How much is that doggy in the window? Whether you're adding a new fur person to your family or another fish to your tank, pets are a big responsibility and can become an even bigger expense if you're not prepared. With households spending an average of $590 on pet expenses last year, choosing the right pet for your family budget is simple with these mindful steps. And furry snuggles are always free.
1. Adopt a pet from your local animal shelter.
If that fur person is a purebred puppy or a cat with credentials, you'll pay thousands for a pedigreed pet. Unless you’re into dog shows or cat competitions, I highly recommend you skip the pet store or breeder and adopt a lovable mutt or adorable tabby from your local animal shelter.
Rescue puppies and mature dogs cost from $145 to $345 to adopt, while kittens and cats can run you $90 to $175. The bonus is these nominal fees can include the first round of deworming and shots, and often cover neutering or spaying costs.
While younger animals are often a family focus, consider the older pets too. Shelter staff assess pets and assign personality profiles to each animal, helping you find a match that's “great with kids”, “good with other pets”, or “likes to be the only pet”.
Shelters often have bunnies, reptiles, guinea pigs, birds, and other species looking for homes too. So drop in to speak to an expert that can help you find the perfect pet for your budget and family needs.
2. Food fit for a furry friend.
A Great Dane will dine on more food than a gerbil, so get familiar with your pet's food costs before bringing an extra mouth home. Pet supply stores boast multiple brands for all species and can help match your pet's dietary needs on budget. Older pets and younger breeds may have unique dietary requirements, and an expert can help decipher the nutritional lingo on wet, dry, and bird seed formulations too. Many supply stores offer deals and discounts, so keep your frequent buyer card handy because the 10th bag may be free.
3. Skip doggy dress-up or feline fashion?
Your furry friend doesn’t need to look runway ready to be loved by you. While the occasional outfit or pet costume is fine, do watch the high costs associated with buying pet clothing. If you need winter, protective, or rain wear to walk your pet outdoors, invest in quality pet clothing that will last for years.
4. Hire a veterinarian before an emergency.
Vet prices can vary between regions, so be sure to interview prospective clinics and ask for regular visit price lists and shot costs. Check with the veterinary association in your region for licensed vets you can hire, and comparison shop before your pet needs care. A healthy pet can live and be loved for decades, so know your medical fees upfront and add that cost to your pet budget.
5. Brush those teeth!
If your pet has a set of smile-worthy teeth, go ahead and give 'em a gentle daily brushing! Dental bills for humans can be high, and pulling or repairing a pet's chompers can also cost thousands. Many vets charge hundreds for routine cleaning, so preventing tartar and decay can save you a bundle and keep your pet healthy. Ask your local pet store for proper animal toothpaste and a super-soft toothbrush.
Kerry K. Taylor is a consumer expert at Squawkfox.com