Bringing home a pet can be a purr-fect experience or a cat-astrophe. You need to be prepared! Here, we break down the costs of animal companionship.
Are you thinking about welcoming a dog, cat, rabbit, or hamster into the family? First, ask yourself: Am I ready for such a big responsibility?
“You are your pet’s world,” explains Amy Nichols, a vice president at the Humane Society of the United States. “They look forward to you coming home from school every day because all they want is to spend time with you.”
But spending time isn’t the only commitment you make when you adopt an animal. You also have to spend money. If your parents are on board, consider these costs.
Some Starting Costs
According to the Humane Society, the average cost of adopting an animal from a shelter is around $150, depending on where you live. While that may sound like a lot, the cost is far less than you’d pay a pet store or a breeder. Plus, you’re providing a home for an animal in need. The adoption fee often includes your animal’s first shots. It may also include surgery to neuter or spay the animal, to prevent it from having unwanted puppies or kittens. If they’re not included, these medical services can cost between $100 and $200 each.
Families can also expect to spend between $200 and $300 for supplies, like food, a leash, and a bed. In all, your family should plan for an initial investment of $400 to $500 to bring a pet home.
The costs don’t end there. Pets are a long-term commitment. Dogs can live 15 years, and cats can live 20. Families should expect to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 a year for vet visits, shots, food, and all the basics, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
You might encounter additional costs, like paying a pet sitter to look after your dog when you go on vacation, or enrolling it in obedience courses if it needs training. You might also want to purchase pet health insurance. It ranges in cost from $25 to $45 per month, but covers large vet bills if your pet is in an accident or gets a serious disease.
It's About Time
Another price you’ll pay for pet ownership is your time. Pet duties may cut into your time for doing things you love, like playing video games or hanging out with friends. You can always enlist help. If you welcome an animal into your home, consider creating a daily schedule of responsibilities for each family member, recommends Rena Lafaille. She is a director at the ASPCA’s Adoption Center. “Work with your family to ensure your pet has constant access to fresh water, is being fed appropriately, and is getting enough exercise and outdoor time,” Lafaille says. “It can be helpful to create a checklist or chart to keep track.”
So, do you still want that dog, cat, rabbit, or hamster? Remember, having an animal can be great fun, but it also requires time and money. Be sure to do the math before you make a move to take home a four-legged friend.
A pet is an example of something that costs money up front and continues to cost money for the entire time you have it. What are some other examples?
—By Kathryn Tuggle
Extra! Click here to read a related article from TIME for Kids.
Click here for the Grade 5-6 Teacher's Guide