Are pets “worth it”, financially speaking or otherwise?

I fully admit this is probably a silly question to anyone who has had or does have pets. I’d say most who have experienced it will argue our lives away that the joy of owning a pet far outweighs the financial burden.

Today, our 8 year old M was playing his favourite game with us. It’s called “would you rather”. He will come up with 2 outlandishly fantastic OR horrible things and make you choose between them. I will spare you the horrible things. Today’s “would you rather” was: would you rather have Kitty forever and no coffee, or coffee forever and no Kitty?

Like, what kind of evil kid did I produce? Anyway, let’s put some context around this. About one year ago, we got ourselves an adorable kitten. His name is officially Anakin but we just call him “Kitty” at the demand of M. He is one of the best pets we have ever had and we have all become very attached. Dudes! This cat plays fetch.

Back to the story. Being hard core daily coffee lovers, it took us several minutes for us to reason our way to a proper response. No coffee for the rest of our lives sounds pretty awful. But having Kitty forever sounds quite nice. We were assured he would remain his current healthy young kitty self for the duration.

After much thought, Hubs finally admitted he would give up coffee FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE to keep Kitty forever. Shortly after mentally fake-mourning coffee, I did the same. But why?

There is something about pets that is super intangible and immeasurable. I don’t think you can really put a dollar figure on it. This makes it challenging to decide if the cost is worth it. How can I explain this in measurable terms, especially to one that has never had a pet?

Some intangible things that come to mind include:

    • Pets give you purpose if you are struggling to find that in your life.
    • Some pets give you affection if you are struggling to find that or you just want more of it.
    • Pets can create opportunities for relationships with people (I.e. other pet owners). For example since we adopted a cat, I’ve had many a jovial cat conversation with coworkers I don’t normally talk to, as well as grocery store clerks. I’ve sent dozens of cat memes. I’ve amassed almost a dozen followers on Kitty’s TikTok channel. Other examples include dog park socialization, lizard enthusiast meetups, and fish aficionado clubs. You get the idea.

But darn it, this does not change the fact that pets can be expensive! Between vet bills, food and litter, I don’t even wanna tell you how much I have spent on this “free” kitty once he entered our home.

But I will, because I feel this kind of thing is important for anyone considering a pet. And this is a blog about financial independence. So you are gonna wanna know what you are getting into.

The Financial Cost of a Cat in Year 1

Keep in mind the first year is typically more expensive. If you are adopting a “baby” version of a pet, there is always this vaccine, that microchip, this spay/neuter that you don’t wanna skip.

Also keep in mind that I didn’t go the most economical route for either food or litter, which are the 2 biggest expenses. You could save quite a bit by going with clay litter & a cheap kitty food option. We decided to do a mix of wet and dry food based on feedback from our vet, and wet food will drive up costs.

Cost Breakdown

I pulled a couple of numbers for ya.

Firstly, average spending for the 15 months we’ve owned a kitten/cat: $121.68 / Month

Average spending over the past 1 year of ownership (age 3 months-1+ years): $107.44 / Month. This number includes neutering and microchipping at a cost of $225. the rest is food, litter, toys, cat trees, etc. 

I would expect dogs to be potentially less expensive as you could cut out the litter costs, however they likely would eat more which may make up for the difference. I cannot comment on costs for more exotic pets!

Let’s talk about Litter for a Moment

If your brain exploded at these average monthly costs, and you are interested in owning a cat, you could save a big chunk by doing one of the following:

    1. Train your kitty to use the toilet. It’s a thing! This would eliminate litter costs (pardon the pun). I have not found the time or inclination to do this yet.
    2. Use cheap clay litter from Costco or Walmart, or some other inexpensive litter alternative like wood pellets, sand, etc. We are currently buying wheat litter because we like the smell and it’s a bit more environmentally friendly than clay. It’s also more expensive.

Well, is it worth it T? 

If you want to decide if it’s worth it for you financially, I think the best thing to do is look at what you are spending today. Are you within your budget and saving a sufficient amount each month? If not, is there something you are willing to swap or cut back on in favour of owning a pet? Ask yourself these questions. An answer may present itself.

If you want to determine if the intangible benefits are worth it for you, I would suggest animal exposure without the long-term commitment. Some ideas include:

    • Fostering dogs, cats or other animals for rescue organizations
    • Offering up free pet sitting services to friends, family and neighbours
    • Volunteering at your local animal shelter or vet’s office
    • Putting your profile up on Rover.com to “try out” caring for a variety of dogs, cats and other pets (and get paid at the same time!)

By engaging in these types of activities, you can determine what you enjoy or don’t enjoy about taking care of a pet and whether you will gain the intangible benefits from having one of your own. 

Obviously this is all very subjective. For me, it’s worth it. The joy my family and I get from owning an adorable sweet cuddly kitty is definitely worth $107 per month. Let’s put it in these terms: we spend more than $107 per month on takeout. I would happily give up takeout just to have Kitty! I’m still not sure about coffee…

Kitty cuddles while typing this post <3

Do you have a pet? Is it worth it for you? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments!

6 Replies to “Are pets “worth it”, financially speaking or otherwise?”

  1. Hi T, thanks for sharing your experience with having a cat and breaking down the cost. We don’t have a pet yet but love to get a dog one day. My wife and I have had a dog in the family several years ago and find them wonderful pets and companions. To answer the “would you rather” question, I would probably go with a pet (dog) than coffee, a s much as I love coffee. haha

    1. Well obviously I agree although I reealllyyyy like coffee. We seriously considered a dog. But I told hubby that I could not handle the extra responsibility at this time. Maybe in a few years when I’m closer to FI and can stay home more!

  2. Pets are undoubtedly expensive! Mika costs us about the same as your kitty—around $1,000/year. Knock on wood, but she hasn’t had any costly medical issues so far. We hope to keep it that way!

    Is she worth it? Undoubtedly, yes. She is our little fur baby and we can’t imagine life without her! She has brought so much joy, laughter and family bonding time to us. You can’t put a price on that!

  3. Great article, thanks for writing it.

    I think pets are worth having in your life, if that’s your priority. We’ve had cats for years, and sure they do cost us money. Especially with cats with special health needs (our rescue white cat had skin cancer on her ears, it was an expensive surgery to have her ear tips removed, but it has given her a longer life).
    I think the journey to FIRE is full of decisions about what you want in life vs how much you are willing to put towards financial independence. Some things make life better but do cost money, so it’s all about weighing up the everyday decisions against your long term goals.

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