Can You Afford a Pet?

The holidays usher in a time for family, food and tradition. For a lot of parents, one of those traditions is listening to their kids ask for the same thing over and over again: “Can we please get a puppy?” You’ve likely demurred or flat out said no in the past, but whether you give in this year or plan to take this step in the future, you’ll need to first figure out if your family can even afford a pet.

Consider a “Starter” Pet

Bringing a new pet into a household means committing to a lifetime of proper care. If you’re not sure how committed your kids are to helping out, consider starting out with a pet that’s easier to care for. Rabbits, hamsters and fish are all good choices because they are much less of a financial investment and will also teach your kids to be responsible for pet care. After you’ve had some time to adjust to a smaller pet, you may decide that you’re ready to move up … or perhaps wait a bit longer before you buy a dog or cat.

Initial Costs

Before you meet any potential puppies or kittens that are sure to steal your heart, it’s a good idea to consider the long-term costs and determine if a new pet will fit into your family’s budget. If you’re not looking for a specific breed, consider adopting a pet from your local animal shelter. According to The Humane Society of the United States, adopting a pet from a shelter may help you save on the initial costs of pet ownership, such as vaccinations and spaying or neutering. Once you’ve chosen your new pet, you’ll need to purchase the necessary pet equipment: feeding bowls, an overnight cage or travel case, a dog bed and toys, leashes and a collar with an ID tag.

Modifying Your Living Space

Adding a pet to your household will be an adjustment for both you and your new dog or cat. Investing in training at the outset can help both your new pet and your family figure out the best way to acclimate a new pet into your home. You might find that you need to make some minor changes to your home to make it more pet friendly. Dog doors, built-in pet nooks, storage space for newly-purchased pet gear and safety gates to protect your pet (or your furniture) are optional, but may help smooth your family’s transition to pet ownership.

Ongoing Expenses

American Pet Products Association found that dog owners spend an average of $269 per year on pet food, and cat owners average $246 per year on food. Although this necessary cost can be factored into your weekly or monthly grocery budget, ongoing and surprise medical care are expenses that can be harder to plan for.

If you work outside of the home, you may need to pay for a dog walker to get your pet their required daily activity or more expensive doggie day-care if they need to go out more than once a day. Other types of ongoing expenses include grooming for dogs with longer hair or fur.

Although you can never really put a price tag on the experience of bringing a pet into your home, the actual costs of food, medical care and equipment can sometimes run into thousands of dollars per year. To be a good owner, you should make sure your family can truly afford a pet before granting your child’s wish this holiday season to add a new, furry friend to your family.

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