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Cost of Pets

By Lucy Schrader, Human Environmental Sciences Associate State Specialist

What do guinea pigs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, fish, snakes, turtles and birds have in common? They are loved by many families as popular pets. The pet industry is currently booming. In 2012, Americans spent $53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other services for their pets (USA Today and American Pet Products Association).

Pets often become more than just animals in a household—they become part of the family.  They can be amazing creatures that offer health benefits for people, and the number of households who have pets has grown. According to a 2013-2014 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, “68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes” (in 1988, 56% of homes had a pet).

The reasons for owning and spending money on pets are many. For some people, pets provide companionship. Other reasons include having an emotional and psychological connection with pets or helping children learn responsibilities. Pets also offer many health benefits and can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decrease loneliness and reduce stress. Certain pets, like dogs, get people outside and moving, which adds to positive health (Centers for Disease Control and Yarrow, 2012).

People may think of these positive emotional and health benefits of pets and jump into buying them. They may consider the upfront cost of purchasing a pet, but do not realize how much it costs to keep the pet healthy and thriving (or how long certain animals live).

Part of making spending choices for you or for your family is understanding what is involved in owning a pet. Costs differ on type of animal, size of animal (for example, small, medium, or large dogs), ongoing maintenance and related materials (litter, bedding, cages, toys, grooming, etc.), food, vet care, age and health of pet, and life expectancy.

The following links share two different infographics* that visually show the costs of owning some pets.

This link shows what people report they spend annually for dogs and cats (2013-2014 Pet Owners Survey, at the bottom of the page) –

These dollar amounts can be great starting points for your family. Call your local veterinarians for estimated costs of services and check prices at stores for food, materials and other items you may need. Going over pet costs can be a great learning opportunity for children/teens. Helping the family realize that choices have trade-offs and deciding how to spend your time and money are skills that are needed throughout life.

Please note, I am not dismissing pet ownership—we have a crested gecko, two guinea pigs, a fish and had a large dog for 13 years! I am advocating for understanding costs and making choices that fit your needs. You might find that you want a pet, but may need to wait a few months. Or you might find that the family is willing to skip going to movies to have that pet cat or dog they have always wanted. Ultimately, you decide if those great big puppy dog eyes fit into your budget!

*(University of Missouri does not endorse any products or services. This information is shared for educational purposes only.)


American Pet Products Association. Pet industry market size & ownership statistics. Retrieved on October 8, 2013 from

Centers for Disease Control. Health benefits of pets. Retrieved on October 9, 2013 from

USA Today. Puppy love: Over $53 billion spent on pets in 2012. Retrieved on October 8, 2013 from

Yarrow, K. (2012, October 4). Millions on pet Halloween costumes? Why we spend more and more on pets. Time Business & Money. Retrieved on October 9, 2013 from