The Most Economical Pets

  • Why a pet?

    Pet ownership comes with many perks.  In addition to companionship, a pet may reduce stress, stimulate you to get out and exercise, and connect you to a community of like-minded animal lovers.  Pet ownership also comes with responsibility – some of it, financial.  Pet owners need to provide the basics of professional medical care, quality food, and adequate shelter for their animals. And, of course, pets need love.  That’s free.  And the love they give back . . . priceless. Photo Credit:
    Free kittens?  Really?
  • Free kittens?  Really?

    So, congratulations.  You won a goldfish at the carnival.  Now what?   The cost of purchasing a pet is often the smallest expense over the lifetime of pet ownership.  Feeding, housing, grooming, and veterinary costs are just a few things that add up.  Potential pet owners should consider their finances before taking home a new pet. Photo Credit: [lauren nelson]
    What Kind of Pet Owner am I?
  • What Kind of Pet Owner am I?

    Figuring out what kind of pet you can afford is not just a matter of tallying up the cost of food.  Potential pet owners need to calculate how much time they have in their lives to dedicate to a pet and what kind of interaction they want with a pet.   If you are looking for a pet to hold, cuddle, and play with, a fish might not fit the bill.  Different animals have different space requirements as well, so your current living situation should factor into the equation.   And, how long term of a commitment can you make?  That is an emotional decision as well as a financial one.  Not to be morbid, but we did take into account the average life span of an animal when adding up the dollar amounts.  So, choose wisely, and if you are looking to make a budget conscious decision, keep clicking. Photo Credit: PetsitUSA Pet Sitter Directory
  • Horse

    “Daddy, buy me a pony!”  It sounds extravagant.  And it is (which is why we're starting with this example).  But the initial cost of a horse is only the beginning.  Expenses vary based on where you live, but when you add it all up – boarding, training, veterinary care, farrier service (horse shoes), tack, equipment, riding gear – it can average about $11,000 per year.   If you can’t afford that, you might look into one of two lease options – share-boarding or a full lease.  In a share situation, the horse’s owner collects a monthly fee from the lessee for riding on specified days of the week. For a full lease, the lessee can ride the horse every day and normally the leasing fee covers the horse's monthly board, shoeing, and routine veterinary care.  Expect to pay about $300-$450 per month for a full lease and half that for a share, according to Photo Credit: BaylorBear78
  • Dog

    When it comes to saving costs on Man’s Best Friend, you’ll have to resist splurging on diamond collars and crystal food bowls.  After that, your fist savings can be on the purchase price.  While purchasing a pet quality puppy can cost between $300 and $1500 and a show quality puppy can run as much as $10,000 or more, adopting a dog from a shelter or breed rescue typically costs between $70 and $300.  The adoption fee usually includes neutering or spaying, initial vaccinations, de-worming and a veterinary check-up.  According the ASPCA, the first-year total cost for an adopted small dog is around $1300 and the annual costs, around $600.  A medium to large dog will cost around $1700 the first year and about $800 annually.  And while yearly costs for a small dog tend to be a bit less, small dogs tend to live longer than large breeds, so it adds up to about the same amount over a lifetime.  A small dog with an estimated lifespan of 14 years will cost around $8000 over the dog’s lifetime.  A large dog with an estimated lifespan of 9 years will cost about $8100. But if the dog has any significant medical problems, those numbers could be MUCH higher. Photo Credit: (aka Brent)
  • Cat

    Sorry dog people, but, according to American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, there are approximately 93.6 million owned cats in the United States  (about 16 million more cats than dogs).  And over half of US cat-owners own more than one cat.  That’s a lot of cat food! First year cost:  $1000 Annual cost:  $700 10-year lifetime cost: $7300. (Source: ASPCA) Photo Credit: SuziJane
    Guinea Pig
  • Guinea Pig

    This Peruvian import isn’t the cheapest of the small rodents you might opt for.  Their bedding costs can add up. First Year Cost:  $705 Annual Cost: $635 5 year lifespan cost:  $3245 (Source: ASPCA) Photo Credit:  MJames
  • Bird

