Costs of Having a Family Pet (don’t forget the surprises!)

Pets can bring a great deal of joy to our lives. I know, because I love our dog, Oreo. However, we can’t ignore the costs of that little furball because it can be expensive. Sometimes, we only think about the cost of buying the animal. But, it’s one small portion of the total. And, even if you think you have it under control, you might find you’re wrong. The “hidden” costs can start to rear their ugly head at any point. As each year passes, the total just keeps rising. Are you REALLY sure you’re ready for them all? More importantly, is it in your budget?

The cost of purchasing an animal is by far the most obvious cost associated with a pet. First, make sure to buy or adopt a pet from a reputable source. If you don’t, you could be asking for more problems and costly issues.

Adopting a pet from a rescue shelter can be pretty cool. Our niece decided to do it, and she adopted a wonderful Sheepadoodle. It wasn’t treated really well by its prior owner and had some issues.  But, with a bit of work and care, Domino has really flourished. He’s a wonderfully loving, playful dog. My niece spent a couple of hundred dollars on medicine as well as some elbow grease to clean him up.  But, it was less than buying one from a breeder and she takes a good deal of satisfaction for helping Dom out of a tough situation.

We bought Oreo over 2 years ago. I budgeted the cost, and we drove 3 ½ hours to a reputable breeder to get him.  Pets were a first for me, so I took a big recommendation from a friend, since I didn’t feel comfortable doing an adoption.  The first week with us, my wife was walking him, and he quickly ate a mushroom. Not the good kind. HOLY COW!! The poor little fellow got REALLY sick, REALLY fast. As I sped down the road to the veterinarian’s emergency room, I quickly got “schooled” on the unexpected costs of having my first pet.  BAM!!  There goes $500.  The kids remind me that I wasn’t the most caring “dog father” back then.  They said we hadn’t bonded yet.  Thank goodness he was fine. I could only imagine what an absolute emotional disaster that would’ve been. If that wasn’t bad enough, he did it AGAIN.

Ok, I’m clearly money-focused and wondered if this whole thing was worth it. For this episode, if we weren’t located less than 2 minutes from the vet, it would have been over.  Literally.  This incident meant an overnight stay in the ICU.  What?  ICU? For a dog? Really? I didn’t even know they had those.  Needless to say, it was over $1,000.  Was I insane?  I’m still embarrassed, but honesty with money is one of my mottos.  This is a podcast/website about being good with money, so it hurts to talk about.  Plus, I had to have the yard sprayed for the mushrooms or something for him (now that’s a hidden cost).  

So, believe it….. we now have insurance.  But, guess what? Incident-free for over 24 months…But, it did take care of some other costs which have been good.  I’m hoping and praying, that if the time comes, that monthly payment will cover us for a big payout.

The point is that there are many things to consider when getting a pet, which means you should probably have a little bit of an “EMERGENCY fund”.  A dog needs food and a doctor (yes, a vet). Just like kids who enjoy treats and toys, a dog likes them too.  You may not have to walk your kids, but they do need shoes to get around.  Dogs need collars and leashes which all add up.

After spending money to get a dog, you don’t want to lose him. So, what about adding a fence (invisible or visible)? Or, maybe a microchip if he IS lost and then found.  I’d love a way to track my kids at all times with a microchip. Ooops, that’s a cell phone.  Ok, anyway, are you getting the picture? You may not have planned for everything, so take your time.

It’s not easily calculated, but there is some Return on that Investment (ROI, for those following the podcast).  More exercise for the kids.  A bit of grit to pick up the poop.  Better emotional understanding. It’s also said they share better, have a better immune system, and learn responsibility.  Plus, there are years of enjoyment and love.  What’s that worth?  For some, it’s priceless. But, let’s not break the bank along the way.  You have to be reasonable.

When you look at food and other pet needs, you’re really talking somewhere from $800-$2,000 per year.  Depending on how long they live, that could be big money.  Those who have more to spend can push into the $10,000 range per year with better food, gizmos, training, and more.  Dogs live around 10 years.  If you don’t have $8k-$20k (or possibly $100k), you might want to re-think it.

In our podcast called “Max costs Money” (Max Costs Money Podcast), we talk about some other options that will reduce your costs. I believe the cheapest we found was $40 for an ant farm and about $6/year to feed them. That would never work for my wife.  Having “insects” in the house, whether invited or not, is just not acceptable. There are options out there that can also be much more expensive.  Hey, Michael Jackson had Bubbles the chimpanzee.  From a quick search, it sounds like they can go for upwards of $60k which is more than a giraffe ($45k).  When dealing with money it’s about making wise choices.

Pets are great for the whole family.  But, does it fit in your budget?  You have to do your best to calculate the expected true cost of your options before you make a decision, including unforeseen expenses.  That means doing your research and realizing it’s not a one-and-done payment.  The costs, just like for kids, keep going and sometimes will surprise you (mushroom eating).  Be a wise consumer and a wise money manager, and rest assured that you did your homework first.
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