Money·4 min read

How Much Does It Really Cost to Adopt a Pet?

accessibility, woman hugging a dog
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
May 17, 2022

Before you make that cute, furry addition to the family, be sure to add it to your budget. Because pet owners spend billions of dollars every year on pet costs, especially during the first year of ownership. 

How much does it cost to adopt a pet?

The cost of adoption for cats and dogs varies based on age.According to PetPoint, for cats younger than one year old in 2021, it totaled around $83, 12% more than the price in 2020. A new cat over one year old costs around $58 during the same year.

If you’re a dog lover, prepare your budget ASAP. Based on the same PetPoint survey, dogs less than one year old cost an estimated $212 while older dogs were priced around $122 in 2021. Keep in mind that prices depend on the breed of your new pet.

Adoption fees may include some of the big first-year costs, which could help you save.

PS: Going to a breeder will cost you more. Extreme example: In 2014, a Tibetan mastiff puppy sold for $2 million.

What are the first-year costs?

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aka ASPCA) says pet owners should prepare to spend between $1,000 and $3,200 during the first year. Pretty pricey impulse buy.

Here are the one-time costs you’ll have to add to your spending plan:

Start-Up Supplies

Whether you choose a cat or dog, you’ll need items like a bed, bowls, leashes and toys. 


It’s always a good idea to keep your furry friend as healthy as possible.

Spay and neuter

Speaking of health benefits, spaying and neutering is another one-time cost you should take care of as a new pet parent.


Just in case. Microchips are an extra layer of protection for lost pets. Vets can insert a device, about the size of a grain of rice, beneath your pet’s skin. Animal control officers and shelters can then use devices to scan the pet and find the rightful owner.

accessibility, dog and cat

What about the ongoing expenses of owning a pet?

Even after the first year, you’ll need to keep room in your budget for your furry bestie. Here are the basics:


Pet food is a guaranteed expense you’ll need to get ready for. And the price can vary greatly depending on the size of your pet and the type of food you choose. One survey found cat food costs an average of $4.88 per week while a small dog’s food costs around $5.52 per week. If you have a large dog, add $63 to your weekly spending plan if you go with a premium dog food brand.  

Medical costs

Even if you have pet insurance, you’ll need to have the budget to cover medical costs. Because most policies offer reimbursements, not direct payments to the vet. Whether you have a dog or cat, it’s a good idea to stay on top of annual checkups. Plan to spend about $700 a year for your dog’s well visits and $379 for cats.


Grooming supplies are another budget line item. Add in local dog walker and pet sitter costs if you’ll need extra help, too. If you travel often, don’t forget about boarding expenses, unless your new pet is your permanent travel buddy. In that case, add those hotel pet fees into your budget.


Because fur babies need toys, too.

Any tips to keep pet costs down?

Invest in pet insurance

Medical costs can be steep if your pet ever becomes seriously ill. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider pet insurance while they’re young and healthy. Because waiting until your pet is sick may impact your ability to find coverage. 

Take on DIY grooming.

Looking good can be pricey, even for pets. But at-home ear cleaning and nail clippings can help you shave down costs. Experts say it can also be less stressful for your pet.


A pet may not be the best impulse buy. Because the first year of ownership can put a real dent in your wallet. But planning for the expense of your new furry bestie can be totally worth it.

Subscribe to Skimm Money

Your source for the biggest financial headlines and trends, and how they affect your wallet.