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but how much is a pet bird?  Depends on what kind you get.  A canary or parakeet can run about $10 to $50, but more exotic and larger species can cost thousands.   And the larger the bird, the more it eats and the bigger, and more pricey, the cage.  Keep in mind, most birds live pretty long lives and some species of birds have a lifespan greater than 50 years, so you’d better like the sound of that song, because you’ll be living with it for a good while. First Year Cost:  $270 Annual Cost:  $200 15 year lifespan cost:  $3070 (Source: ASPCA) Photo Credit:  tanakawho
  • Gerbil

    Gerbils cost about the same as hamsters, but they have tails and tend to be a little more hyper.    According to The Humane Society, they also don’t like to live alone (unlike some hamsters) – so, you might have to double your pleasure with a gerbil.  As for housing, you’ll want an aquarium with fitted cover and you’ll outfit your gerbil house with bedding, nesting box, water bottle and holder, food dish, exercise wheel, and toys. First year cost:  $100 Annual cost:  $300 3-4 year lifespan cost:  $850 (Source: The Humane Society) Photo Credit: annia316
  • Hamster

    They are cute and frisky although, nocturnal, so don’t expect too much daytime action and if you are a light sleeper they may keep you up all night.   Hamsters are cheap to buy (normally no more than $10) but housing your hammie is one variable expense – you can spend over $60 on a funky modular habitat, but a $20-$40 aquarium or wire cage with mesh cover will do.   And, remember, Syrian hamsters live alone! First year cost:  $120 Annual cost:  $300 2-3 year lifespan:  $570 (Source: The Humane Society) Photo Credit:  Chilled Phill
  • Lizard

    There are many species of pet lizard that cover a wide range sizes, starting from just a few inches long to up to nearly 3 feet.  Generally, the larger the lizard, the larger the vivarium needed and the more food costs, so consider a smaller lizard, like a gecko.   A single small gecko needs a 10-gallon tank with some places for it to hide under and thing walk around on, a water bowl, a heat lamp, and a steady diet of crickets.  Yum.  They can live up to 30 years, so prepare for some long-term lizard love. First Year Cost:  $300 Annual Cost: $100 15 year lifespan cost:  $440 (Source: Photo Credit:  kuribo
  • Fish

    Your basic goldfish is not particularly cuddly, but it is pretty low maintenance.  A fish can be striking and even mesmerizing to look at, and an aquarium can jazz up your room decor.  The cost of a goldfish can be a few dollars but you’ll initially invest in an aquarium, filter, and other equipment.  The lifespan of a goldfish varies greatly.   With proper care a goldfish can live 10-20 years, but usually much less – and sometimes, much much less. First Year Cost:  $235 Annual Cost:  $35 3 year lifespan cost:  $305 (Source: ASPCA) Photo Credit:  aeriealsilentsun
    Hermit Crab
  • Hermit Crab

    Yes, people do keep these as pets.  They are fascinating little creatures and relatively low maintenance for their owner.  Setting up your “crabitat” is pretty easy and feeding them is simple too – most things in your fridge will do.  They will even happily snack on your discarded eggshells (they need lots of calcium). First Year Cost:  $75 Annual Cost: $50 6 year lifespan cost:  $325 (Source: Photo credit: jessica.diamond
  • Ants

    Remember ant farms?  Loved ‘em as a kid. Watching those industrious creatures do their thing was exciting and educational.  The technology has changed some -- using colored gel and lights to make looking at ants even more exciting – imagine!  But it is still affordable.  According to, a full farm kit, ants included, will cost between $20-$40.  A little sugar water for food.  That’s it. Photo credit: juverston
  • Rock

    First Year Cost:  $0 Annual Cost: $0 10,000 year lifespan cost:  $0 Just dust it off every now and then. Photo credit:  aeu04117
    America's Most Popular Pets?
  • America's Most Popular Pets?

    According to the 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of American households own a pet, which comes out to a staggering 71.4 million homes. OK, pets are popular. But which furry and slimy little companions are the most popular in America? Check out our story on America’s Most Popular Pets for the answer. Photo Credit: jmcmichael
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