How to have a pet on a budget



The costs associated with owning a pet can vary widely – based on the species, breed, age, and even the area in which you live. But, costs are inevitable and should be included in your budget before you make the decision to add a new member to the family.

Cat playing in green tube
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A recent report by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association puts the overall cost of owning a dog for 13 years at about $29,000, and close to $24,000 to own a cat for 15 years. This breaks down to between $150 – $180 per month for the average pet owner. A little less expensive are bunnies and other smaller species, but you are still looking at about $450 a year for just the basics.

While the above costs include pet insurance payments, they do not include emergency medical expenses which can easily enter into the thousands if your pet is injured or severely ill. They also do not include many of the one-time expenses that owners encounter such as purchasing a crate or getting the animal spayed or neutered.

So how can you save money on your pet expenses?

Start by choosing a pet from your local rescue organization. These animals should already have been spayed or neutered, received their initial vaccines and deworming, as well as had a microchip implanted – all included in the adoption fee.

If you are interested in getting a dog, remember that size does make a difference in costs. Larger animals eat more, and medical bills may also be higher. In terms of energy level, a lower energy dog may be able to make it through the work day without the need for a dog walker or doggy daycare services.

Pay attention to their coat. Fluffy dogs and cats look fantastic when their fur is in tip-top shape, but keeping them well-coiffed may mean spending a fortune at the groomers.

dog whose body is in a big bag of dog food
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Clip coupons and shop wisely. Pet foods often go on sale, and many stores offer frequent buyer cards for your favorite pet food brand. If cash is extremely tight reach out to your local food bank to see if they offer pet foods. The Toronto Humane Society operates two pet food banks – one at our 11 River Street location and one in St. James Town.

Bargain hunt. Look for gently used toys and crates at garage sales or online ads, but make sure you sanitize any purchases thoroughly before sharing with your pet.

Get creative. There are tons of ideas on the web for making homemade toys for our pets. It’s less costly than buying a ready-made toy and better yet, you made it with love.

dog chewing toy
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Barter services. Need a dog walker or kitty sitter while you are away but don’t have the cash on hand? Try to barter with a friend or family member with something you are good at – such as housecleaning, baking, or handyman jobs – and exchange it for pet care services.

Shop around for your veterinary clinic. Prices can vary widely, even between clinics that are located close to each other. While your confidence in the staff is very important, remember that a higher cost does not always equal a better service.

Purchase pet health insurance. This will add a bit on to your monthly budget, but will be a lifeline in an emergency situation, and could mean the difference between keeping or losing your companion.

cat looking at a mouse
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Access low-cost services where available. The Toronto Humane Society offers low-cost vaccination and spay/neuter services, with special prices for individuals receiving a government subsidy. Keeping your pet up to date on their vaccines and ensuring they have been spayed or neutered will reduce the likelihood of them falling ill due to a preventable disease.

Brush their teeth. A major veterinary expense is dental care. Do your best to reduce or eliminate the need for a dental cleaning by keeping your pet’s mouth in shape at home.

Not everyone has the means to own a pet, and you should never take on the responsibility for an animal if you are not able to provide for its care, but using these tips might make pet ownership in reach for you and your family.

Be sure to check out our resources page for more information on how to have a pet on a budget and remember to brag about the animal(s) in your life on our Facebook page