Pet Expenses: How Much Do Pets Cost Us?

How much is that doggie in the window? What about that cat, guinea pig, bird or fish? When it comes to calculating pet expenses, “sticker price” is just the tip of the iceberg. To understand how much a new pet actually costs, you have to take into consideration the amount of money you’ll spend on pet food, veterinary care and other miscellaneous expenses for the rest of your pet’s life. Here’s a list of the five most popular pets in the US, which we’ve ranked in order from the least to the most expensive based on data from the ASPCA and Petfinder.       

Fish

If you’ve never owned a pet before and have a limited budget, start with fish. Freshwater fish don’t need medical attention, and it doesn’t cost much to feed them or outfit their aquariums. Though saltwater aquariums require more upkeep and investment, most freshwater fish will cost you around $185 the first year, and $35 each year after that. Over the course of 10 years, that comes to just $500. Go fish!

Birds

Birds are also on the cheaper side of the spectrum, provided you stick with the more common varieties of small birds like parakeets, cockatiels or lovebirds. These types of birds don’t cost much, mostly because they eat like birds (get it?) and rarely require medical care. After paying around $170 for the first year of owning a small bird, you can expect to pay around $95 a year for nine more years (most small birds don’t live longer than 10).

Larger birds are a different story. Cockatoos, for example, will run you over $1,500 the first year, and around $1,025 for every year to follow. But whereas a parakeet will only live 10 years tops, cockatoos have life spans of 50 years or more. Do the math, and you could spend well over $50,000 by the time your cockatoo sings its last song.

Guinea Pigs

While the costs associated with owning a guinea pig are surprisingly high for a rodent – $565 per year, with first-year costs averaging at around $650 – their five-year life span makes them relatively inexpensive. All in all, most guinea pigs will cost you a little under $3,000 by the time they move on to that big Habitrail in the sky.

Dogs

Just as it does with birds, size matters when it comes to calculating how much a dog will cost you. Small dogs cost around $800 their first year, and at least $400 for every year after that. Given that most small dogs live to be 14, you can expect to pay around $6,000 total.

While their annual costs are considerably higher, medium and large dogs have shorter life expectancies – which makes them less expensive than you might think. With an average life span of 11 years, a first-year expense of $1,115 and an annual cost of $545, a medium dog will cost you around $6,565 total.

Most large dogs have essentially the same life expectancy as medium dogs – 10 years, give or take – and slightly higher price tags for first-year and annual expenses: $1,500 and $700, respectively. Add it all up, and you’re looking at a total cost of roughly $7,800 for a large dog.

Cats

Not only do cats rack up more expenses than most of the other pets on this list (kitty litter, litter boxes, toys, carriers, having to replace all your furniture), they have considerably longer life spans than their canine counterparts: 15 years. With a $640 price tag for the first year and an average annual cost of $500 for every year thereafter, most cats will run you around $7,640 for a lifetime of care – just a little less than what you’d pay for a large dog.

So the next time you find yourself asking how much is that doggie in the window, be sure to take into account a lifetime of expenses ranging from food and medical care to toys and training before adding in another member to your family. While there’s no setting a price on the joy and love we receive from our pets, it’s good to be realistic when it comes to setting budgets for the cost of pets and their care.

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