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Lifetime Costs of Cat Ownership

By: Alex Lieber

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Kids have no idea how much they cost in real dollars. When you spell it out in words – one hundred and sixty-nine thousand dollars by current estimates – it really brings home just how expensive it is to raise a child to the age of 18.

But dollars cannot measure the roller-coaster experience of raising children. It's a collection of sensations, emotions and shared experiences that are beyond words and worth more than mere money.

So it is with pets. If you average the cost of a cat over her lifetime, the dollars add up to a surprisingly high amount. The actual bottom line, though, is the happiness you and your pet shared together – even those times when a pet might have soiled an expensive Persian rug or destroyed a priceless Ming Dynasty vase.

Still, it is instructive to know what the actual costs are over a pet's average life span. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak – you can plan your short-term and long-term budget better.

The purpose of the tally that follows is not to reduce the human-animal bond to a dollar amount. Instead, it's meant to help the pet owner and prospective pet owner know what the average dollar cost is to own a pet. Knowing the cost will help you plan ahead to keep your pet healthy and happy.

Dogs

Puppies generally cost more to take care of their first year. This is because they require a menu of vaccinations to prevent trouble later. They are vaccinated against Bordetella, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvovirus, as well as rabies. Afterward, booster shots for rabies are given either every year or every three years, depending on local laws.

Small to medium-sized dogs (from about 55 pounds and under) tend to live longer than large to giant breeds. Remember, the life spans of individual dogs can vary, so the figure given here is only a rough average; how well dogs are taken care of and whether they see a veterinarian for checkups regularly is usually the biggest factor in their life span.

Small to medium-sized dogs

  • Estimated life span: 14 years
  • First year: $740 to $1,325
  • Estimated annual costs thereafter: $500 to $875

    Total cost over a dog's lifetime is about $7,240 to $12,700.

    Large to giant-sized dogs

  • Estimated life span: 8 years
  • First year: $1020 to $1,825
  • Estimated annual costs thereafter: $690 to $875

    Total estimated lifetime cost: $5,850 to $7,950.

    Of course, a serious illness or injury, especially one requiring hospitalization, can very easily inflate this figure by several thousands of dollars. It is also dependent upon the level of comfort you lavish on your dog. Doggy daycare and spas (don't laugh – many do a booming business), regular grooming sessions with Michél for the latest doggy hairdo, and photo shoots will quickly add to the tally.

    Cats

    With cats, the biggest factor affecting their life span is whether they live indoors or outdoors. Indoor cats, on average, often live considerably longer than outdoor cats. An outdoor cat is at risk of injury and diseases, particularly from other cats.

    Traffic is an obvious risk, but so are other cats. Besides injury, cats spread many dangerous illnesses. Feline immunodeficiency virus, for instance, is one of the most dangerous infectious diseases outdoor cats face. The virus is spread cat to cat through bite wounds. Then there's the threat posed by other animals, such as dogs, and even humans.

    On average, an outdoor cat's life span is roughly 5 years. By contrast, an indoor cat, which is much less likely to face these threats, has an average life span of about 16 years. As with dogs, the first year is more expensive.

    Outdoor Cat

  • Estimated average life span: 5 years
  • First year: $785 to $1010
  • Estimated annual cost thereafter: $415 to $580

    Total estimated lifetime cost: $2,445 to $4,150.

    Depending on the injuries or illnesses the outdoor cat sustains, the veterinary bills can inflate the tally by thousands of dollars. Taking feline immunodeficiency virus as an example again, treatment may range from just few hundred dollars a year, if the cat suffers from few symptoms, to thousands of dollars each year if the cat develops serious secondary infections or ailments.

    Indoor Cat

  • Estimated average life span: 16 years
  • First year: $895 to $1000
  • Estimated cost thereafter: $515 to $685

    Total estimated lifetime cost: $8,620 to $11,275.


    Again, the human-animal bond is priceless, but knowing the lifetime costs ahead of time will allow you to keep your pet in the lifestyle he or she deserves!

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