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Pets Without the Price Tag

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According to the first year expenses for adopting a dog in the US range between $766-$10,350.  The cost each following year ranges from $526-$9,352!!!

Petfinder estimates the first year adoptive cat expenses between $370-$5,070.  And each year after between $295 and $4,570.

ASPCA has a nice breakdown of the minimum you should expect to pay (both annual costs and first year costs) for various pets.  Not surprisingly, large dogs come out on top and fish come in cheapest.  Regardless of which route you go, pet ownership is a serious consideration for your life AND your budget.

While I personally find pets to be a waste of money (call me heartless) , I understand and appreciate that not everyone feels that way.  So I’ve found a way that the costs of pet ownership can be mitigated, even eliminated, so that those on a budget can still enjoy the company of a furry friend.

Pet Fostering

Fostering a pet means taking a homeless dog or cat into your home and caring for it for a designated period of time or until it is adopted (generally between a week and a month).  The costs of all veterinary care, food, and other supplies the pet may need are covered by the adoption organization.

Fostering is the perfect solution for those who want a pet without the financial burden.  To sign up to foster an animal, find a rescue group or shelter near you.

A simple google search of  “Pet Fostering NYC” (or whatever you location) brings up a whole list of agencies, including… 


Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animal

So if expense has been holding you back from getting a pet, here’s your chance.  Foster an animal and not only will you enjoy yourself, but you’ll be providing a much needed service.


Have you ever fostered or considered fostering an animal?

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48 responses to “Pets Without the Price Tag

  1. Thanks for sharing this info Stefanie! I know so many people who commit to pets without researching the costs and by the time they realize the expense, they are emotionally attached to them. It is better to do some research first before getting too emotionally invested.

  2. Maybe it’s more common here in the South, but very few of my pets ever came with an adoption fee. We usually received the animals free — usually from someone whose pet just had a litter of kittens or puppies they were trying to give away.

    Of course, we still had the usual first-year costs — shots, spaying or neutering, and the like.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Stefanie! Pets can and do cost a good chunk of money and something like this could be a great way to get that experience while also providing for an animal in need. We have a cat ourselves, but his costs run a little high because of an infection he got years ago. If you’re heartless, I guess I am too 😉 …because we’re not getting any more pets after him for a number of different reasons.

    1. While you can’t have an extended relationship with ONE cat when you foster, you can always have A cat, because there’s always another one that needs to be fostered.

  4. My cat Kiki, is a rescued cat and came with all her shots and was “fixed” so there was no expense there. The only expense I put out is for her food and litter, which is not that bad at all. Seriously, the little I spend on her I’d probably blow on snacks anyway 🙂

    Fostering though, is a great idea although I would feel the same as DD above.

    Take care Stefanie and all the best…and no…you’re not heartless 🙂


    1. Thanks Lyle 😉 If you just have to worry about food and litter, expenses aren’t too bad, but they’re definitely something that needs to be budgeted for.

  5. I fully agree that pets are not always worth the price! I did not want my cat to begin with, because of the costs involved! But ended up with him, and love him to death!

    Now over the weekend he got very sick, and I was pretty much asked to put a price tag on my love for him. It has been a very hard decision and I have spent more then I thought I ever would (almost $1500). But once you fall in love, it’s hard to say no. In the end, I got emotionally attached, which drained my bank accounts and savings.

    One tip for cat owners, especially males, make them drink water!! Lots of wet food, and get water in them however you can. I wish I knew that, I could have prevented this cost and mostly the suffering of my little boy!!!

  6. I agree that pets come with a HUGE annual expense that they rarely tell you about at the adoption centers. But I find that with proper care and research (just like with humans!), the cost can be mitigated. If you are adopting a breed or animal that commonly has medical problems, you can get pet insurance from 10-20 bucks/month. That won’t cover everything, but that usually covers an annual check up and a large portion of those huge unexpected bills. Also, know what you’re feeding your animal so you can avoid problems like Jessica’s cat. Go for those checkups and shots too – you can often catch a problem far in advance. Lastly, I scour the internet for deals and sales on my kitty’s foods, and am very aware of loyalty programs at pet stores around me. For me, all that is worth it.

    1. I understand that the relationship created with pets can definitely be worth the cost. It’s great that you’ve found ways to reduce that cost. Thanks for the tips!

  7. We haven’t fostered before but we did adopt a dog from a rescue. I swear we’re never getting another one after her (because she had medical issues and is a lot of work), but everyone says, yeah right!

  8. We have two retrievers. My husband broke down last year’s expenses (food, vet & grooming) for both dogs and it came out to about $200 a month. Every trip to the vet costs $100 at a minimum. I would have been very surprised if someone would have told me this ahead of time, but once they are yours you want them to be as healthy as possible. Who would have thought you would need to get your dog’s teeth cleaned at over $600. One retriever is on medication for his thyroid which runs $20 a month. He is also on allergy medication in the summer. Each refill costs around $40. Not to mention the fish oil tablets and over-the-counter meds we’ve tried.

    They are also more work than I ever would have imagined too.

  9. We really wish we could foster a dog. We have tried before but our city actually doesn’t allow for residents to have animals in their home that aren’t registered! Our neighbor even had someone call the police on them because they were fostering.

