The urge to bring a furry friend into your household can be a strong one. After all, pets can bring us a lot of comfort and companionship—not to mention potential health benefits. But before taking on this responsibility, it’s also important to consider whether there’s room in your budget for the expenses that come with owning a pet.
The Benefits of Pet Ownership
It’s common knowledge that owning a pet is good for your health, though research is not definitive. Some studies show clear positives to pet ownership, and others find no real difference. But few can argue that evidence points to pet companionship being a good thing across the board.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Many people have found that pets boost their mood. Coming home to an excited pup with a wagging tail is almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And the comfort and affection of a purring cat can brighten your day.
Dr. Sonja Rosen, a geriatrician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, says, “Loneliness has been linked to earlier death and poor health outcomes. The companionship a pet provides can be really valuable.” (1)
As Dr. Greg Fricchione, director of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine explains, “When you feel securely attached to this living being, there are biological brain effects that reduce stress response, so it may affect your breathing rate or blood pressure or oxygen consumption or anxiety level.”(2)
Some research indicates that pets can reduce anxiety, particularly during stressful situations. Others have found that elderly pet owners who have experienced depression in the past have decreased incidents of recent depression. Research on pets as therapy animals has revealed noticeable improvements among people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And there’s little doubt that pets help people feel less lonely. (3)
One surprising benefit of pet ownership is that it gives pet owners a regular routine, something that is often lost after retirement. Caring for the daily needs of a pet, like walking, feeding, and grooming, can create a sense of purpose, which in turn not only may protect against depression but also help prevent cognitive decline. (4)
Physical Health Benefits
Multiple large-scale studies have found that dog owners, in particular, tend to experience remarkable cardiovascular benefits, including significantly increased survival rates following a major cardiovascular event or stroke. (5) According to the American Heart Association, pet ownership is associated with decreased rates of hypertension, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced excess weight. (6)
A number of factors could be at play here, such as not accounting for socioeconomic differences. Those who can afford a pet are more likely to have access to better health care, healthier food, and the evidence is clear that the stress of poverty is bad for your health.
But many experts suspect increased exercise from walking a dog is what does the trick, as well as the reduction of stress and anxiety. One study even found that the act of petting a dog is just as effective as medication in reducing blood pressure. (5)
The Costs of Pet Ownership
Many new pet owners are met with sticker shock when the reality of responsible pet care sets in. Caring for a pet is a serious commitment that comes at a serious price tag. While the love and affection pet lovers experience is priceless, your wallet may be in for a bigger hit than you expect.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), the baseline first year of care can run $3,221 for dogs and $1,904 for cats, and $1,391 to $1,149 respectively on a recurring annual basis. (3)
If you’re wondering how the cost of a four-legged friend could be so much, let’s take a look at a breakdown of some of the basics.
- Pet Food Prices: The ASPCA estimates the annual cost of pet food at $225 for cats and $300 for dogs, though this is on the low side. Fresh premium pet food brands can run you as much per month as that low-end annual estimate. (7)
- Pet Care Supplies, Toys & Treats: Pet care supply costs vary depending on the pet, and, you may need a wide range of items, as well as professional grooming, boarding, or training. (7)
- Pet Medical Care: Medical care for pets can be pricey, and its cost can literally be a matter of life and death. The ASPCA estimates initial medical costs, including spaying and neutering, to range from $325-600. They put routine medical costs, such as vaccines and wellness visits, at $160 per year for cats and $225 for dogs. For preventive measures, such as heartworm, flea, and tick medicine, the cost is approximately $140 to $185. And emergency room visits, hospitalization, and advanced care can cost many thousands of dollars. (7)
- Pet Insurance: Pet insurance may help defray the cost of veterinary bills and medical care, but of course, it comes with a cost, too. Rates range from about $6 to $155 per month, depending on your pet’s age, species, breed, pre-existing conditions, and location. Pet insurance can be a lifesaver and a budget protector, but be sure to read the fine print. (8)
Costs vs. Benefits of Pet Ownership
Factoring costs versus benefits when deciding whether or not to invest in a pet will not give you an easy answer. Some will say the love of a pet is priceless, while others will focus on the calculable price of caring for one as a counterargument. The bottom line is, if you think you will enjoy a pet, you need to determine if there is room in your finances for the expense. Healthy pets can live for decades, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.
Kevin Stoddard is a LPL Financial Advisor with Stoddard Financial in Medfield, Massachusetts. Stoddard helps clients throughout New England to identify, plan, and execute strategies designed for securing their desired financial future. With their Financial Wellness @ Work program, they engage, educate, and empower employees by helping them to understand and appreciate the value of their benefits package.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.