70% of all households in the U.S. have a pet according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey1. It is obviously extremely popular and common to have a pet. Animals are great companions and can quickly become another member of the family. While there is no question how much we love them, let us be real…pets can be expensive and oftentimes people do not prepare for the recurring and unexpected costs in advance before bringing this new furry friend into their lives. Depending on the type of pet, you are looking at a multi-year commitment which can be upwards from 15-30 years. It is important to evaluate your current financial standing and factor these costs into your overall financial plan before deciding to adopt or purchase a pet.
The Upfront and Recurring Costs of Pet Care
The first thing out of the gate you must consider is the acquisition costs. How much are you going to need to pay initially to cover the adoption fees or to buy the pet? Once you know that amount, you also need to factor in any initial vet visits plus buying supplies like food, treats, toys, crates/beds, etc. Rover.com did a survey based on 1,000 dog owners in the U.S. and found that the average household had to spend between $1,050 to $4,480 upfront to get their dog settled into their new home2.
After getting them settled into your home you will also have some recurring care costs to factor into your budget like food, medicine, and grooming. These costs will vary depending on the type and size of animal you choose but just for reference the average annual care costs for a dog can range between $480 to $3,4703, and cat care can range between $305 to $1,4504.
Landlords who allow pets may require tenants to pay a separate deposit to cover any damage caused by the pet. According to research, the average pet deposit in Texas ranges from 40 to 85 percent of the monthly rent, often depending on the type of pet you have. While owning your own home will get you out of the pet deposit fee, it is important to recognize that all damage and repair costs to your home will have to be paid out of pocket. Pets cause an average of $1,120 in household damage per year, according to a British survey published in February 2011, which is seldom covered by homeowners’ insurance.5
Despite not being “humans,” our pets are still part of the family. Because of this, there are a few things to consider for your pets whether you are a homeowner, or a renter.
What Type of Pet Do You Want to Get?
Consider what kind of pets you already have or are thinking about getting, and whether your current living situation is adequate to meet their and your needs. If you’re a renter and want an energetic dog breed, they will feel confined in a small apartment unless you have the time to take them for multiple daily walks. If you want to adopt a lazy cat, a small apartment may have more than enough space to accommodate your new feline friend.
If you are already a homeowner, you should think about whether your current home is adequate to support your new pet. For example, if you are considering a high energy dog breed, they will almost certainly require a yard for exercise. Buyers with at least one pet are more likely than non-pet owners to purchase a home larger than 3,000 square feet (17% versus 10%).
Does the Area Have Specific Pet/Breed Restrictions?
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) frequently have pet policies and restrictions in place. These HOA pet restrictions can help ensure that all HOA residents feel safe and comfortable, while also preventing things like excessive barking and noise. If you have a legitimate psychological need, your landlord or HOA cannot refuse certified emotional support animals if they do not endanger the property or others. You may be required to provide documentation from your counselor indicating that your animals provide therapeutic benefit to you.
Some states and local jurisdictions impose breed restrictions, so if you are considering a breed of dog that is known to be “aggressive in nature” you will need to be sure and pay attention to these restrictions. We know they are precious babies regardless of breed, but landlords and some Homeowners Associations (HOAs) can refuse to rent or include within their association people based on their breed or size.
Planning for the unexpected
Emergency Fund – It is recommended that everyone has an emergency savings fund built into their financial plan. This is 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses that are liquid and accessible in case of emergencies. Pets have emergencies too, so it is wise to increase your emergency fund savings to be prepared for any unforeseen accidents. CareCredit.com states that pet owners can expect to spend at least $800 to $1,500 for each emergency veterinary care visit.6
Pet Insurance – Pets will need medical care during their lifetime whether it be emergency treatments or regular maintenance. Rather than only paying out of pocket, you can also look at getting pet insurance. Think of pet insurance like your own health insurance but instead it provides medical coverage for your animal. This can help to avoid shocking your budget if any major medical emergencies arise, especially if you have a breed that is susceptible to medical issues. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average annual pet insurance premium for dogs is $583 and cats is $3427. It is important to review the specific policy details, but most pet insurance policies will cover claims for accidents and illnesses (broken bones, swallowed objects, bloodwork, X-rays, surgery, ear infections, etc.).
While pet insurance can be helpful, there are also some downsides to consider which may not make the juice worth the squeeze. Just like people, the likelihood of needing medical care increases as our pets age and can be expensive. Pet insurance quotes will be lower when insuring a young healthy animal, but the premiums can be increased with age when there is a higher probability of utilizing the coverage. Most policies are set up for claim reimbursement. This means that you will have to be ready and able to pay for the care up front then have the insurance company reimburse you later. Also, a lot of policies will not cover preexisting or common genetic conditions.
Homeowner’s Insurance – Most people have either heard about or experienced a situation where their pet has decided to turn a piece of furniture or wall into its new favorite chew toy or scratching post. Before getting your first pet, it is important to know that most homeowner’s policies will not cover damage to your personal property (furniture, carpet, blinds) or the dwelling itself (walls or fence) if caused by your pet. However, depending on the insurance company and policy you choose there may be some liability coverage available if your pet were to damage another person or their property. This coverage may be limited depending on the type of animal you choose and the specific breed. Make sure to discuss this with your insurance agent so they can add your new pet on your homeowner’s policy coverage.
Regardless the method you choose, the important thing to acknowledge is that there will be unforeseen expenses that you need to prepare for within your financial plan whether it be increasing your emergency fund savings to pay out of pocket or analyzing available pet insurance options.
Estate Planning Considerations
We love our pets like they are another member of the family, and just like our family we want to make sure they are taken care of after we are gone. One way to do this is to add a pet guardianship clause within your will. Before you update your will to include care for any current and future pets it is important to establish who you want to provide care for your pet after you are gone, and what resources do you need to allocate to help cover their future care costs. You can list out your wishes on how you would like the care to be provided and funds to be used. It is wise to discuss your plan with the intended caregiver to make sure everyone is on the same page. However, it is important to note that the guardian you name in the will is not legally obligated to follow your wishes.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can also create a trust specifically for your pet. Unlike the pet clause in your will, this will require the trustee to implement the pet care according to your wishes. It is important to note though that in terms of cost, most trusts will cost more to draft than a will.
Overall, getting a pet is a big responsibility. It is important to consider the financial implications of having a pet and how you can ensure their well-being in case something happens to you. Making sure your financial plan accounts for both the expected and unexpected care cost along with an estate planning strategy is a great way to make sure your furry friends will be taken care of when it matters most. It may seem like a lot of work upfront but taking these steps now could end up saving time, money, and heartache down the road. Making sure that our pets have what they need during both good times and bad is one way we can show them just how much we love them!
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.