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