Cats and Dogs: The Costs of Owning a Pet

So, you’re thinking about getting a furry friend…

Owning a pet has many benefits, like a decrease in stress and depression, as well as having a best friend. While a cat or dog are great companions, it’s important to keep in mind the costs of adopting and owning. Consider these costs before making the big decision to adopt or buy. 

Should I adopt or buy?

woman holding dog at a shelterAdopting

Generally, adopting is much cheaper than buying – averaging up to 90% cheaper from a shelter when compared to a breeder! Shelter to shelter, the cost will vary, but prices to adopt a cat range from $30 to $300, while dogs are more in the $100-$700 range. Dogs are more expensive to adopt, buy, and care for, because – contrary to the stereotypical image of cats being primped and spoiled – cats don't require nearly as much maintenance or as many resources as dogs do. 

Whether you’re adopting or buying, the price can range drastically, depending on the breed. Kittens and cats have different prices, too. And so do puppies versus grown dogs. Many sheltered pets are out of their puppy phase and already somewhat trained, making them an easier option for first-time pet owners or college students, and they might already be spayed or neutered, which could mean additional savings for you.


The price to buy, however, puts you in a whole new ballpark. Depending on the breed, you should expect to pay anywhere from $1000-$3000 for a dog, and anywhere from $300-$1000 for a cat. Not only is buying expensive, but you generally should expect a higher maintenance pet – at least in the beginning. 

The breeder you’re buying from might have taken care of the first round of shots for your pet, but you need to make sure. Either way, you’ll be responsible for setting up vet visits immediately. These costs can range from $100-$500 every few months depending on your pet and its breed and size. 

Remember, pets from a breeder are usually purchased young and, in addition to vaccinations and appointments to spay or neuter, they’re likely to require lots of training, too. The cost to train with professionals is relatively high, so look into local prices before making your decision to buy. 

Recurring costs vs. one-time costs 

When getting a pet, expect to be responsible for dozens of expenses right away: food, toys, grooming, and vet visits among them. You’ll have some costs that you’ll only encounter once and other costs that you can expect to pay on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis.

dog and cat under blankerYour one-time expenses might include things like:

  • Obedience class
  • Collar
  • Tags
  • Leash
  • Harness
  • Bed
  • Cage
  • Crate
  • Food and water dishes
  • Litter box 

Recurring costs might include:

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Litter
  • Toys
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Pet insurance
  • Grooming
  • Medical expenses

Recurring costs often catch new pet owners by surprise when it comes to budgeting. As a result, many pet owners set funds aside for their pets, or at least for veterinary care, because these expenses can be overwhelming when they’re unexpected. 

Remember, you also invite a certain amount of opportunity cost when getting a pet. If you have a dog, for example, you’ll need to ensure that they’ll be taken on walks and properly attended for meals and potty breaks. As a result, if you’re used to picking up extra shifts or working a second job for additional income, you may find that your new pet interrupts those opportunities or routines. 

paw prints

Going on vacation? What about your fur baby?

This is something you need to consider. Are you planning a weeklong vacation? Well, where are you going to keep your pet? You can’t leave your dog at home for an entire week unless you someone to pet-sit for you. You’ll need a family member or friend helping to let your dog out and feed them at least twice per day! Your next best option is to investigate a kennel or doggy day care for a week. While these can be pricey, you have the peace of mind that they’re staffed with trained professionals who can care for multiple animals. To board your dog for a week, you should expect to pay at least $250-500. 

Have a cat? It’s not as much of a problem. In most cases, your cat will be fine on its own for a while – assuming you leave out extra food, water, and maybe an extra litterbox, too. Still, it’s not a bad idea to secure a friend to check on them occasionally to make sure they don’t run out of supplies. You could also look into options for cat boarding, like dog boarding, for a fee. 

So, should I?

After learning more about the costs of getting and owning a pet, do you think you can manage? Are the costs worth it? Pets aren’t for everyone, and it’s important to consider how you’ll care for it. Don’t rush into this decision. If and when it’s the right time to get a furry friend, you’ll know it. Assuming you want your friend to be furry at all – maybe you’re into snakes or birds!

Emily E.