Survey Finds Pets are More Expensive than Owners Expect

Survey Finds Pets are More Expensive than Owners Expect
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August 26, 2015

Nearly 8 out of 10 pet owners say their dog or cat is like member of the family. A member of the family that seems to be costing more money than expected.

A recent survey suggests that pet owners are underestimating the amount of money they can expect to spend on a four-legged companion. The latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index found that more than 40 percent of American pet owners say their dog or cat cost them more than anticipated.

The survey also found that nearly a third of pet owners spent more than $1,000 on their pet in the past year, and 10 percent said they've spent more than $2,000.

"If you are looking to bring a pet into your household, planning should be a top priority," Joe Buhrmann, director of financial security for COUNTRY Financial, said in a press release. "Knowing the costs associated with your pet and being prepared for unexpected and emergency costs will help diminish the financial burden of your new furry friend."

Much like planning for the cost of a child, attempting to estimate the cost for a pet is a bit of a mystery. The ASPCA has a breakdown of some minimum estimated costs that include food, veterinary bills and grooming costs, but, "You shouldn't expect to pay less than this, and you should definitely be prepared to pay more," writes the ASPCA on its website.

According to the chart, the ASPCA estimates that owners of a large dog will have about $1,850 in expenses each year, while cat owners will spend a bit more than $1,000.

COUNTRY Financial said that budgeting for predictable cots of food, shelter, and annual checkups is a good starting point, but pet owners should also plan for unexpected costs like accidents and health issues that can arise suddenly.

The survey found that 23 percent of owners would turn down necessary health-related expenses for their dog or cat if they couldn't comfortably afford it, but 37 percent of pet owners would use their savings to pay for unexpected high veterinary costs, and 33 percent would cut back daily expenses as much as possible. Thirty percent would finance the bills with credit cards and 24 percent would put off a major purchase.

Pet owners should also consider that health costs will increase as a pet gets older.

Before bringing home any pet, COUNTRY Financial suggests doing research on the specific needs for that pet. Different breeds have different health or grooming needs. Create a budget before bringing home your pet and build in those monthly expenses to make sure you can afford them. Like you would for any other unexpected expense, set aside some savings that are to be used specifically for your pet. This fund can be dipped into before your general savings or before whipping out a credit card.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was compiled by independent research firm GfK and included responses from 1,008 adults for the national survey, plus as ample of 1,014 adults with either a cat and/or a dog in their household.