Connect Pets

The Financial Checklist for Your First Dog or Cat

Lindsay Tigar  |  August 18, 2022

Welcoming a new best friend? Here's the financial checklist you need to prepare your heart — and budget — for your first dog or cat.

Deciding to welcome a new dog or cat to your family is easy. After all: who can resist those adorable furry faces? However, in order for your pet to thrive, you need to do more than buy a bag of food and an adorable sweater — you’ve got to take a hard look at your finances. From training materials and veterinarian visits to vaccinations and health insurance, a pet is a decade-long (or hopefully more!) commitment that changes your budget and heart. 

Before you start to worry, relax. We’ve talked to leading experts on the essential financial checklist for first-time pet parents. By following this guide, you take away the “what ifs” of money expenses, allowing you to spend more time bonding — and cuddling — with your new furry best friend. 

Consider Monthly and Yearly Costs 

While puppies and kittens carry higher costs in their first year of life due to vaccinations and spay/neuter costs, you can expect to pay $1,675 for a dog and $1,101 for a cat annually, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This general estimate varies significantly, depending on the size and the health of your animal. 

As financial coach Paula Christine puts it, if we break that down to an average monthly cost ranging from $92 to $140 – as a first-time pet parent – you must ask yourself: “Does my budget allow for those additional expenses?”

“To answer that question, you must first understand all your monthly expenses,” Christine says. “If you are not currently living on a budget, take steps to create one.” Track everything you spend for 30 days and break it into categories: fixed (rent, mortgage, bills), variable (subscriptions, groceries, dining out), and savings. Your pet costs will become fixed since your little buddy will be in your family for 10-18 years. After analyzing your income, you’ll know for certain whether you can afford their care, and make budgetary adjustments where necessary.  

Veterinarian Visits and Vaccinations 

In the first year of their life, your dog or cat will receive three rounds of core vaccinations beginning at six weeks old. Based on where you live, you may also need more immunizations to keep your little one protected. All of these wellness checks and visits cost a pretty penny, and veterinarian Brittany Kleszynski, DVM reminds pet parents to set aside appropriate funds to cover the expenses. “Before adopting a pet, pet parents should set aside savings for puppy well care,” she continues. “This includes money for a physical exam, vaccines and boosters, parasite screening and deworming medications, microchipping, and the spay or neuter surgery.”

In addition to shots, your pet will also need ongoing medication, like monthly flea/tick and heartworm protection, so they will stay healthy — and happy, Dr. Kleszynski adds. All in? You should expect to pay between $500 and $2,000 in the first year on wellness care, dependent on your zip code. 

Comfort and Health Necessities

A dog’s gotta eat! Having a steady bowl full of grub for your pet is an essential budget item — and one that can be costly. Initially, it may take a few different types of kibble before figuring out which one your picky pet enjoys the most. Also, most animal food is divided into age categories, so your pup will start with puppy food before graduating to dog food. You’ll need to keep an eye out for their digestive changes and growth milestones while setting aside enough funds to feed them. 

Additionally, you will be expected to maintain their everyday comforts. This includes  purchasing essential items like leashes, collars, food bowls, toys and grooming for dogs, and kitty litter, litter pans, cat scratchers and climbing trees for cats, says Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, B.Sc.Ag, D.V.M., Senior Veterinarian for ORIJEN and ACANA pet food. “These items vary in cost and need to be replaced regularly,” she notes. You can estimate $200 upfront for these must-haves. 

Spay or Neuter Surgery

Unless you plan on breeding your pet, veterinarians and health experts highly recommend spaying or neutering your pet to prevent unwanted pregnancies and decrease the risk of certain medical conditions, including uterine infections and specific types of cancer, Dr. Kostiuk says.  

When does this happen? It depends on your pet’s breed, so speak to your veterinarian about the appropriate time frame so you can financially prepare for the surgery — which could cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending on many factors. “The larger the animal, the higher the medication doses will need to be; therefore, the more product used. “For a female dog, the spay procedure is intra-abdominal, while for the male, the neuter procedure is more superficial,” she continues. “If you ask your veterinarian, they should be able to provide you with an estimate for any additional procedures after they have examined your pet.”

Training and Daycare

If you want a well-mannered pup, you may want to invest in dog training. Most experts recommend training early and often to set good habits from the beginning. There are both private and individual sessions, and they vary in cost. You can expect to pay at least a few hundred, if not more, for several classes. As Dr. Kostiuk says, training and puppy socialization classes help to raise an obedient and well-rounded canine. 

Also, if you anticipate being away from home for several hours during the day and you’re unable to take your pup out for a bathroom or exercise break, you’ll need to hire someone to stop by your home. Some families choose to have dog walkers ($15-25 per walk) or doggie daycare, which usually rings in at $100 per day.

Pet Insurance

There are many unanticipated health conditions and emergencies that can occur over the life of your pet. If you are not financially prepared or do not have a safety net when these occur, you may find yourself in a heartbreaking situation, Dr. Kostiuk says. That’s why pet insurance can often make an enormous difference when it comes to comfortably affording more expensive procedures or extensive hospital stays. “Having the financial liquidity to afford these upfront costs is important too, but may only be required for a short period if pet insurance is in place,” she adds.


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