Pet care: Budgeting for a four-legged friend
“Your furry friends can run up a big tab over their lifetime,” said Pat Mertz Essen and Kaitlin Pitsker in Kiplinger.com. American pet owners devoted $66.8 billion to their pets in 2016, almost double the $38.5 billion forked out in 2006. The first cost factor—and one of the biggest—is how you acquire your pet. “Buying from a pet store is rarely a good idea.” The animals often come from “puppy mills or kitten factories.” Adopting from an animal shelter usually costs from $20 to $350, while rescue organizations charge from $150 to $400. Both are typically more humane and economical than stores. Make sure the shelter or rescue group is well established and “documents the completion of vaccinations and neutering.”
Nobody wants to put a price tag on “the companionship of a four-legged friend,” said Elizabeth O’Brien in Money.com. But it’s not unreasonable to map out your animal’s costs and incorporate them into your budget. “You don’t want to reach a point where unexpected expenses force you to give up your beloved pup, or where they crowd out all other financial priorities.” Unforeseen costs abound. If you’re a renter, for instance, most landlords demand a deposit or nonrefundable fee when an animal joins the family. Experts suggest immediately opening a rainy-day pet fund as soon as you pick up your new friend. “That way, you won’t get blindsided by any pet-related rental fees, or the bill when Fluffy swallows something she shouldn’t have.” Travel is also a big issue for a pet owner, said Kelli Blender in People.com. Depending on the airline, small dogs and cats usually can travel with you for a fee. If that’s not possible, you’ll need to budget for either a dog walker or sitting service.
The largest chunk of what you can expect to spend will go to vet bills, said Michael Estrin in The San Diego Union-Tribune. With pet-related health-care costs soaring—not unlike that of humans—pet insurance has become a “big business,” with 1.6 million pets now covered in the U.S. Typical policies run about $50 per month. Helpfully, you don’t have to worry about out-of-network care. “Unlike health insurance for humans, most pet insurance policies do not limit pet owners to a network of approved veterinarians.” You also shouldn’t assume your pet is too old to qualify. Age limits vary by insurance company, but a number of firms insure dogs and cats up to age 14, while others have no age restrictions. You might also consider insurance “for your dog’s bite, as well as its bark,” said Beth Pinsker in Reuters.com. There were 18,522 liability claims for dog-related confrontations last year in the U.S., with insurance payouts averaging $37,051 per incident. “Dogs of any size or breed can inflict serious damage.” Dog bites are often included in the liability portion of renters or homeowners insurance policies, so check yours, as “inadequate coverage can invite lawsuits.”