Valentine’s Day is upon us, and while many will focus on our romantic endeavors this time of year, there’s another kind of love to ruminate on – the unconditional love of a pet. As a pet owner who just last month had to say goodbye to my beloved old dog, I can attest to the joy an animal can bring, but also to the cost of opening your home to one. Over his fourteen years of life, Gabe went to the vet a few dozen times, was kenneled twice, cared for by in-house sitters on numerous occasions, and of course ate his way through countless bags of dog food and treats. I never regretted my decision to take in that silly little puppy someone found on the side of the road, but I did have to adjust my budget to make room for him.
Being aware of the costs of pet ownership not only makes financial sense, but it allows you to be a conscientious pet owner. Shelters are full of animals that were surrendered after their owners found they couldn’t afford to keep their pets. It’s better to decide that now is not the right time, than to look before you leap and end up creating another sad shelter story.
If you are considering adding an animal friend to your family this Valentine’s Day, be sure to do some research on the costs you can expect to incur. The ASPCA has a guide to help you estimate what pet ownership will cost you, though the true price will vary across different parts of the country. When I made the decision to adopt a kitten this summer, I first asked my vet what the initial round of exams, vaccinations and spaying would cost at their office, to be sure of the upfront cost.
One significant variable in cost will come from where you decide to get your pet. Both of mine were private rescues, so there was no adoption fee or breeder price to pay. If this is the route you choose to take, the ASPCA is a good resource for this, too – you can use their Shelter Finder to locate shelters in your area, where the price of adoption is typically far less than the cost from a breeder or pet store.
It’s not just the upfront expenses we need to think of, though. For my own dog, his last few weeks were particularly expensive, as we tried to extend his life through medication and other treatment. To compensate for potential unforeseen veterinary bills, there is the option of pet insurance. Susquehanna, among other businesses, offers pet insurance to its employees at a discount, with a flexible plan offering different levels of coverage and deductibles to suit your needs. If I had chosen to insure Gabe, it would have cost me on average $50 a month to cover him against most vet bills, both planned and unexpected. This insurance is available for private purchase, but it’s worth asking if your employer has partnered with a company to offer a discount on premiums.
So whether you are happily sharing your home with some furry friends, or thinking of starting up a new relationship with a pet, some simple planning may help you avoid surprise expenses in the short-term, and avoid catastrophic costs in the future. Being informed and prepared means you will truly be able to make a lifelong commitment to your beloved pets.