True Cost of Us Owning a Pet

I grew up with a house full of cats, hamsters, birds and fish. Not always at the same time but we were definitely animal lovers who had an extra soft spot for cats. At one point we had six cats after one of our outdoor male cats ended up pregnant (we were waiting on getting him neutered until after an infection cleared up, we ended up finding out he was a she only after he had a litter of three kittens). The kittens were vaccinated and given to a good home but we maintained our three kitties who lived good long lives with us.

cost of owning a pet

All of our cats were outdoor cats where we lived on a quite street and the cats wouldn’t wonder beyond a few houses down the street or through the back woods (which they were protected from in the form of a 10 foot security fence stretching the backyard of everyone on the street). They were safe, happy and healthy cats. Other than our oldest who ended up dying from kidney failure at the age of 18, the other two are still alive into their 20’s.

When I moved out on my own, I was excited about getting a cat of my own for my husband and I to enjoy and add to our little family. Having a good understanding of cats growing up in a suburban zoo, I was pretty confident that I had a realistic understanding of what the cat was going to cost us. I would need the obvious stuff like cat food, vaccinations, spay/neuter, annual check-ups and stuff like litter. Since I knew our cat would be an indoor cat I was confident that with proper care she would live a good, long, healthy life.

Boy was I surprised when our first emergency vet visit (something totally new to me as a pet owner) cost us over $2000.

Our seven month old kitten started vomiting, refusing food and water and meowing in pain. I knew something was up after two days so we took her in. After a week of vet visits, being admitted for a few days and having every test known to cats (minus exploratory surgery) administered, and coming back negative, she ended up getting diagnosed with IBS.

Long story short, she has an inflammatory disease that we need to manage. We know what her triggers are (hairballs, anything but prescription vet food) so we’re pretty good at managing it now. I know what to look out for and can tell the difference between needing to call the vet for IV fluids and appetite stimulants and managing at home for three to four days. We’re on a treatment plan of food now that seems to finally be working really well. At over $40/bag it isn’t cheap but at a minimum of $500/visit per ”flare-up” it’s much cheaper to manage this was then buying cheap food (that my outdoor cats growing up ate) and dealing with repercussions.

Keeping her well groomed (which came with investing in a $30 cat brush) has help a lot too since hairballs can sometimes be the starting trigger for her IBS (cat hair alone can be an irritant).

Over a year we ended up spending close to $2500 in vet bills. I’m thankful to say this past year, other than food and vaccinations we haven’t been to the vet at all. I have friends who think we’re crazy for spending this kind of money on a cat. Hell, I’m the first to admit I could use the money in many other areas too but she’s our cat. I never once considered euthanizing her for a medical condition.

Pets are expensive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across people getting into animal ownership not having any sweet clue how expensive they can be and don’t have the means to treat them properly. If you can’t afford to take care of them when they’re sick, and can’t afford to keep them healthy (buying proper food, annual vet visits etc) then you can’t afford to have a pet that requires special attention. Wait until you’re in a better spot financially and you and your pet will be much happier!

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28 thoughts on “True Cost of Us Owning a Pet

  1. Agreed – owning pets is a huge financial responsibility, especially if they get sick. I used to work with vets – everything you can do for humans you can do for pets (chemotherapy, surgery, other therapies, rehab, etc.), and all those costs add up.

  2. We have three cats; one younger female and two “elderly” males. One of the elderly males has begun to have digestion problems and this past summer we ended up with a vet bill over $1,700. We now purchase very expensive food that pretty much minimizes his problems, but just last week we needed to take him in again. Thankfully, we know exactly what the problem is, how to recognize it, and when I absolutely need to take him to the vet so last week’s bill wasn’t too bad. But yes, pets can be expensive, even cats, especially as they get older!

  3. I have an older cat on medication, and had a second cat that was also on meds and a special diet. The monthly cost was pretty staggering between the two. It’s been greatly reduced now that we’re down to one, but it’s still something I never would have really thought could be so high when I got them as kittens. Luckily we never got stuck with any big bills that high, though when you add up the cost of all the foods and meds, it probably comes out close.

  4. Yes, they can be costly little buggers. And once part of the family, many people find it nearly impossible to not spend money to prolong or improve the pet’s life. As you suggest, before getting a pet, probably a good idea to work a realistic “pet costs” line item into the budget and also start building a dedicated emergency fund for pet healthcare.

  5. Pets are definitely expensive. We have a runt French Bulldog and he is getting older and we really need to start saving for any costs that may come up. We also may buy insurance for him as well.

  6. I’m allergic to dogs/cats so this is a moot point for me, but I think that this perspective in your post can benefit MANY people.

    The reality is that a lot of people just buy a pet based on emotions and just figure out the money later. A follow-up reality is that pets aren’t people and are truly optional, discretionary purchases. As such, their continuing costs should be taken into account. I say this having nothing against pets, while actually liking animals.

    It’s like a phone plan – a person can get a fun, entertaining smartphone for a reasonable cost, but will have to regularly spend money over time that will end up being much more than the initial cost. I suspect a lot of people just don’t think of it this way with pets, though perhaps they should.

  7. I have two dogs, which we never planned on having in the first place. We found the first one on the street when he was around 2 months. The second one was the ‘block’s stray’ for 7 years and then we took him in, when he got seriously injured. They’re both pretty old (around 14 years) and have cost us a little fortune. But we don’t regret anything, I do think it’s money well spent, since they brought so much joy into our home

  8. I remember going through a bunch of tests when we first got our dog Taco. He would always drink a bunch of water and we wanted to find out why. Well, after a bunch of costly tests we were no closer to an answer. Thankfully, the issue seems to have resolved itself since we switch the food we were feeding him.

  9. Sounds like you have your cat’s problems under control. I’m glad it was not something more serious, like cancer. So far we’ve only had a couple of gold fish, one of whom lived over 8 years, and a dwarf hamster that only lived for a little over a year. Our son is allergic to cat dander, so cats are off the list. We seem to be done with pets for the time being.

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