open a savings account in Madison to prepare for a new one.

Pets! Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, you really can’t go wrong by adding a critter to your clan–or starting to build your clan with one. I bet the first thing that comes to mind when considering getting a pet isn’t a special savings account in Madison for expenses.

But, as fun and lovable as they seem, however, pets come with a load of responsibilities … and costs. Though you may love animals more than anything in the entire world, it isn’t kind to take one in without knowing that you can provide it with a comfortable, healthy, and safe habitat; you will need to make sure you can provide your pet with the best possible life, no matter how long it lives. And, unfortunately, money is a large part of that equation.

So, if you’re looking to add a dog to your home, how much do you need to save up? And how much will one cost you down the line?

Start-up expenses

When you first get your dog, there will be a handful of expenses; first and foremost, you will have to pay for the dog! If your heart is set on getting a dog from a breeder, you can easily spend thousands of dollars. But if you’re willing to get a rescue from a shelter, you will, most often, pay less than $200. Additionally, most shelters will make sure your new pup is up to date on their vaccines, as well as spayed or neutered.

Other initial costs include a collar and a leash, food and water bowls, a crate with a bed, a vet visit, tick, flea and heart worm treatments, and it it isn’t already, getting your dog fixed. You’ll also need to buy your dog food, as well as treats and toys to keep it busy and happy. And, depending on the age and behavior of the dog, you may need to take it to doggy obedience school!

Though expenses vary by breed and size, dogs are, generally speaking, much more expensive than cats. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, excluding the cost of the dog, the first year’s expenses for a medium-sized dog will cost approximately $1300. Each additional year will cost approximately $500.

Cute kitten has his own savings account!
Pets cost money! Open a savings account in Madison to prepare for a new one.

And what if you’re looking to get a cat?

When you first get your cat, there will be a handful of expenses. If you’re willing to get a rescue from a shelter, most cats cost less than $100. Kittens will cost a bit more. Shelters and rescues will typically make sure your cat is up to date on their vaccines, as well as spayed or neutered.

Other initial costs include a litter box, litter, a scratching post and other toys, as well as food and food bowls. You should also take your cat to the vet to make sure it is up to date on its tick and flea treatments, as well as to make sure it is spayed or neutered. Unlike if you got a dog, you most likely don’t have to get your cat a leash, you don’t have to pay to get it groomed, and you certainly won’t have to take it to behavioral school.

Other pet options

Though expenses will always vary, cats are generally much cheaper pets than dogs–especially if they remain indoor-only their entire lives. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, excluding the cost of the cat, the first year’s expenses will cost approximately $1000. Each additional year will cost, on average, a couple hundred dollars.

Girl with pet bunny
Save for your pet’s expenses.

There are, certainly, cheaper pets than cats and dogs. Experts note that lifetime expenses related to a parakeet will cost around $2,000; a hamster will run you about $100 each year; a pet rabbit will cost you less than $400 in its first year, and a couple hundred dollars each year thereafter. Disregarding a medical emergency, a cage and fresh food are the larger costs associated with owning a bunny.

And then there are fish, who can either cost you next-to-nothing, or an arm-and-a-leg, depending on what type of fish you acquire, what you store it in, and how many you get. Salt water fish and setting up their habitat is quite  bit more expensive that fresh water fish.

Prepare for emergency expenses

Of course, just as the unexpected can happen to any of us, it can happen to our pets as well. Some recommend setting aside a couple thousand dollars as an emergency fund for your new family member. On average, most pets do need one emergency vet visit during their lifetime.

Though you may love animals, and think your life would be much better with one, please don’t adopt or purchase a pet without thinking about the costs! Each type of pet–and each individual pet–is going to vary widely in costs, so, although we do give you some estimates here, this guide certainly isn’t definitive.

Savings accounts for everything!

Consider opening a special savings account in Madison for your pet’s needs – both for the expenses you know are coming as well as the unexpected surprises. You always want to budget more money for pets and their expenses than you think you will need, because you certainly wouldn’t want your newest family member to suffer because you don’t have the money.

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Tom S.

Tom is a 2006 graduate of UW Madison, currently residing in Verona with his wife and 2 girls. He has been passionate about writing ever since he was 15 years old, and displays that same enthusiasm in his work today. When he’s not sharing insightful financial wisdom, you can find Tom chilling on the Union Terrace, enjoying craft beer at the Great Dane, or hiking at Governor Nelson State Park. In the Fall he loves to take his family to Badger Football games!