I grew up with pets.  We always had a cat and sometimes a dog.  I am particularly fond of cats, and without a cat, our house just feels lonelier.  Still, based on my experiences growing up and now, I don’t think people should have pets if they have consumer debt.

Pets, though lovable companions, are expensive.  There is just no way around it.  Consider some of the following pet expenses:

Purchasing the pet.  If you buy a purebred, you are looking at several hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars just to purchase the animal.   Even if you get an animal from the shelter, you usually still have to pay to have it spayed or neutered.

Licensing.  If you live near a large city, you will be required to pay for an annual license.  This can cost $50 to $100.

Food.  We have a small 10 pound cat that eats approximately $25 a month in food.  Imagine feeding a large breed dog; you could be paying $50 or more just for food each month.

Accessories.  Dogs need leashes, toys and chews.  Cats benefit from scratching posts and kitty towers as well as toys.  Each of these can cost from $20 to $200 a year.

Annual checkups.  Most pets need annual check-ups including vaccinations.  These can run from $50 to $300, depending on the vaccinations and treatments required, such as heartworm shots for dogs.

Dental care.  Some time in a pet’s life, they will need dental work or dental extractions.  These procedures are not cheap and can run $100 to $300.

Illness.  Even if you have a healthy pet, as they age, pets will require more expensive procedures.  I had a cat who had a thyroid problem; she had to have regular medication that cost us $20 a month.  Other pets can suffer from chronic skin problems or other diseases and require monthly medication.

Care.  You will likely take a vacation several times during your pet’s life and will need to pay someone to watch and care for your animal whether that is someone who comes into your house or somewhere you take the pet.  Depending on how often you vacation and how long you are gone, each time you need care, you can expect to pay $75 to $500.

Grooming.  Some breeds of dogs do require professional grooming or their coats will simply be matted fur.  Cats may need their nails clipped at the vet.  You could pay $5 to $75 for these services each time.

While most people enjoy having pets, they are expensive.  If you are in debt, most likely one of two things will happen if you own a pet.  If you don’t want to spend the money, your pet may not get the care and treatment he truly needs such as regular check-ups or medication that is needed to treat a chronic condition.  Alternatively, you may take good care of your pet and pay all of the required expenses, but that can add up to several hundred dollars a year, which could have been money that was spent on lowering your overall consumer debt.  The responsible move is to delay owning a pet until your consumer debt is paid off.  Both you and your pet will be glad you waited.

Melissa Batai

Melissa Batai

Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1), blogs at both Mom’s Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and paying down debt, and Fiscal Phoenix where she writes about rising from the ashes of your financial mistakes.