Budgeting for a New Pet
Whether you're considering adopting a cat, dog, rabbit, hamster, or guinea pig, you must be committed to caring for your new pet for its lifetime. Adding a pet as a new family member is exciting, sometimes frustrating, and extremely rewarding. But you have to make sure you understand up front what kind of commitment you're making. Pets thrive on love, but they also require tangibles like food, shelter and bedding. And you have to be prepared to give your new pet the veterinary care necessary for a long, healthy, happy life.
In 2011, there were approximately 218 million pets in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pet ownership crosses almost all demographic boundaries, and pet owners spend substantial amounts of money caring for their companion animals. On average, US households spend over $500 per year on their pets. Budgeting for your new family member helps ensure the best possible experience for both you and your pet. Here's what budgeting for your new pet should include.
Puppies chew, kittens climb, and dogs have a tendency to get into food storage and trash cans. Before you bring your new best friend home, lock up any hazards like antifreeze or pest control products. Consider rearranging to keep "attractive nuisances" out of your pet's territory. You may need to invest in storage products to items away from your pet that could become impromptu chew toys.
Choosing a Veterinarian
Many pet adoption agencies require you to list your veterinarian on the adoption application, so be prepared. Word-of-mouth referrals are great for finding a good vet, and you should visit, or at least telephone your new vet's office to let them know you'll be adopting an animal. Learn what your vet's hours are and how after hours emergencies are handled.
Dogs generally require the most in the way of supplies. Here are the typical supplies you'll need to consider when budgeting for your new pet:
•Food and water dishes
•Collar and leash
•ID tags (or implanted ID microchip)
•Baby gates if you're keeping your dog within certain parts of the house
•Treats and toys
If you're adopting a cat, you'll need a litter box and litter, and ideally you should have a climbable "kitty condo" to keep him entertained and allow him to climb and use his claws. Small pets will require a safe, properly-sized cage, bedding, and specialized food.
Adoption costs vary widely, but pet adoption is rarely free. Some shelters will refund part or all of the cost of spaying or neutering your dog or cat, and some animals receive their initial vaccinations before they're put up for adoption.
Budgeting for pet food will need to become a habit, and you'll have to include cat litter for your cat, or bedding for your smaller pets when budgeting. If you use budgeting software like mint.com, you can easily add line items for regular pet expenses that will make budgeting for your new family member easier.
Dog training may seem like an unnecessary expense, particularly if you're adopting a small dog, but budgeting for training is smart for any dog you adopt, even if he comes to you already trained. Basic classes cost around $100, and help you establish your household "chain of command." Training classes are well worth the investment, particularly if you live in an apartment complex or other environment where your dog will regularly encounter other people and pets.
Budgeting for an initial veterinary evaluation is essential for your new pet. Your vet can alert you to any potential health problems, ensure your pet is properly vaccinated, help you with flea and parasite control, and arrange spaying or neutering - procedures that help pets have healthier, and often longer lives. Vaccinations will need to be updated yearly, and your budgeting should include money set aside for unforeseen veterinary expenses.
Adopting a pet can be one of the happiest and most rewarding of family events. Budgeting for your pet ensures that he will receive all the care he needs and deserves for a happy, healthy life. You may be surprised at how much of a financial investment adopting a pet is, but when you budget properly and make a solid commitment to provide a safe, healthy, happy home for a pet, the rewards are priceless.
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