The Hidden Costs of Owning a Pet.

Millennials collectively spend billions of dollars annually on pets. According to the APPA – The American Pet Products Association, an enormous $72.5 billion was spent in 2018 on pet care products. It’s easy to become enchanted with those big puppy eyes or kitty antics at the animal shelter; however, before adopting a pet, prospective millennial pet parents should learn about the hidden costs of owning a pet.

Beyond Food and Toys

The typical regimen of pet food ranges between $250 and $700 per year, at a basic level. In addition to those expenses, when you adopt a pet, you expect to pay adoption fees. If you are one of the lucky ones, you may get one free from a friend whose pet has just given birth. You know you must pay for dog or cat food, a collar, a leash, a pet bed, and some toys. If you adopt a puppy, you might plan for obedience training costs. Also, consider recurring costs, like annual licenses or tags, vaccinations, and veterinary visits. If your pet becomes seriously ill or injured, costs for treatment and surgery can run into the thousands.

This survey that found millennials to be the largest segment of pet owners discovered that a majority of millennial pet parents would take pet care leave from work if their employer offered such a benefit. Essentially, what this means is that they are willing to lose money to spend money on their pets. What happens if your employer doesn’t offer that kind of leave? How would you care for a pet enduring a prolonged recovery from surgery? While pet insurance (which itself can run several hundred dollars per year) might pay some of the cost of treatment, taking unpaid time off to help your pet through recovery requires having enough savings to cover the time off.

Grooming and Clean Up

While spending hours brushing burrs out of fur might seem like a calming activity, the opportunity costs of that time should factor into determining whether pet owners should budget for grooming services.

Then, there’s the kitty litter and the dog poop bags, the special attachments or new vacuum cleaners that can handle pet hair, the scratches on the floors, and the teeth marks on the walls. All pets, especially when very young, very old, or ill, can have “accidents” that require special clean up. If you rent your home, expect your landlord to charge extra and impose weight limits and restrictions on certain breeds, even in pet-friendly properties.

If you own your home, you may discover that homeowner’s associations add pet fees. Homeowner’s insurance may not cover injuries from dog bites without an additional rider or separate policy. Some breeds are considered too dangerous to insure at all.

Even if you choose a fish or bird for a pet, there is the expense of food, cages or aquariums, and cleaning. Fish tanks add to your water and electric bills, as well.

All this comes down to budgeting. Before you adopt a pet, sit down and figure out if you can afford it. Create a monthly budget that exposes the hidden costs of pet ownership.  Include monthly savings for a “pet emergency fund” that would stash away several thousand should your pet become seriously ill or injured by a car or another animal. Several pet and animal welfare organizations provide pet ownership budget worksheets to help you map out how much you’ll likely be investing in an animal addition to the family.

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