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March 16, 2007


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Wow I feel bad for that average family that has 2.3 kids and a dog. It's costing them millions ;-)

Couldn't agree more. We haven't spent more than $20-25 on our two fish since we got them around Christmas (although one died but we got him free).

Okay, I have to put in my two cents. I love your site and most of your advice, but it sometimes seems to me like you're determined to paint having pets as a worthless waste of ridiculous amounts of money. As a devoted pet owner AND frugalite, I have to protest!

I have a small dog and a cat. The cat is almost no trouble. He uses cheap store brand litter that costs about $3 for a three-week supply. That's $52 a year. Not bad. His food costs about $1.20-$1.35/pound, depending on where I buy it, and it takes him about a month to go through a 7-lb bag, so less than 2 lbs/week = about $125/year. His yearly vaccinations are done at a low-cost clinic for less than $30. He doesn't care for catnip or treats and his toys are my old shoelaces. So that's less than $215 a year for the kitty.

Yes, the dog is more expensive. He uses Heartgard and Frontline (believe me, you don't want to skimp on those!) The Frontline is about $150 for a year's supply and Heartgard is $50 or so for a year's worth. (Though I got an 18-month supply of Heartgard free as a reward from a Merial representative, but that was a special case) His food runs about 60 cents/lb and he takes about three months to go through a 40-lb bag. That comes out to less than $100 a year.

His leash, collar, and bowls were either hand-me-downs or freebies. His annual vet bill runs about $75 for exam and shots. I buy his toys in bulk from for about $0.99-$2.99 each, and he demolishes maybe six to ten of those per year, for a maximum of about $30/year. For treats I give him small Milkbones-- a box of those set me back less than $3 and it's lasted two months so far at one biscuit a day. (It's his daily reward after our walks, broken in half to make two treats.) Sometimes as an extra special treat I take some of his kibble, mix with a bit of store-brand peanut butter, make a small ball of it, and freeze that. It occupies him for a little while and he absolutely loves it. The cost of those is almost negligible as the peanut butter is bundled with my $35/weekly grocery bill. So that's maybe $20/year for treats.

So let's sum up for my little dog:

Heartgard & Frontline: $200/year
food: $100/year
vet costs: $75/year
toys: $30/year
treats: $20/year

total: $425/year

So for my two highly cherished pets together I face a total cost of maybe $12000 assuming that my dog lives 16 years and my cat 20 years and have no significant medical expenses. Of course, you can't plan for everything, which is why I budget for them in my emergency savings. I also have an account with CareCredit (, which offers no-interest credit for medical expenses, and that includes veterinarians.

If I have to go out of town I usually ask a family member to petsit (free), and I return the favor for them. I've also signed up with (also free) which helps you find sitters in your area again, based on the idea of returning the favor if you don't have family or trusted friends to ask to sit.

Yes, I think my dog looks cute in sweaters but I vastly prefer to knit them myself.

To make a very long story short, my pets are NOT about to cost me $110,000. Maybe I'll spend that much on my pets over MY entire lifetime, but not theirs. And I don't feel in the slightest that this makes me any less of a loving and responsible pet owner.

Yes, I could maybe take that $425 a year and invest it somewhere and get a return on it instead. But the return I get from my cat and my dog is infinitely more valuable to me.

Oh, I did forget to mention that my dog is quite small-- only 18 lbs-- so of course a larger dog will eat more and therefore cost more. But the principle still applies. You do not "need" to spend ridiculous amounts of money on your pets in order to keep them happy and healthy. Yes, you can waste money on fancy crap for them, but isn't that just as true for your kids, your house, your cars, yourself...? It's not an isolated phenomenon of the pet care industry.

I love dogs, but our little pug probably cost us over $5,000 in eye surgeries - this is before we had kids, and we couldn't afford it, but didn't want the little fellow to be blind! We are still paying for it!

Now, our little puggie is gone and we have 2 kids - no money for a lot of the things we would like to give them. That's why we're waiting before we get a dog again - just putting money aside in our "dog" account so that we can afford one BEFORE we get one!

On a side note - I'm moving back to L.A., where there are a lot of wealthy childless people who buy jewelry and spa trips for their dogs, among other things. I'm thinking of making my living as a fine-art pet photographer - where else would I find people willing to spend $300-$500 on black & white photos of their dogs?

Monica, you're forgetting to assume a 10% after-tax ROR on your $12,000, in order to inflate the number as much as possible. Note how the post turns $110M into $236M, which in turn gets rounded up to a quarter million.

yeah, with these costs, we should be able to geta tax credit for our pet. we spoil our dog, but oh well, he is just worth it.

we have had pet medical care plans through the vet to reduce cost of vet care. we try to buy on line or use the free membership at pet stores


The post assumes spending $110,000 over the lifetime of a dog before any possible return on that amount if invested. I assert that I can spend less than $10,000 on my dog over his lifetime barring unforeseen medical expenses. Regardless of rounding that figure up a bit to allow for variations in spending, that is SIGNIFICANTLY less money than what the post is saying pets cost. That's the point I'm trying to make.

Monica, I know, I was poking fun at the blog post itself, not your comment. Sorry if that didn't come through. I think the whole premise of this post is ridiculous and presents a slippery slope. The author of this blog has children, and those cost a lot of money. Maybe he should have bought a couple of goldfish instead?

Ahhh, I thought you were poking fun at me. Didn't mean to be snappy. This post kind of got me steamed :)

I have to agree with Monica and Anne on this one. Even though I don't personally own any pets, laying out the costs of having an animal around does not do justice for the intrinsic value of having an animal around, which for most people is the underlying reason of having a furry companion.

I understand this is a personal finance blog and I certainly agree that some people spend frivolously on dumb things for their pets but your closing summary makes people believe that animals are nothing more than a dent in your wallet, which is a pretty harsh assessment whether or not its factual in a financial sense.

Well said, Jeff.

The value my animals have for me is beyond money. My cat has been with me for nearly four years, through my husband's deployment to Iraq and all the turmoil life has thrown my way since. He can sense when I need him, and I cannot place a dollar value on his affection. My dog is a creature of sheer joy and he shares it with everyone he meets. Together they add enormous value to my life, and I'm sure many other pet owners feel the same way.

Maybe some pet owners spend those insane amounts of money on fancy gear for their furry friends in an attempt to try to give their animals back some of the value that the animals give freely to their owners. I personally think it's silly to try it that way, since honestly I don't think my dog minds at all that he doesn't sleep on a Tempur-pedic pet bed and have a full designer wardrobe. My cat certainly doesn't care that his food isn't high-dollar gourmet.

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