Money Analysed

The High Cost of Pet Ownership: Financial Obligations and Benefits

Pets are a great source of joy for many people. They offer companionship, loyalty, and unconditional love.

However, pet ownership comes with its fair share of responsibilities, one of which is the financial obligation it incurs. With the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns, more people have taken to pet adoption.

The increased pet ownership has, in turn, put a financial strain on households. This article delves into the cost of pet ownership and the benefits of having a pet during challenging times like a pandemic.

The Cost of Pet Ownership

After the initial rush of excitement and joy that comes with bringing a pet home, the reality of the financial implication of pet ownership sets in. Feeding, routine care expenses, pet insurance, and emergency medical bills, among others, can be overwhelming.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the average cost of owning a dog per year is $1,123, while that of a cat is $800. For many households, this cost can be a significant financial burden, especially during the challenging times that come with a pandemic.

New pet owners during COVID-19 lockdowns have particularly found it challenging to manage the costs associated with caring for pets. Many people have lost their jobs or had their incomes reduced, and this has made it harder to provide for their new furry friends.

To alleviate the financial strain of pet ownership, pet owners have resorted to using credit cards to settle significant medical bills. The use of credit cards can come with high-interest rates and debt accumulation in the long run.

Therefore, it is advisable to have pet insurance to cushion you against hefty medical expenses. However, according to a 2020 survey by the research firm ValuePenguin, only 21% of dog owners and 13% of cat owners have pet insurance in the United States.

This could be due to the high cost of acquiring pet insurance, among other reasons. Routine care expenses are also a significant contributor to the cost of pet ownership.

Regular grooming, vaccinations, and check-ups add up over time, putting a strain on the finances of pet owners. Dog owners, in particular, may incur more routine care expenses as they require daily exercise and interaction.

Pets as a Source of Comfort and Mental Health Benefits

Despite the financial obligation of pet ownership, pets offer many mental and emotional benefits, especially during challenging times like a pandemic lockdown. With the pandemic forcing many people to work from home, pets have become critical sources of companionship and comfort.

The increased adoption of pets during the pandemic is a testament to the role pets play in mitigating feelings of loneliness and isolation. Multiple studies have demonstrated the mental health benefits of pet ownership.

Having a pet can reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Petting or stroking a pet can lower cortisol levels, which are a stress hormone.

Additionally, the physical activity associated with owning a pet has been shown to release endorphins, the feel-good hormones in the body. The increased time spent at home has also encouraged pet owners to be more active and engage in physical activity with their pets.

Walking or playing with a pet can be a fun and rewarding way to stay fit and motivated.


Pet ownership can be a costly venture, but the mental and emotional benefits of having a pet far outweigh the costs. With the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting work routines, pets have become a crucial source of comfort, companionship, and stress relief.

To manage the financial obligations of pet ownership, it is essential to budget appropriately and consider options like pet insurance. Ultimately, the benefits of having a pet are worth the costs, especially during challenging times.

Can New Pet Owners Afford the Costs? The pandemic-induced lockdowns saw a surge in pet adoptions as people sought companionship while stuck at home.

However, as previously mentioned, pet ownership comes at a significant financial cost. New pet owners need to be aware of the financial obligations that come with owning a pet and assess if they can afford it.

Many new pet owners find it difficult to manage the financial strain associated with pet ownership, especially the routine care expenses. These expenses cover grooming, vaccinations, and check-ups that can add up over time.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), dog owners spend an average of $139 on routine veterinary care and $73 on grooming, while cat owners spend $162 on routine veterinary care and $70 on grooming annually. Pet insurance can help to cushion pet owners from high medical bills in emergencies.

However, many new pet owners may not be aware of the importance of pet insurance or might find it challenging to pay the premiums. According to a 2020 ValuePenguin survey, only 35% of pet owners in the United States have pet insurance.

Of those without pet insurance, 42% cite high premiums, while 35% say they have never considered it. It is, therefore, essential for new pet owners to research and weigh their options regarding pet insurance before bringing a furry friend home.

How to Handle Unexpected Pet Expenses

Even with the best care, pets may need emergency medical care, and this can be costly. Fortunately, there are various ways to handle unexpected pet expenses.

One option is to use credit cards to pay for the expenses. However, this can often lead to accumulating high-interest debt and may not be feasible for those with poor credit.

An emergency fund or savings account designated for pet expenses is a better option for handling unexpected pet expenses. A savings account can be useful for keeping money set aside for cases when an emergency trip to the vet is necessary.

An emergency fund can also be established to save up enough money to cover unexpected medical expenses. Self-insuring is another option.

This is when pet owners set aside money regularly for pet expenses that may arise. It requires discipline and commitment, but it can be an effective way to ensure that pet owners have the financial means to handle unexpected emergencies without accumulating debt.


The financial obligations of pet ownership cannot be overlooked, and it is critical for new pet owners to assess their ability to meet these obligations before bringing a pet home. Routine care, pet insurance, and unexpected medical expenses can be costly, and new pet owners need to be aware of these costs.

However, pets offer invaluable mental health benefits, including stress relief, companionship, and emotional support. Therefore, proper financial planning can help to ensure that pet owners can enjoy the benefits of pet ownership while minimizing the financial burdens.

Saving for routine maintenance, emergencies, and investing in pet insurance will go a long way in helping pet owners handle the costs of pet ownership. In conclusion, pet ownership comes with significant financial obligations that new pet owners must consider before bringing a furry friend home.

Routine care expenses, pet insurance, and unexpected medical bills can add up over time, making it difficult for some households to meet these obligations. However, pets offer invaluable mental health benefits like stress relief and emotional support.

To handle the costs associated with pet ownership, proper financial planning is crucial. This includes budgeting for routine maintenance, saving for emergencies and seeking pet insurance coverage.

With proper financial planning, pet owners can enjoy the benefits of pet ownership without incurring significant financial burdens.

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