How to Prepare Your Budget for a Pet

June 27, 2023 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

Having a pet is one of life’s greatest experiences. From the tail wagging that greets you at the door to the goofy things they do, most pet owners agree they see their pets as family.

But, pets are also expensive.  

According to a survey from Synchrony, a dog could cost $19,893 to $55,132 over the course of their lives, while a cat could cost $15,055 to $45,709. Pets can be a source of financial stress for their owners. The study also found 45% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners felt they were financially ready for pet ownership — but soon realized they weren’t.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream. These steps can help make sure you’re financially ready to add a four-legged member to your family. 

Create a budget

The average cost of pet ownership breaks down to around $111 to $306 per month for a dog and $84 to $254 for a cat. Including their costs in your budget ensures you have the money you need to care for them.

You should consider costs like:

  • Food and treats
  • Heartworm, flea and tick prevention
  • Vet care
  • Toys, blankets and the occasional holiday costume
  • Daycare or boarding
  • Grooming
  • Litter

If you’re new to pet ownership, you should also think about startup costs:

  • Adoption fees
  • Leashes, collars and tags
  • Kennels or crates
  • Litter boxes
  • Beds
  • Food and water bowls
  • Seatbelt restraints 

And if you’re considering a puppy or kitten, keep in mind that the first year will be more expensive. You’ll need to factor in:

  • Initial vet care and booster shots
  • Spay and neuter procedures
  • Microchipping
  • Training 

Set up an emergency fund

With their curious nature, the occasional pet emergency is an unfortunate fact of life. And it can be costly. Say, for example, your inquisitive puppy swallowed a sock (it happens). The surgery for removal could cost up to $5,000, according to Emergency Vets USA.

Having a separate emergency fund in place for your pet can help you cover issues when they crop up. Here’s how to create one:  

  1. Determine the purpose: Decide if the fund will cover unexpected medical expenses, emergency boarding or both. Understanding the specific needs will help you determine how much to save.
  2. Estimate potential costs: Research potential costs including vet visits, surgeries, medications or emergency boarding fees. Keep in mind, some breeds are more prone to certain health emergencies later in life.
  3. Set goals: Based on your estimated costs and monthly budget, establish realistic savings goals. Start small and gradually increase your contributions as you can.
  4. Choose the right savings vehicle: A separate savings account dedicated to your pet's emergency fund can keep the funds organized and prevent accidental spending. A high-yield savings account will help you earn more interest so you can build your emergency funds faster.

Consider pet insurance 

For a monthly fee, pet insurance can help cover some of the costs of pet ownership. The levels of coverage provided by pet insurance can vary depending on the insurance provider. However, here are three common levels:

  • Accident-only coverage: Coverage typically includes protection for unexpected accidents, injuries and emergencies. It may also cover expenses such as surgeries, X-rays, hospital stays, medications and treatments resulting from accidents. Accident-only coverage does not usually cover illnesses or pre-existing conditions.
  • Accident and illness coverage: Coverage is more comprehensive and includes protection for both accidents and illnesses. In addition to accident-related expenses, it covers a wide range of illnesses, including infections, cancer, digestive issues, allergies and more. This type of coverage may have certain restrictions, waiting periods and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Coverage provides the highest level of protection for your pet's health. It typically includes accident and illness coverage and may also cover additional benefits such as preventive care, vaccinations, annual check-ups, dental care and alternative therapies. It may have higher premiums.

When considering pet insurance, carefully review the policy details, terms and conditions, and compare different plans to choose the one that best suits your pet's needs and your budget.

Getting financial help if needed

If your pet does have an emergency you can’t afford to cover with your emergency fund, you may be able to cover the cost with a personal loan.

 Personal loans can be used for almost any purpose, and in many cases, you’ll have quick access to the funds. You may also qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate than other borrowing options — like a credit card.

However, you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Compare rates and terms against several lenders. Getting pre-qualified for a personal loan should not impact your credit score and can show you what you’ll qualify for.

Are you financially ready for pet ownership? Consider starting with an emergency fund. Our MarketEdge Money Market Savings account offers higher interest rates than traditional savings with no maintenance fees or term restrictions. 




From everyday finance to life’s big money moments, it’s better when you belong.