A pet is a family treasure, an uncritical companion, a confidante and best friend. But a pet is also an expense that many people don’t budget properly for. During the 2007 recession, shelters saw numbers of animals being dropped off spike, and the numbers have only recently returned to normal. The reason? During hard times families realized they couldn’t afford a pet and hard choices had to be made.
But as people recover their financial balance, a pet should still be a very careful thought-out decision, because owning and taking care of an animal can be very expensive. The lifetime cost of a pet can add up into the tens of thousands, this at a time when the average American barely saves tens of thousands for retirement! Nearly two thirds of all Americans own a pet, and the industry around pet owners is a $51 billion a year industry.
Pet healthcare can be expensive
A healthy bounding puppy needs some shots and possibly neutering. That’s an upfront expense, sure, but most owners aren’t thinking of an animal’s later-in-life medical bills when they’re thinking about the cost of a pet. The Humane Society of Silicon Valley estimates a dog’s medical bills to be around $5,000 over a lifespan, or about $500 a year. The ASPCA estimates $235 a year, but assumes pet health insurance.
Either way, vet bills add up, particularly once a pet is aged. When a dog begins to require more and more expensive vet care, what is an owner to do? Humans can form powerful attachments to dogs due in part to the fact that we react to them much in the same way a parent does to a child. The brain even releases the same chemicals when we interact with pet dogs as it does with newborns and parents.
As a result, pet owners can often spend large amounts of money doing everything they can to save a pet from a disease, while also costing money they don’t have.
Pets can damage property
For most Americans, one of their largest assets and forms of equity is their home. Hardwood floors can get scratched up by claws. Bored dogs can chew on baseboards. Dog urine in the carpet can soak into underflooring, forcing either recarpeting or lowered values come resale time.
For those renting, a pet deposit is usually required to secure against this. And many rental agreements raise the rent if someone has a pet. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not just to gouge renters. Statistically, a pet increases the chance of home damage, and very few people think about this when considering the cost of a pet.
There are many other costs, including kenneling animals while families are traveling, toys, grooming and more. The ASPCA estimates dog costs being $580 a year to $875 a year depending on the breed’s size. That means a dog can cost almost $10,000 over the pet’s lifetime.
If, instead of spending that money on a pet, it had been invested in bonds and some conservative stocks, that money could have come out to $50,000 by retirement. More than one dog, or add in some cats, and the numbers can start to add up. Most people who own pets keep owning pets even after one dies. A lifetime of owning pets is a decision for some people that means leaving a lot of money on the table.
While it would be hard to counsel anyone to revoke the companionship of man’s best friend, anyone about to get another pet or replace a pet might want to take a moment to think about the costs involved.
It’s more than many realize because they haven’t stopped to add it up.
The Recession and Pets – NPR
Pet Care Costs – ASPCA
The Look of Love is in the Dog’s Eyes – New York Times
The Cost of a Pet – Huffington Post