  10. Just a tip for pet owners out there (and Hi Stefanie!):
    There are options out there for low cost yearly vaccinations and check ups. A lot of the bigger shelters have on site vet clinics and offer low cost vaccinations, spay/neuter, and dental care. Also look for mobile vet clinics that often drop into major pet stores (in LA it’s on a monthly basis at a lot of chains). Unless it’s an emergency every vet visit doesn’t have to break your wallet.

  11. Our renter fostered a dog for a while and, since we’re all living together, we all kind of fostered the dog. The animal had been abused, so she wouldn’t come inside and ran (fast!) away from anyone who tried to approach her. Ironically, she really wanted to come inside so she’d whine and whine outside the door, but not actually come in if you were anywhere in her line of vision. We had to trick her to get inside (like hiding outside and then closing the door behind her, or shutting the sliding glass door with a long piece of rope from the other room). She’d be inside then, but since she eventually had to go out to do her business, the process started all over again…and each method of tricking her only worked once. She was, unfortunately, too smart to fall for it again.

    Long story short, fostering was not for us. But I suppose after a year or two, we might try it again.

  12. Did you not come from a pet family growing up? I just wonder if Ukrainians are like Russians – I noticed no one in my extended family really has a pet. I sort of think they’re a waste of money too (although I’m fond of my fish… he is literally eating money, I suppose).

    1. We actually had two dogs growing up. But as someone with tight finances, pets just don’t make any sense to me. Maybe if I had a surplus of money, just not something worth saving and sacrificing for (in my opinion).

  13. In Hawaii if you have pets it’s very difficult to find a rental. The added cost of housing is another factor if you live in an unfriendly pet state.

  14. Pets definitely aren’t for everyone, but my wife and I are considering adopting our friends dog. I would definitely consider fostering a dog first to see what it’s like and to make sure it’s for us. At the same time, we are both pet lovers so I think there’s an 80% chance that we would end up adopting the dog we foster.

  15. Can those numbers possibly be right? I’ve had a dog for twelve years and all I’ve spent on him is $ for his annual shots and heartworm pills. Oh, and Kibbles and Bits! =)

    1. I second the cheap ness factor… I keep my cats indoor only so outside of the initial shots, they don’t have a lot of health costs. I don’t take my cats for annual check-ups as I don’t really see the need (never did for my dogs growing up). I get the Kirkland brand cat food at Costco ($18/bag) and am only going through a bag a month is because we feed outdoor strays. The kitty litter I can get on coupon at Costco for around $20 and lasts two months. That comes out to roughly $400 a year for two cats (including random treats) which ain’t bad! Just something to think about.

  16. It’s about opportunity costs, really. I adopted my cat from Brooklyn Animal Care & Control four years ago, and because he was already an adult (estimated age 2 years old), and they were having trouble getting any cats over 1 year old adopted (everybody wants the cute kittens, not the more experienced adults!), all the adoption fees were waived, and I only had to pay $10 for his post-surgery antibiotics (he had to be neutered before I could take him home). Since then he has cost me roughly $500-1500 a year in food, supplies, and occasional veterinary and cat-sitting fees (when he needs medical attention or I have to go out of town). That may sound like a lot, but I live alone and I’m a professional actor, so it’s nice to come home after a long day of hustling and rejection to a being who loves you unconditionally no matter how well you can act, sing or dance (well, as long as you put food in his dish). He’s also a fantastic alternative to a boyfriend or a husband & kids, considering that having committed relationships and families are often difficult for people in the performing arts — he’s just as good at snuggling, he’ll never grow up to become a moody teenager and talk back to me, and he’s way cheaper and less demanding, since he doesn’t mind if I go out of town for a job, as long as someone is still coming to feed him and clean his litter box every day. So when you compare it to the many thousands more dollars I might have spent on therapy instead, or the hundreds of hours I might have wasted in the somewhat ridiculous NYC dating scene, or the several hundred thousand more I might have spent had I actually married someone and had kids to take care of, it’s definitely worth it 🙂 Not that I’m not ruling that out as a possibility for the future, or saying it’s better than choosing to have a family — I’m just saying, for those of us who are single and have chosen to live alone (or are forced to do so by current career and life circumstances), it’s a great way to meet some emotional needs.

  17. I love animals. I can’t stand to see people who have no business getting pets bragging about their new family addition. If you can’t afford to properly care for an animal, don’t get one. People never seem to think that they have to do more than simply buy a bag of food once a month. It enrages me.

  18. We feed stray cats that live in an alley between our building and the neighboring building. My goal is to get them spayed and neutered but I’m having difficulty actually reaching someone at a feral cat rescue here in the city. I also have cats of my own and would adopt the stray cats but then I’d become the crazy cat lady with too many cats, lol.

  19. Nice, definitely a timely article! Fostering does sound like an interesting idea, especially for me, who is allergic to cats. In addition to saving money, it’d help me see how I’d react to them on a day-to-day basis and if I could handle them permanently!

  20. as much as i want a puppy, i too think that spending so much money on a pet is totally ridiculous. i see my friends go into debt, spendi ng thousands on petcare and petsitting. but sometimes i think maybe pets make us happier people and that’s a good thing too. less money on therapy and antidepressants! also in dogsitting for friends before, i know that pets can keep you extremely disciplined in terms of getting fresh air, going to bed early, waking up early, exercising, etc.

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