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How to budget for a pet

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Pets don't just bring us lots of joy, they're also faithful companions that stick by our sides for both the best and worst of times. However, proper budgeting for a pet is no small feat, especially if you're new to pet ownership. In fact, when it comes to keeping our loyal best friends happy and healthy, there are probably some expenses you may not have anticipated.

Here's what to keep in mind when it comes to factoring pet costs into your budget.

Initial pet costs

Adopting or buying

Adopting from an animal shelter is a great way to give a pet a happy home. Not to mention, you’re going to save more money than you would buying from a breeder. 

Most shelters won’t require you to spend more than a few hundred dollars to bring your new furry family member home, and some may even give you your new pet essentially for free outside of some possible fees for spaying or neutering and vaccinations.

Another option is Home to Home, which re-homes pets free of charge and keeps them out of shelters. It can be a helpful resource for transitioning pet ownership from one home to another.

If you have to go with a specialty breed, it’s going to cost you—sometimes in the thousands. So, research the breed ahead of time to get an idea of what you’ll have to pay. If you need to travel to get your pet from a breeder, you’ll want to include gas, flight, and pet accommodations into your budget too.

Initial vaccinations, procedures, and medications

If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, make sure to factor that into your budget. These procedures can cost anywhere from $20 to $500, and apply to both cats and dogs.

Ask your shelter if they can do it for you, as it’ll be much cheaper than a visit to the vet. Also, determine from the shelter or breeder what shots and vaccines your pet has already received and what treatments you’ll need to see a vet for. Then, find a local vet and total up the costs.


You’re going to need to make your home pet friendly, as well as a safe and happy place for your new companion. 

You may not need all of these, but here are some of the big considerations.

  • Crate or bed

  • Leash

  • Collar or harness

  • ID tag

  • Toys or scratching posts

  • Litter box (for cats)

  • Poop bags (for dogs)

  • Grooming tools

  • Treats

  • Food bowls (and possibly a mat for under them, if your pet’s a messy eater)

  • Fences or gates (for dogs)

Licensing and microchipping

Most states require pet owners to register their pets with a local government agency. Usually, this licensing only costs about $20.

You also might want to consider microchipping your pet so you can find them if they get lost. This usually costs between $50 and $100. 

Recurring pet costs


Plan to spend about $50 a month for dogs and $30 a month for cats. But, leave some wiggle room here. 

Some animals will need special diets (e.g., grain-free or prescription food) or are picky eaters, and specialty food almost always costs more. 

Litter (for cats)

Litter shouldn’t be a huge expense, but budget around $15 a month for it on average. 

Pet insurance

Like visiting a hospital, visiting your vet is expensive. That’s why pet insurance is a smart choice when it comes to protecting your budget from the cost of both routine check-ups and anticipated health expenses. Sometimes, insurance can even be the difference between saving your pet’s life and taking on a large financial burden.

Pick a plan that includes emergency care and medications. These plans range in price depending on the level of care and convenience, but generally cost around $25-75 per month for dogs and $10-50 per month for cats. 

Pet sitting 

You’re inevitably going to have to travel in the future, so think about where you’ll leave your pet when you’re unable to be at home.

If you’ve got a friend or family member who can look after your furry friend, that’s ideal. If not, figure out how much either a pet sitter or pet boarding costs in your area. 

Also, if you anticipate being away from home for the majority of the day (especially before your dog is house trained), you may need to hire a daily dog walker through apps like Wag or Rover.

Pet deposit or rent

Unless you own your home or apartment, many leases will require you to put down a separate pet deposit or pay pet rent, provided the building allows pets to begin with. These fees vary greatly depending on the landlord’s building policy, and some may require them monthly or yearly rather than a one-time, up front fee. 

To avoid the sticker shock of a large pet deposit or rent, review either your current or upcoming lease and contact the landlord to discuss the terms ahead of time.

Also take into account the amount you’ll have to pay out of your standard security deposit if any damages your pet causes to the home exceed your pet deposit. 

Keeping your pet budget moving forward

If you get pet insurance, the adoption process is hopefully the most expensive part of the process. But, as with most things in life, owning a pet comes with some uncertainty. 

You may need to rush to the emergency vet in the middle of the night if a health issue arises. Or, as your pet gets older, they may require a greater degree of veterinary care, as well as pricey prescriptions or food. 

Always include a budget line for your pet in your monthly budget. That way, you can both track your everyday pet expenses and factor in future costs as they come. If you have upcoming travel, make sure to include pet care into your travel budget. 

As most pet owners will tell you—pets can be a lot of work, but they’re worth it. By planning ahead and putting in a little extra effort from the get go, it’s easier to get to know and enjoy your new furry family member without the stress of financial burden. 

Unless otherwise noted above, opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed by customers or non-Varo contributors do not necessarily state or reflect those of Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s) other than Varo.


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