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The Hidden Costs of House Pets

Rolling with the Pooches

When you really think about the concept of having house pets, it’s kind of wild. We basically go find some weird little creature and decide to bring it into our home to care for it for the rest of its life. And then we fall in love with it; we talk in silly voices, create narratives that fit their personality, make up funny songs or nicknames, and invest in enriching their lives.

We forgive transgressions like destroyed furniture or accidents on the carpet with a shrug of the shoulders and an understanding that it’s part of the deal—we provide food, shelter, toys, medical care, time, clean-up, replacement costs, and affection in exchange for them to continue being cool little guys who entertain us, and hopefully, love us back. And with cats, we don’t really even expect them to love us back.

So, we would agree with most pet parents that the love of a pet is priceless. However, as a budgeting app, we wanted to explore the true expense of pet ownership.

How Much Do Pets Cost?

The annual costs associated with caring for your furry friend depends on a variety of factors, including the type of pet, his or her age and health, and your own personal style of being a pet owner.

If you’re trying to create a budget before adopting a new pet, consider the following expenses:

  • Adoption fees
  • Medical costs (including spaying, neutering, check-ups, and vaccinations)
  • Microchipping
  • Pet food and bowls
  • Bedding
  • Collar/Leash/Harness
  • Crate or kennel
  • Litter box, litter, or puppy pads and waste bags
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Scratching post or chew toys
  • Grooming or grooming supplies
  • Stain and odor remover
  • Training
  • Boarding or pet sitting
  • Pet license
  • Pet insurance
  • Pet store impulse purchases (like a little sweater!)

A 2022 survey of U.S. dog parents by Rover, indicated that the parents of house pets spend approximately $100 to $149 per month on pet care. Obviously, your mileage may vary when it comes to the cost of owning household pets.

But what about when things don’t go as planned?

Unexpected Pet Expenses

If you’re a YNAB user, you’re probably already familiar with Rule Three: Roll with the Punches. Rule Three is an acknowledgement that life happens—you can’t possibly predict every event or expense. If you end up overspending in a budget category, whether through an unfortunate circumstance or an impulsive moment, cover the overspending with money from another category and move on guilt-free.

Pet ownership has its own Rule Three that we’ll call Rolling with the Pooches. When you invite another species to share your life, they become a family member. And because life is the way life is, the unexpected can happen. And when you love them, you’ll find a way to make it work…in your budget and in your daily life.

So, in an effort to help you expect the unexpected, we asked our Instagram followers about their most surprising costs when it came to having house pets. Here’s what they said:

  • Allergy testing and allergy meds (for owner!)
  • Apartment pet fees
  • Vet visits and x-rays when they eat something they shouldn’t
  • Prescription dog food
  • Anxiety meds (for pet!)
  • Teeth cleaning and extractions
  • Online puppy training
  • Heartworm and flea medicine
  • Special treats for picky pets
  • Immunotherapy
  • Rescuing more pets because you can’t stop at one
  • Dog walking
  • Replacement beds/toys/furniture due to chewing
  • Upholstered furniture due to scratching
  • Pheromone spray and sticky tape to deter scratching
  • Special cat litter to prevent UTIs
  • Rental car vs. plane tickets to travel with pet
  • Buttons that help the dog communicate with its owners
  • A treat-dispensing web camera to help with separation anxiety
  • End of life expenses

Special shout-out to the following unexpected pet expense stories:

  • An emergency vet visit for the cat that got a printer cartridge stuck in her throat
  • Vet bills for a $485 ear infection
  • The $3000 of veterinary care for the dog who bit into an asthma inhaler
  • Medicine for a pet who had an allergic reaction to their pet sitter’s perfume
  • Surgery for the puppy who ate a squeaky toy
  • Surgical removal of a plastic water bottle that a dog ate
  • Baby wipes and coconut oil for a purebred bulldog’s facial folds
  • Last, but not least, the Golden Retriever who *checks notes* slurped a bath mat up like spaghetti, resulting in $1300 worth of surgery. I’m sure he’s a very good boy, though.

Budgeting for House Pet Expenses

Don't forget to budget for the unpredictable expenses that come with owning house pets.
Leave room for surprises in your pet care budget.

Ah, unconditional love comes at a cost, doesn’t it?

That’s what your budget is for! Ideally, your spending aligns with your priorities…and your pet is a priority. So go ahead and add some extra money to your “Pet Expenses” category so that you’re at least a little prepared for the unexpected, yet inevitable, expenses that come with having house pets.

Don’t have a budget yet and looking for a new pet project? We’ve got you covered there. Try YNAB for free for 34 days—no credit card required.

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The Hidden Costs of House Pets