I have two cats. I like to tell people that two does not make me a crazy cat lady, but I still get the jokes all the time.
I grew up with lots of family pets, so when I moved into my first pet-friendly apartment, I knew I wanted to get pets, but I also knew that there was more to the decision than that. There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with pet ownership, both financial and otherwise. With all the talk of what sort of dog the Obama Family will get, it seems like a lot of people are thinking about adding a pet to their family.
I love dogs. I have always wanted a dog and I still wish that I had a dog. But with my lifestyle, I don’t think it would be fair to get a dog. I’m gone much of the day and would feel guilty leaving a dog at home alone all day. Plus I’m regularly gone 11-12 hours in a day. That’s a long time for a dog to go without a walk. I could hire a dog walker, but then we get into the financial responsibilities.
Instead, I have two cats. Two because they keep each other company during the day so I don’t feel so guilty about leaving them. Of course, two cats costs almost twice as much. (I say almost because there are things they share – toys and the carrier, for example, plus my vet gives me a discount when I bring both cats in for shots on the same day – I don’t get charged the same as I would for two separate visits).
Cats don’t seem like a huge expense at first. What do they need, after all? Food, toys, litter, shots once a year? That can’t be that expensive.
My cats are relatively healthy, and I spent $1385 on them last year. That included all of their supplies, a pet sitter while I was out of town, yearly shots, and surgery for one cat to have a broken tooth pulled. They’re also on prescription food because one cat has a slight weight problem and the other has trouble with crystals in his bladder. Admittedly, while that seems like a big expense, when I compared the price of the 30 pound bags of food I buy to the pet store variety I was buying, it’s not that much more expensive. Sure, I could buy cheaper food, but after doing research, I decided that the cheap grocery store brand was not what I wanted to be feeding my pets, not if I wanted them to be healthy and live a good long life.
Even with all those things, I’m lucky. My cats are healthy. There have been no emergency expenses. No major surgeries, no big illnesses, nothing. But I know that at any point, something could happen and I could have to drop a chunk of money to take care of them. That’s a huge consideration when you’re thinking about getting a pet. I looked into pet insurance and decided it wasn’t for me, but your mileage may vary with that. It’s really a personal choice.
Pets are wonderful. As I’m typing this, I have a cat draped across my arms, “helping” me write this post (and probably getting fur in the keyboard). Even with the expense, I wouldn’t trade the companionship for anything. But if you and your family are thinking of adopting a new pet, I really think you should sit down and consider the costs of owning a pet, both in terms of finances and in terms of your time.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.