5 things you need to do before getting a pet

March 21, 2018

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Thinking about bringing a pet into your life? The benefits include stress relief, physical activity and an improved general sense of well-being.

With a new pet comes new responsibility, as an animal requires an investment of time, money and effort. Here are some things to consider before making the move.

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Calculate the core costs

Pet owners tend to lowball expenses. A survey from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals found that 98% of respondents underestimated the cost of ownership.

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The true lifetime cost of dog ownership ranges from about $9,000 to $46,000. For cats, it starts at $17,000 and ends at $34,000 over the animal's lifetime.

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One way to cut down on costs is through pet rescue. Many shelter animals have had expensive shots and procedures and, better yet, you'll be saving a life.

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Be ready for an emergency

According to the American Kennel Club, the base cost of an annual vet checkup is $60. That doesn't include vaccinations or unexpected emergencies.

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Depending on the type of animal and breed of your pet, pet insurance may be a smart investment.

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Consider pet insurance for dogs or cats, which can help mitigate hefty costs related to unexpected illnesses, upset stomachs or emergencies

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Determine the "extras" you can't live without

Pet costs go beyond food and health care. An older, trained dog, for example, may not require a crate, but experts recommend crates for younger dogs

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Cats and their owners may benefit from a cat tree, since cats may turn to furniture to scratch. Do you really want to pay to reupholster your couch?


Pet boarding, walking and daycare may also be costs you'll need to take into consideration.

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4. Find creative ways to save — and play

Homemade pet food could theoretically save you cash, but it's crucial to check with a vet first to ensure the food meets the pet's nutritional needs.

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Pet toys might be a better place to DIY. Old clothes, linens and balls can be repurposed for pets with a little creativity,.

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And if you're really looking to take on a project, you might consider constructing your own cat tree, pet enclosure or even bed.

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Consider a cheaper starter pet

If this is your first foray into pet ownership and you're concerned about the financials, consider starting with a smaller, less cost-intensive animal.


Animals like birds, reptiles, rabbits and guinea pigs may give you companionship and the caretaker role you're craving without breaking the bank.

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While a bird probably won't fetch you the morning paper, the animals are surprisingly intelligent, and some will even talk with you.


If your heart is set on a four-legged, fluffy pet, consider creating a special savings account dedicated to your future pooch. They'll surely be worth the wait.

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