How to Prepare Your Budget for a Pet

Learn What Costs You'll Incur by Adopting a Pet

••• Diane Durongpisitkul/Stocksy United

Dogs and cats are easy to fall in love with, and if you have kids, they might have begged for a puppy or kitten once or twice. However, before you adopt a new family member, there are the expenses to consider.

Follow these tips to prepare your budget for a pet ahead of time.

The Adoption Fee

This one sounds like the most obvious, but adoption fees vary widely based on where you adopt from.

If you’re adopting from a breeder, you’ll likely face a much higher adoption fee than what you would pay at a shelter. Rescue prices tend to be in between the two. Many shelters and rescues will include extras in the adoption fee, such as spaying/neutering, vaccinations, licensing, and microchipping.

Veterinary Expenses

If your adoption fee doesn’t include any of the above - and is just the fee to adopt your pet - then you’ll need to visit the veterinarian to get a wellness check, to get your pet vaccinated and to get them spayed or neutered. 

Even if your pet is up-to-date on its shots, it’s still a good idea to take them to the vet regardless. If you adopted from a shelter, there are things like ​kennel cough that your pet could be carrying. ​

A visit to the vet can run you anywhere from $50 to $1,000 depending on what needs to be done. You should have this money saved up prior to adoption. To save on costs, check with your local pet store to see if they have any vaccination specials. They might have weekend vet clinics that provide shots, which will probably be cheaper than going to the vet. 

Also, check with local shelters in your area as they sometimes partner with certain companies to offer free microchipping and vaccinations for an event. 

Pet Insurance

This is totally optional, but you may decide it’s worth paying a monthly fee for pet insurance. Depending on the breed and age of your pet, the premiums can be a little steep but it might be better than an unexpected vet bill.

Be aware that most pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions - a concern if you’re adopting an older animal. 


Feeding your pet is going to be an ongoing expense - one that can add up quickly. While feeding a cat is typically cheaper, for dogs, the cost will depend on size. Also, if you adopt a puppy or a kitten, they’ll need more food while they’re growing. 

If you choose to feed your pet a raw diet or grain-free diet, then you’ll also face higher costs. 

Just to give you an example, on the low end, you’ll likely be paying around $15 for a bigger bag of food, and on the high end, you’ll pay around $50. Wet food costs anywhere from around $0.50 a can to $2.00. 

Don’t forget about treats, either (your pet won't)! An average size bag for cats runs around $3 to $6, and an average box of dog treats is anywhere from $4 to $8 or more.


To start with, cats need a smaller box (and litter), food and water bowls, nail clippers, and possibly a collar and a bed.

Dogs need slightly more. You might want to get a crate, you’ll need a leash, a collar (and possibly a harness), food and water bowls, and shampoo. A plastic pool to wash them in is optional, as is a bed and any other grooming supplies you might need. 

Keep in mind that if you adopt a puppy or a kitten, you might have to buy several iterations of things like collars, beds, and harnesses as they grow. You might also need to purchase a tag with their name and your information on it.

If you have any places in your home that will be off-limits, then you should think about getting a gate so your pet can’t access that area.


Of course, shopping for your new pet wouldn’t be complete without buying a few toys. Cats usually entertain themselves with things around the house, like boxes and mats, but laser pointers, feathers or mice on a rope, or balls they can swat around are good to have. 

If your cat likes to jump around or climb, getting them a scratching post with platforms might be a good idea, and anything that has catnip is almost guaranteed to get played with.

Dogs might need a little more than cats to keep themselves busy while you’re gone, especially in the beginning. Rubber toys that they can’t bite through, stuffed toys that squeak, toys that contain hidden snacks, rope to play tug-of-war with, and anything they can play fetch with are classic entertainers. 

Obedience Training

This mostly applies to dogs, but you might find that your new family member needs a bit of training or socializing with other dogs, depending on their upbringing or background. This isn’t unusual.

Private training is going to cost more than group training, but the good news is you can shop around. Look up pet trainers or programs near you and see what the prices are. 

Check out pet stores and community centers to see if any discounted sessions are offered. If you adopted your pet from a shelter, check with them to see if they can offer you any recommendations. You might be able to get a discount that way as well. 


Need to go away for an extended period of time? If you have friends or family nearby that can look after your pet during that time, that’s your best solution. If you don’t, you need to look into boarding your pet at a kennel or hiring a pet sitter. Neither of these options is cheap, so it’s something worth considering when you create a vacation budget. 

Additionally, if you work long hours, you might consider putting your dog in daycare or having a pet sitter visit to walk and feed your dog once a day. 


This is another optional expense (unless you are allergic to dogs), but if your dog has long hair or a curly coat, you might not feel comfortable giving them a cut and style. In that case, you may want to budget for grooming every other month. 

As you can see, budgeting for a pet isn’t as simple as you might have thought. There are a lot of upfront costs that you incur when adopting a pet, and it’s best to be prepared beforehand. Start a separate savings account for pet-related expenses and keep contributing a certain amount each month toward it so you can handle anything that your pet may need.