What pets cost

Most people don’t think of their companion animal as a luxury item. But even if that puppy in the window is free, costs for its care add up. Unless you have exotic tastes, the initial cost of a companion animal is a drop in the pet pail compared to a lifetime of providing it a good home.

According to the 2011–2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, basic annual expenses for a dog guardian amount to $1,542. They’re $1,217 for a cat guardian. Veterinarian James Wilson determined that the comprehensive cost of owning a medium-size dog for 12 years (right down to the last squeaky toy) is around $30,000.

If you are considering adding a pet to your family, make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If this is belated advice, take heart, my next article will detail how pets save you!

Barring any major medical catastrophes later in life, the first year of animal ownership tends to be the most expensive. You should be prepared for adoption or purchase fees, the initial round of vaccinations, spay/neuter charges and the cost of microchipping. Puppies may require obedience classes, dog walking and even daycare to get them socialized and away from your delicious shoes.

If this is your first pet, be prepared to invest in “capitail” improvements. You will need supplies such as bowls, bedding, a litter box, grooming supplies and/or a scratching post (or your couch may suffer). Some digs require fencing, the installation of a cat door or pet proofing. Later, carpets may need to be cleaned, furniture replaced, screens repaired and gardens replanted. This is why Dog — I mean God  — made puppies and kitties so incredibly cute.

With proper planning, you’ll make it through the first puppalicious year scot-(but not Scot terrier) free. From this point on, you can expect annual vet exams (these typically include vaccinations, a fecal exam and canine heartworm testing). Basic supplies may include pest control, cat litter and grooming products. 

High-quality food and supplements and services like dog walking, day care and first-rate veterinary services will increase your expenses. But the investment in preventative care can pay off by keeping medical conditions at Beagle’s bay. Still, as pets age, the need for prescriptions, veterinary tests and remedial procedures may increase. Many conscientious caretakers consider pet health insurance to be mandatory.

You may need to find a good boarding facility. Some people trade pet care with neighbors or friends, but if their bored pet terrorizes their jam cupboard when they’re gone, more than the floor can get sticky. Additionally, many people find that the reciprocation of their time investment does not meet their expectations.

There are ways to curtail costs. Choose a small dog over a large one. Long-living cats cost less annually. Shelter adoptees are often already vaccinated and neutered.

Most importantly, do your research. It’s the pits, but your home insurance could go up if you get a Staffordshire terrier. Breeds like Persians and poodles turn into walking weepuls without grooming assistance. Hyper herders like Aussies and border collies need room to run. German shepherds have higher incidences of hip dysplasia.

Pets add so much to our lives. It’s important to properly budget so that we can be there for (all nine of) theirs. That said, I’m sure you’ll find the love and companionship of your pet well worth the mewlah.

• Moksha McClure is the founder of Whiskers Resort, a pet hotel in Lihu‘e offering doggie day care, grooming and overnight boarding for cats and dogs for more than a decade. Prior to owning Whiskers, Moksha hiked multi-dog packs off-leash, ‘Dog Whisperer’ style, in the mountains of Santa Fe, NM. An animal lover since an early age, Moksha became vegetarian when she was age 8 and has been pet sitting most of her life. She has cared for a smorgasbord of animals from bunnies to burros, pigs to parrots and reptiles to racehorses. Visit www.whiskersresort.com or call 241-PETS.


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