Research shows that the pet care industry is remarkably resilient even in the face of recessions. But with coronavirus leading to such a dramatic economic downturn and belt-tightening for so many, you might be worried about how to manage the financial burden of taking care of a pet right now. What’s the true cost of having a cat or dog? Before COVID-19 altered every aspect of our lives, we spoke to several pet owners and asked them to tally up how much they spend on their companions.
Katie, 24, was surprised by how much her spending amounted to before common pet care services were suspended due to the pandemic.“$400 a week for dog walking, $100 for grooming, and I'd say $100 for treats and food… which means I spend around $600 for her a month. Oh my god,” she says.
That may seem high, but the average dog owner still spends over $100 a month. Karyn, 30, says that in a month when she grooms her two Pomeranians, she spends about $277. “$60 plus tip per dog on grooming, $30 on Blue Buffalo pet food, $27 on Greenies dental treats, $30 on random snacks, $30 for joint pills, $20 on toys or outfits,” she says. For Abbey, 25, the cost fluctuates between £535 to £785 a month. Elle, 54, spends $300 a month on her Vizsla. But that’s nothing compared to the $20k she spent to treat her dog’s cancer.
Love can’t be quantified — but the amount we spend on our pets shows that we’d do anything for them. According to a study by the American Pet Products Association, about 67% of U.S. households have at least one pet, and in 2019, they spent an estimated $75 billion.
Isabel Klee, Director of Partnerships at The Dogist, shares the spending breakdown for her own dog, Simon, star of popular dogstagram account @simonsits. “$100 on medication — Simon is on two different medications for his epilepsy,” she says. “$25 on pet insurance, $50-ish on daycare ($25 each day — this varies on how many times we bring him a month), $75 on miscellaneous purchases: a new leash, bones, toys, a seatbelt for the car, etc.”
“I have a savings account and separate debit card that I use exclusively for Simon's expenses,” she continues. “This helps me keep everything organized and allows me to know where and what I'm spending my money on.”
Pet insurance can also be essential when an emergency vet trip comes up. “Simon has had two near-death experiences (he's a little trouble maker), and both have been very costly — around $10k total,” says Klee. “Pet insurance is extremely important, and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of getting a dog.”
Pretty much any way you look at it, getting a pet is a huge financial investment. According to one estimate, the lifetime spending of having a dog can range from $27,074 to $42,545. Simon has over 76k followers on Instagram, and Klee recognizes that this has certainly helped shoulder some of the financial burden. A lot of his food costs are covered by partnerships, for one. “Because we fostered Simon through The Dogist and gave Korean K9 Rescue a lot of exposure, they waived our adoption fees, which was a huge help,” she says. “We also exchanged training for Simon for social promotion, where we documented each of his training sessions every week. Simon's account definitely makes us a bit of money, but I would say in general it's probably a net-zero. The amount that I make on partnerships goes directly back to him, and I wouldn't have it any other way.”
The coronavirus has definitely changed her and Simon's routine recently. "Spending is definitely tight given everything happening in the world right now," she says. "We aren't able to enjoy the things we used to with Simon – traveling, hikes, daycare, dog-friendly bars. Simon's been spending most of his days going on long walks or chewing on his favorite bone, which is definitely some much-needed relief for our budget."
While many pet owners might be cutting down on spending right now, over the years, we’ve also seen how the animal companions of the rich and famous live a truly #blessed life. Trouble the Maltese dog was so cherished that she was set to inherit $12 million after her owner’s death. The richest dog in the world, a GSD named Gunther IV, currently has a fortune of $375 million, which started as $80 million left to Gunther the first. And remember when former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer spent $6,000 a month renting an apartment for his cat in Trump Tower?
But those of us who aren’t multimillionaires spoil our pets in other ways. “Oh man, whenever it's their adoptaversaries (I treat it like their birthdays), I take them to bougie pet stores and spend way too much money,” says Ashley, 26, who has two dogs, one foster cat and a hamster. “They get to pick things out and it makes me happy. Most recently, I spent about $300 on them in one go, which I am very ashamed of as I don't spend nearly that amount on myself, ever.” She adds, “I consider half of my savings to be for my dogs, and I would absolutely take out a loan for them.”
Melissa, 39, uses a delivery service for fresh, human-grade cat food that costs $120 a month. “It's a lot, but he's my family,” she says. April, 27, has splurged on Furbo, a $200 smart camera that connects to your phone so you can always monitor your pet, as well as DNA testing for her dog, which can cost well over $100. Emily, 29, bought a Casper dog bed (which starts at $125).
Even when it comes to necessities like food, Katie points out, you don’t need to spend more to get the most expensive, “lavish” version. “Oftentimes, those ‘healthy’ foods are bad for the dogs,” she says.
For Karyn, nothing can compare to the time you spend with your pets. “I understand that our budgets are all different, so I don't like to judge people based on the food, snacks and toys they're able to provide,” she says. “But give more time to your pets!”
“I do understand the urge to spend money on your animals,” says Olivia, 27. “Pets bring us so much joy and really are part of your family.”
It’s clear that there’s a lot of range in how much people spend on their pets, and your budget is bound to be different now, when we’re in a time of mass layoffs and job insecurity. These are uncertain times, but people are still yearning to welcome a new addition to their homes. It’s largely unsurprising that people would rather cut back on buying for themselves rather than change how they spend on their pets. That’s what you’d expect a parent to do, and speaks to the love we feel when taking care of a pet. “I don't have a savings account for my pets — yet,” says Lisa, 28. “But I would spend ungodly amounts of money to keep them happy and healthy.”
In celebration of our animal better halves, Refinery29 is hosting a week's worth of pet-dedicated content — featuring everything from dog-approved chew toys to top-rated travel carriers and other totally drool-worthy finds.