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The True Cost of Taking In A Stray

Lindsay Tigar  |  November 10, 2022

Adopting a pet from a shelter is a generous gift, but it may come with additional expenses. Here’s how to prepare. 

When you decide to adopt a stray, instead of purchasing a puppy or kitten, you’re giving a sweet animal a second chance at life. And while your pet will quickly become your furriest best friend, you should know it can also be expensive to nurse your new pet back to health. Stray animals have an unknown history of disease and behavioral problems, and may have been neglected and suffered from poor nutrition in their past. Your new pet will also not have details on their vaccination history, which means you’ll need to ensure they have all their shots. All these costs can add up quickly, which is why we wanted to take a look at everything you should know about the true cost of taking in a stray. 

Potential History of Disease

The most common risks when taking in a stray are ectoparasites and endoparasites, according to Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, a senior veterinarian for ORIJEN and ACANA pet foods. In other words: fleas, ticks, mange and worms. “Dogs and cats that live on the streets are accustomed to hunting or scavenging for food, and often worms and fleas are a common result of those habits,” she explains.

Also, due to not knowing the pet’s history, there is a chance they may have a disease or a virus that you will need to manage, explains Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT. “While many parasites are curable, there are few viruses such as rabies, canine distemper virus and feline panleukopenia that are not curable,” she adds. If you have other pets in the home when you’re bringing in your formerly homeless pet, keep a cat or dog with an unknown history separate from them until a veterinarian evaluates them. 

Unpredictable Behavior 

Though no pet parent wants to be cautious with cuddles, when giving treats or cuddling with your furry friend, it’s important to remember that strays often have unpredictable behavior. “This animal is new to you and may have just undergone very traumatic experiences,” Dr. Krause says. “It’s difficult to know how the cat or dog will act in new circumstances.” 

To mitigate risks or potentially dangerous interactions, take it slow and proceed with caution. If you suspect your little buddy is struggling, consider dog training to help them adjust and feel safe in their loving home.

Vaccinations and Veterinarian Visits Are A Must

In the early stages of your adoption experience, Dr. Kostituk reminds pet parents that they may have to budget more for medical care. “This could include everything from vaccinations, flea and tick treatments, deworming, and spay or neuter surgery, as well as a slush fund for ailments or illnesses that will require treatment if found after the initial veterinarian check-up, like ear infections,” she says. 

Dietary Needs May Vary 

As with any animal you bring home, your new doggo or kitty may not like the first kind of food you give them. And the second kind you give them they may love, but it might cause them to have an upset stomach. In other words, have patience, Dr. Krause reminds. “For some animals with sensitive stomachs, finding the right formula may take some trial and error,” she shares. “While many pet food stores will take food back, this may take extra financial resources.”

Upfront and Ongoing Pet Parent Expenses 

Whether you decide to adopt or purchase an animal, you should expect to spend a pretty penny on the basics, and then allocate a portion of your monthly budget to your pet’s needs, says Colleen McCreary, the chief people officer and financial advocate at Credit Karma. This includes food, crate, bed, toys, and a leash/collar on day one. Then, monthly, you’ll continue to pay for kibble and treats, as well as grooming, training and boarding, if necessary. Some stray pets may also require medication and, well, more cuddles: “Stray pets may need additional emotional support for things like anxiety, loneliness and aggression,” McCreary adds. 

If you’re a renter, check with your landlord to see if they require a pet security deposit or other fees associated with having a pet, McCreary reminds. “Typically, these fees cover the extra cleaning and repairs that your apartment may need when you move out.”

Last but not least: don’t forget about pet insurance. You want to ensure you can always cover whatever cost your formerly stray pet needs, and pet insurance can give you peace of mind and remove some of the financial burdens. 

One Way to Help Shelter Pets

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation is running a promotion to help more shelter and rescue pets. The foundation has helped hundreds of pet rescues and animal shelters by providing grants to help fund medicine, food, shelter, and operating costs – donating nearly $2 million to nonprofits over 13 years.

Until the end of 2022, the Healthy Paws Foundation is temporarily increasing the amount donated for its “Every Quote Gives Hope” program to $1 for each person who requests a free pet insurance quote on its website.

It is estimated that the increased funding will add $180,000 to the Foundation’s budget for the remainder of the year, helping to save thousands more pets. 

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