How to afford your pet

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The joy and companionship of a furry friend might be priceless, but food, vet visits, sitters, toys, etc. are not.

While it’s tough to put a price on love, having a pet can be expensive.

The decision to get a pet—whether it’s a cat, dog, bunny, lizard, fish, or anything else—should be made with careful consideration both for your lifestyle and your bank account.

The basics

Whether you choose to adopt or shop, chances are, your new family member is going to come with an adoption fee. Fees can range from a few dollars to cover the cost of basic care from a shelter to several thousand if you’re looking for a specific breed. Check to see what’s included with your adoption fee—some shelters include a round of vaccines or even a spay/neuter in their fees, while picking up your new friend from a breeder might not include anything beyond your new bundle of joy.

You’ll also need to invest in some basics like a collar and/or leash, a bed, bowls, litter and a litter box or poop bags, toys, and a carrier. Then there’s food. Food from the vet can add up quickly, while the stuff in the grocery store might not always be the best quality. Make sure you read the labels and do your homework when it comes to choosing which type of food to feed your new best friend.

Health and wellness

There’s no question an emergency trip to the vet can hurt your wallet. Even regular yearly check-ups and vaccines can be costly. There’s also the spay or neuter to think about, too. Make sure you’re aware of the costs to keep your furry companion living their best, healthiest life.

For some, pet insurance is a worth-while investment. It works much the same way regular car or house insurance does—you pay a set monthly amount, and in exchange, have access to coverage when/if you need it. If you do opt to go this route, make sure you read the fine print, so you know what’s covered and what’s not. It’s also important to factor the monthly payment into your regular budget.

Grooming is something else to think about—some breeds require regular grooming to make sure their fur stays as soft and fluffy as possible. Plus, anybody who’s ever smelled a wet dog before can attest that sometimes animals just start to smell a little… funky. Don’t forget nail trims, too. The DIY approach may work for some, but claws are delicate—it’s easy to injure your pet or to cut a little too much. You might need some professional help to keep those nails in check, which comes at a cost.

Pet sitting/daycare

As much as you might want to spend all day, every day with your pet, there will be times when that’s just not possible. If you must leave the house for work or just need to go away for a few days, you might need to hire somebody to make sure your pet is looked after when you’re not around. Whether the solution is a doggy daycare, a pet sitting company, boarding, or the kindness of family and friends, having somebody take care of your pet can add up quickly.

Do it for the ‘gram

While it might not be for everyone, an unexpected way to make a few extra bucks to spend on biscuits and kibble could be to start a pet influencer account.

“We decided to start an Instagram account for Percy because we knew we were going to be posting a lot about him and figured it would be easier for folks who were interested in following along with him to do so from a separate account,” says Adam Barrett, the paw-son behind @Percy_Doodle.

To date, Percy has 34.5k followers from all over the world.

“We have been paid for promotional posts. It wouldn't be enough to live off, but certainly enough to treat ol' Percy to a day at the pet spa and get him some of his favourite treats,” says Adam.

But the benefits haven’t just been (modest) financial ones.

“We've made friends with people all around the world. Over the last few years, Percy has sent hundreds of holiday cards to people as far away as Australia, Germany, and South America. That's really exciting to me. People who we otherwise would have no connection to have been brought together by this funny, fluffy little guy. I really feel like this is my weird way of making the world a little better. Maybe that sounds silly, but I'm so honoured to be able to give that to people,” says Adam.

There’s no question, opening your home—and heart—to an animal can be one of the best decisions you’ll make. There are countless studies and articles about how animals can help reduce stress and improve mental health. As with any big lifestyle decision, the key is to make sure you’re prepared for the financial impacts so you can plan, and budget, accordingly.

Need a little help? Contact your local credit union for refreshingly honest financial advice.