budget living

The True Cost of Pet Ownership: Can Millennials Afford It?

pet ownershipPets are awesome. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day and cuddling with a little fur-ball that loves you more than anything. Unfortunately, few people consider the true costs associated with pet ownership, preferring perhaps naively to rely on the adoption cost alone when determining whether or not they can afford a pet.

Initial Costs of Pet Ownership

Dogs, although arguably more fun than cats, are a lot more expensive to keep. In fact, the price difference between dogs and cats begins immediately with adoption costs for dogs higher than adoption costs for cats.

At the SPCA, the adoption fee for a dog is around $200, while the fee for a cat is much lower. Adopted pet are usually spayed or neutered before being put up for adoption but if your new family member hasn’t already had the procedure, you’ll need to pay for that as well. Additional one-time medical costs could also include tattooing or microchipping.

Next you’ll have to consider all the pet accessories needed to keep your new family member happy and healthy. Little things like food dishes, toys, collars and leashes can add up quickly. On top of that, if your cat or dog is particularly stubborn, toy purchases will not be a onetime thing. Alternatively, you could spend the rest of your pet’s life finding toys that it doesn’t hate in an attempt to not leave a bored pet in your house every day when you go to work. That will take a big chunk out of your budget.

A litter box for a cat is a must, just as obedience classes for a dog are a must. Obedience classes for dogs can run in the hundreds of dollars. These classes will also cost you in terms of time spent at the obedience school while Fido learns to sit and wait for treats.

Continual Costs of Pet Ownership

Unfortunately for frugal pet-lovers, pets continue to cost money year after year. For dogs, grooming, toys and food can easily cost over $1000 a year. Yearly check-ups and medicines can add another couple of hundred dollars a year.

Cats will have some of the same expenses. Vet bills will cost over $100 a year in check-ups and medicines, while food and litter will add up to a few hundred bucks. Some vets will suggest affordable pet insurance, which covers helps cover medical costs if your pet falls ill. This insurance, which is available for both dogs and cats, isn’t cheap but could save you money in the long run.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association has resources which outline the costs of both cats and dogs in their first and subsequent years of life:

Cats, 1st year: $1 661

Food and bowls: $266

Litter box and litter: $76

Accessories: $144

Medical costs (including spay or neuter): $835

Pet insurance: $340

Cats, annual costs: $1 655

  • Food: $288
  • Accessories: $141
  • Medical costs: $                866
  • Pet insurance: $360

Dogs, 1st year: $2 749

  • Food and bowls: $528
  • Obedience classes: $286
  • Accessories: $258
  • Medical costs (including spay or neuter): $998
  • Pet insurance: $679

Dogs, annual costs: $2 601

  • Food: $619
  • Accessories: $370
  • Medical costs: $                915
  • Pet insurance: $697

Total Costs

With dogs living an average of 10-18 years (let’s say 14 for simplicity’s sake) and cats living an average of 20 years, the total costs of adopting a puppy would be $36,562 and the total cost of adopting a kitten would be $33,106. For that price, you could buy a pretty decent car or take at least 10 nice vacations!

In reality though, no number of vacations and no car could replace the feeling of being a pet owner. Like how statisticians calculate how much it costs to raise a child and yet people gladly spend over $200,000 on each of their prodigies, pet owners aren’t put off by the high cost of pet ownership.



  • As a pet owner and lover, I personally can’t compromise my pets for anything. They are worth every penny to me! But I think that this post is so important for anyone considering a pet to read. So many people adopt a pet, not realizing the time, energy and money involved in pet ownership. The poor pets end up back in the shelter, or worse. Pets cost a lot, and it’s important for people to know that before! Thank you for sharing!

    • HI Rachel,

      That’s a great point of view. I have friends who have dogs and they truly treat them like their children with clothes, rain coats and a big chest full of toys. I think it’s crazy to spend that kind of money, but then again, can you really put a price on love?

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