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.