It’s interesting to see how blind we often are to expenses that are tied to emotional attachments. Some people “love” their sports team and wouldn’t think twice about multi-thousand dollar season tickets. Not to do so wouldn’t even occur to them. To call financial cost a secondary concern would be giving it way too much credence. Others can’t bear the thought of life without their elite-model sports car, or another sort of possession. I have noticed that a vast majority of pet owners (specifically dog and cat owners) fit into this group of people who will always have pets to matter what their cost because their emotional attachment is so strong. Now I’m not one of these frugal gurus who will tell you to destroy every possession that brings you comfort in the name of an escalating investment portfolio. Instead, I just think everyone should make informed decisions about how much proverbial bang they are getting for their buck. In the case of dogs and cats there are several expenses that the average owner pays and often forgets, these are referred to as hidden costs. I think there are a lot of people that will look at the numbers below and make the informed response of, “My dog/cat is worth so much more than that,” and that’s totally fine! I just found it interesting to figure out how much most people actually do spend on their pets, and to hear peoples’ reactions when it was put down on paper.
Before we get into some of the costs that pet owners take on without really thinking about them, let’s take a look at some of the annual costs of owning a dog and a cat, with some one-time costs thrown in as well. I myself have no pets, so I’m going on general numbers given to me by a friend:
Food: Dog $250 Cat $150
Recurring Medical: $150
Toys and Treats: $50
Pet Insurance: $400
Miscellaneous (scratching post, litter box, fence): $50-$200
As you can see, in your first year of ownership $1000 is not an unreasonable number, and it may even climb substantially over that. After the first year some of those capital costs won’t have to be spent annually, but a carrier doesn’t last forever either. I find that when you are passionate about something it is easy to consciously lose track of the costs involved. I am this way when thinking about my addiction to football. Upgrading my TV package just seems natural, no matter what the monthly cost if it allows me to watch my team more often!
Even those numbers make a saver like me cringe, but think about the things that are not included in that list. For example, what about the furniture your cat and/or dog tears to shreds? If you are fine with keeping worn furniture for a long time it might not really have any effect on your pocket book since your resale value would be almost nothing anyway, but if you ever want to re-sell furniture you have no value there, and if you put any stock in having newer furniture, then you’ll have to replace the old sofa and chair more often than if you didn’t have a pet. On a similar note, think about the broader value of your house. It’s pretty well established that having a house cat or house dog will lower the value of your house and make it harder to sell. That is why every home sale show or guide will tell you to vacuum, put the food dish away, and have someone else take care of your pet for a time while you show your home. A home that has no evidence of a pet being there is simply worth more. Just in selling your home alone, a pet might cost you $5K or even $10K. The same reasoning can also be applied to your vehicle if you allow your pets in there too. Also, it eliminates some buyer interest altogether because of guys like me that are allergic to certain pet dander.
The final hidden cost is time and energy. That sounds like a terribly dispassionate way to refer to a “member of the family” for some people, but it is true. Some days you may want to use your leisure time to walk the dog or groom them, but other days you likely won’t. To be considered a good pet owner you still have to go do these little “chores” when you could be doing something else productive. This little opportunity cost is often ignored as well.
I’m sorry if I offended pet-lovers out there (I know they are a strong group), but I just want people to be aware of the real cost that comes with the beloved little kitten or puppy they see in the window. Most people are able to factor in the cost for a bag of food into their budget, but are the other costs really common sense? Are these numbers at lease close to the average in your experience? Does it affect your immediate emotional response at all?