The Lifetime Costs of Owning Dogs, Cats, Hamsters, Birds and More

Thinking of getting a pet but not sure what you can realistically afford? The Penny Hoarder looked at some of the most common household pets to determine how much money you can expect to spend on them in their lifetime.


1 of 7

Can We Keep Him?

pets

Photos by Getty Images

Photos by Getty Images

“Aww. Mom, can we keep him? Please?

If you’re a parent, chances are this refrain sounds familiar. But when it comes to your wallet, not all pets are created equally.

From fancy diets to vet bills, different types of animals command different price tags. And those costs can add up significantly over the course of their lifetimes. (Hey, no one ever said adulting was cheap.)

So we crunched the numbers on several of the most popular companions to see which will work best for your family’s budget—just be sure to remind Junior about his excitement a few months down the road when cleaning up after Spot has lost its novelty.

RELATED: 


2 of 7
pet dog

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

For this example, we’ll assume you adopt a generally healthy mixed breed from a local shelter. We won’t factor in the one-time adoption fee, since it can range from nothing to $350, according to Petfinder.com. Higher adoption fees may—or may not—include spaying, neutering, and an initial vet visit. You might also need to factor in professional services like training and doggy day care, depending on your circumstances.

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits and vaccines: $80-$250
  • Food: $120-$500
  • Heartworm, flea, and tick prevention: $75-$330
  • Toys and treats: $50-$300 (Here are some DIY dog toy options)
  • Accessories (collar, dishes, etc., which may need replacement after first purchase): $0-$200

Minimum annual cost: $325 (and up to $1,580 or more)

RELATED: How to Manage Pet Allergies Without Giving Up Your Pets


3 of 7
pet kitten

Photo by Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

Photo by Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

Cat adoption still comes at a cost, though it tends to be a bit lower than their canine compatriots—between $0 and $200, according to Petfinder. Cats also have the added benefit of relative self-sufficiency; they can often be left to their own devices for a day or two, which means you save on boarding costs during long weekend vacations. You’ll still face initial costs like spaying, neutering, and purchasing a litter box, however, and their sensitive systems mean vet costs can be higher than Fido’s.

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits and vaccines: $110-$550
  • Food: $120-$500
  • Flea and tick prevention: $20-$200
  • Litter: $70-$150
  • Toys and treats: $30-$100 (Here are some DIY cat toy options)
  • Accessories (food and water bowls, scratching post): $15-$350

Minimum annual cost: $365 (and up to $1,850)


4 of 7
pet bird

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Feathered friends like parakeets can be a wallet-friendly choice… so long as you’re a heavy sleeper. They don’t call it “eating like a bird” for nothing.

That said, larger, more intelligent species, like African Grays, require careful, nigh-constant care including specialized diets, and they often live for decades. In other words, they’re not a responsibility to be taken lightly!

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits and vaccines: $85+
  • Food: $190+
  • Toys and treats: $25+
  • Accessories (food and water bowls, scratching post): $0-$100+

Minimum annual cost: $300


5 of 7

Hamsters and Other Small, Furry Critters

pet hamster

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Ah, cage-bound critters: both convenient and cuddly. While adoption and enclosure costs can vary considerably depending on whether you’re adopting a gerbil ferret, gerbil or guinea pig -- from as low as $25 up to multiple hundreds of dollars -- these smaller creatures can be quite affordable over time. They’re less likely to need vaccinations (though rabbits can benefit from a few), and eat less than either cats or dogs.

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits and vaccines: $0-$70
  • Food: $45-$325
  • Litter: $70-$210
  • Toys and treats: $0-$40
  • Accessories (food and water bowls, scratching post): $0-$100

Minimum annual cost: $115 (and up to a rather surprising $745)


6 of 7

Iguanas, Snakes and Reptiles

pet snake

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

If you’re looking for something that slithers, you may find yourself with an affordable pet option. After the upfront costs of cages and fixtures, the main expense associated with these critters is keeping them fed and heated, which may produce a slight bump in your electricity bill. Of course, those initial necessities can add up on their own; just the terrarium can run over $100.

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits: $0-$200
  • Food: $50-$200
  • Litter: $0-$100 -- in many cases, newspaper will suffice
  • Toys and treats: $0-$40
  • Accessories (food and water bowls, scratching post): $0-$100

Minimum annual cost: $50, not including any electricity bill increase related to heating


7 of 7
pet fish

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

With fish, it’s all about the initial setup, especially if you’re going the higher-end saltwater route. Even small saltwater tank kits cost hundreds of dollars, and that’s less than you’d spend if you purchased it all piecemeal.

Freshwater is more affordable, but you’ll still need an aquarium and a filter at a minimum. You’ll also need to purchase test kits in order to keep an eye on your water parameters and ensure your fish remain healthy.

Annual expenses:

  • Veterinary visits: N/A
  • Food: $10+
  • Toys and treats: N/A
  • Accessories (replacement gravel, new tank decorations, etc): $15-$100+
  • Testing kits: $5-$50+
  • Water treatments: $5-$100+

Minimum annual cost: $20, but keep the initial costs in mind -- and know that saltwater tanks can make those higher figures skyrocket.

 

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a writer for The Penny Hoarder, a website about smart ways to make and save money.