Monday, December 20, 2010

Can you afford a furry friend?

Is your significant other or child begging for a pet this Christmas? Are you torn on what to do? You've got a few days left before Christmas to decide what you should do. Of course you want to surprise them and make their wishes come true but the question is - can you afford one?

The amount of money we spend on our pets has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, rising to more than $38 billion, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. That figure dwarfs the toy business ($23 billion) and candy industry ($24 billion). It’s not just the purchase price of a pet that costs money; it’s the feeding, grooming, vet bills, and boarding that can really add up to a lot. Before you bring that lovable critter home for the holidays, there are a few things you should consider. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with something you realistically can't afford. The following is a list of expected annual costs for your new member of the family thanks to the non-profit adoption organization, Pawprints and Purrs, Inc.

Small Dogs: They may be pocket sized and lovable but they're no small cost. While crate costs and spay/neuter fees are lessened, a smaller dog, like a Yorkshire Terrier and Pugs, can still cost nearly $800 annually.

Medium Dogs: Coming in a close second, medium-sized dogs, like Beagles and Cocker Spaniels, are nearly the most costly pets, fetching up to $1,115 annually.

Large Dogs: Big dogs like Golden Retrievers, Labrabors, and Dalmatians may have a special place in your heart but get ready to make room for them in your wallet. Obvious expenses like food and crates for large dogs are high and first year total expenses can reach $1,500.

Cats: Cats can provide warmth and companionship with considerably fewer demands than their canine counterparts. However, every furball comes with a price tag. Total first year costs for a cat can reach upwards of $640.

Rabbits: Rabbits may require even less attention than felines but costs for a floppy eared friend can exceed $800 for the first year. Where a Rabbit may not require walking, litter costs for your pet can more than double that of cats reaching a total of $885.

Guinea Pigs: Though many vets do NOT spay/neuter Guinea Pigs, the procedure is highly recommended for the many health benefits of spaying/neutering. The litter costs for these Guinea Pigs are as high as for that of a rabbit. Costs for a Guinea Pig can exceed $745 in the first year.

Gerbils and Hamsters: Though many vets do NOT spay/neuter Gerbils and Hamsters, the procedure is highly recommended for the many health benefits of spaying/neutering. Gerbils and Hamsters qualify as small mammals and incur the least in costs for quadrapeds. There are other costs to consider, such as cages and litter, which can bring the tab up to $500 in the first year.

Birds: Small birds such as Parakeets or the cheapest pets to keep but that doesn't mean free. One must provide toys and treats and a cage for their feathered friends. That can cost up to $255 in the first year.

Fish: Fish have their own costs and concerns. Tanks, trinkets and playgrounds for your fish can raise costs up to $185.

Obviously, smaller is cheaper. The difference between a large dog and a small one is $720 per year - and that's a lot of kibble. Now, let's just look at the dogs and cats. Let's say each of these pets lives 15 years. Here's the lifetime costs:

Cat - $9,600
Small dog - $11,700
Medium dog - $16,725
Large dog - $22,500

Promise me this - if you do get a pet, don't complain that you can't afford college for your kid! You know your budget. And you know your tolerance. Sure they are cute and cuddly but besides the cost, they are a lot of work. Best of luck in making your decision.

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