Owning a pet may improve your quality of life, but it probably won't be cheap. Basic food, supplies, medical care and training can cost hundreds of dollars. Add to that surgeries, grooming, kennel boarding and miscellaneous costs, and you may end up spending much more than you anticipated to keep your pet healthy and happy throughout its life.
Fortunately, many of the costs associated with responsible pet ownership can be controlled, or at least reduced. Here are a few ideas:
- Adopt an animal. Not only are you helping to stop factory-style breeding when you adopt an animal from a humane society or a rescue organization, you may save some money. Often spay/neuter procedures and vaccinations have already taken place before you adopt an animal. And in some cases, the animals have already been through training classes.
- Spay/neuter. If you do own an animal that has yet to spayed/neutered, you'll find that some animal shelters provide this procedure at relatively low cost. Getting your dog or cat "fixed" may also mean fewer health problems down the road.
- Buy food in bulk. For most pet owners, food is their largest ongoing expense. So reducing that cost often generates the greatest savings. Although big-box retailers offer substantial cost reductions for large quantities of pet food, it always makes sense to shop around. (Specialty stores have sales, too.)
Generally speaking, the more you buy, the cheaper the food. But be careful. Though there's no legal definition of "premium" in terms of pet food nutritional quality, think twice before grabbing the cheapest bag off the shelf. Long-term health problems may result from routinely feeding non-nutritional meals — food that's mostly filler — to your animal.
- Exercise! Regular exercise and routine veterinary visits often reduce long-term health care costs.
- Don't forget mouth health. Severe gingivitis may lead to serious health problems in your pet, including kidney and lung disease. If you don't want to brush your dog's ivories, consider dental chews that release teeth-cleaning enzymes.
- Consider pet insurance pros and cons. Budgeting and contributing to your own "pet emergency fund" may be cheaper than paying insurance premiums. Research pet insurance options and then do the math before buying.