Pet Parenting Costs Add Up Fast, Even When You Adopt Your Friend for Free

dog on the floor surrounded by toys
Penny Hoarder writer Kelly Smith adopted Wrigley from her local Humane Society. Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

Dogs and cats are adorable. Especially ones in shelters.

With Clear the Shelters Day coming Aug. 19, you may want to do a good deed and rescue a furry friend from your local shelter for free.

Not so fast. Are you sure you know just how much a new fur baby costs?

Adopting a Pet Is a Big Deal

On Aug. 19, hundreds of shelters across the country waive or reduce their fees in hopes of adopting out animals. While not all shelters celebrate Clear the Shelters Day, many will waive adoption fees when they’re running out of space for new intakes.

You may think the waived fee means it’s time for you to find your new best friend. But trust me — you should do a little soul-searching before adopting a pet.

My fur baby, Wrigley, has cost me more than I thought he would.

After my therapist recommended I get an animal to help me deal with anxiety, I woke up one day, headed to my local Humane Society and fell in love with his wrinkled shar-pei face.

I took him home that day.

What I didn’t consider? Shar-peis are prone to many, many health issues. In my first year owning him, we went to the vet more than five times for scary situations: eating things he shouldn’t have, sensitive tummy issues, weird skin reactions, tapeworms, a poked eye… The list goes on and on.

Today, he’s healthy and happy. But looking back, I wish I had been more realistic about the costs of maintaining a pet so I wasn’t always so surprised at the vet.

So, How Much Does Owning a Pet Really Cost?

There are tons of costs that go into raising and maintaining a pet, and many people don’t consider them when they head to the shelter.

A few of those overall costs that might hit you big include:

  • Vaccines: If you adopt a pet, you’ll have to get them vaccinated. My local Humane Society had coupons for Wrigley’s puppy shots, but remember some vaccinations are yearly and required for boarding or day care. And if you choose not to vaccinate your pet (yeah, people actually do that), it could cost you thousands in veterinary care.
  • Housing: If you rent an apartment, you may have to pay a pet deposit and a monthly pet fee. Even worse, some landlords and communities don’t even allow pets — even if you are willing to pay extra for them. Taking in a pet often means finding a place for you both to live for the next decade or longer, which could get pricier and more difficult.
  • Day care: Wrigley is a mixed breed. He’s got a little bit of shar-pei, pit bull, Rottweiler and probably more in him. You know what that means? He’s hyper and incredibly social. I now pay $225 every six weeks so he can go to doggy day care while I work to blow off steam and make friends. If you’re considering day care for your pet, check out our tips for picking the right place for your pooch.
  • Pet Insurance: An emergency vet stay can cost thousands of dollars, so some people opt for pet insurance. Monthly payments can vary, and don’t forget about the deductibles you have to meet before the insurance kicks in.
  • Food: Obviously, your pet will need food to survive. In the beginning, I opted to feed Wrigley dog food that fell into the higher price point — and he ended up getting sick. The good news here is that you don’t have to buy expensive dog food to keep your pet healthy. Additionally, there are pet rewards programs that can save you big when it comes to restocking on food. Keep in mind, though, that depending on how much you choose to feed your pet, you may be headed to the pet store two or three times a month to spend money — and it can all start to add up! Today, I spend about $40 to restock his food about two or three times a month, totaling $80 to $120.

Take these things and more into consideration before you head to your local pet shelter. If you’re in good enough financial shape to work these costs into your budget, then absolutely adopt a new fur baby!

If not, now might not be the right time. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Follow her dog, Wrigley, on Instagram at @mr_wrigley_ .