Don’t Let Your Pet Put You in Debt

Don’t Let Your Pet Put you in Debt

Lots of little kids want a pony. Or a puppy. A teenager I know wants a pet turtle (and ended up with a cat). I had a dog growing up, and after I got my first apartment, I had pet rats. Everyone likes to have some kind of pet. But, did you know that one of the top reasons for people to have problems with debt is because of their pets? I didn’t either.

Why do people go in debt because of an animal? Here are a few reasons.


  • They don’t realize how much the pet they’re getting really costs. Yes, that rat that you get at the pet store may only cost $5, but what about a properly sized cage, a well-balanced diet and the need for a buddy? Someone may have given you the kitten for free for Christmas, but now you have to get him neutered, buy him food and water bowls, and all of those fun things. In 2010, Americans spent over 18 billion dollars on pet food. That’s a lot of Meow Mix.
  • Unexpected medical costs. People get sick and have to go to the doctor; pets get sick and have to go to the vet. Some people don’t realize that even small animals have to go to the vet, and depending on what kind of pet it is, that could be pricey and you may have to go to a special kind of vet. I was lucky when I owned rats; but I have a friend who owns ferrets and there are only two vets who see ferrets within about 15 miles of her home. 
  • They don’t realize what their chosen pet is like. I babysit for a family that has a pair of dogs. One of them has an anxiety issue that causes her to pee on the floor. Replacing rugs or getting them specially cleaned can get expensive! Most rodents shouldn’t stay in a cage all day, they need time out, and during that time they may chew on stuff, causing expensive repairs and replacements.

So, how do you prevent yourself from making these mistakes and having your penny pooch become a million-dollar mutt? Here’s a few hints.

  • Always do your research. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you get into it. See how much space the breed of dog you want needs to run away. Realize that many small animals (guinea pigs, rats, ferrets, mice) do better in pairs or groups. Find out that that pretty fish you want needs a 70 gallon tank, special food and this funky thermostat thing in order to live well. Don’t get a pet just because it’s cheap initially; know what the costs are before you get into it.
  • Get pet insurance and have an emergency fund. Pet insurance is a lot cheaper than human health insurance; some are only $20+ dollars a month.  Things happen; my friends’ dog started having tooth problems when he turned 10. Pet insurance can help defray those unknown, yet unavoidable, medical costs. Also, have an emergency fund especially for your pet. You (hopefully) have one for your car- why not for something that’s actually alive?
  • Take time for training. Whether you take your dog to a local chain pet store to get trained by their experts or you take time to do it at home, it’s totally worth every second. I knew someone that had a pet rabbit who would go back into his cage to go to the bathroom instead of on the floor. Save yourself money and a big headache (whether due to the money or due to the smell- ew).

Pets have been proven to be wonderful for anxiety and stress, unless you’re in a situation where they’re the reason for your stress. They can hurt your wallet if you don’t prepare yourself to take care of your new cuddly buddy well. Be willing to take some time to do research and training, and a new best friend won’t cost you your credit score!

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