Adopt a pet during the pandemic? You might need to budget more than you think

We’ve all needed a lot of love and cuddles this year, and many Canadian singles and families have adopted, or are thinking of adopting, furry friends to help fill that void, and at the same time support local animal shelters and breeders.

Whether the decision to adopt was planned well in advance or not, it’s time to rework your budget to incorporate the full costs of the cat or dog you’ve fallen madly in love with.

Startup costs

Adopting a cat or dog is a pretty significant investment upfront. According to a new pandemic report from, the total for these one-time costs range from $ 720 to $ 1,810 for most cat parents and between $ 1,315 to $ 3,290 for most dog parents; bowls, leashes, crates, microchip tracking, nail trimmers, poop bags and litter boxes, flea or tick prevention, various types of food, a bed, adoption fees, vaccinations, spay/neuter and more. It’s worth noting that adoption fees can balloon to thousands of dollars depending on whether you go through a breeder.

Saving in advance for these costs is extremely helpful, and so, too, is spreading the purchases out between a few months’ worth of paycheques while you get mentally and physically prepared to welcome your new friend. If money is extremely tight, consider purchasing some of these larger startup essentials, like the crate, scratching post and bed, second-hand. Money for your startup costs should come from regular savings and not from your emergency fund, as you may need that cushion now more than ever with a pet.

Ongoing costs

Ongoing average costs to care for an animal, which are in addition to the startup expenses, range between $ 600 to $ 3,000 annually for cat parents and $ 840 to $ 2,385 for dog parents. These costs include food, grooming, vet visits, toys, flea and tick prevention, etc. Depending on the dietary choices you make, and any regular medications your pet needs to take, these costs can easily double or triple.

But, you can always find ways to save on the day-to-day expenses, too, such as by buying food, bags and litter in bulk, by using digital coupons, by changing to a cash-back credit card or cashing in loyalty points for money or pet products.

Training, boarding, dog-walkers and daycare for your pet can easily add thousands to your annual pet expenses, and these need to be worked into your budget as well.

My advice is to budget for the upper end of these ranges, so that you are prepared. If you find that you aren’t using all of the budgeted money, allocate the surplus toward your emergency fund.

And, if you haven’t gone out and found your new pet yet, do draft up a realistic budget of what pet ownership will look like, in the context of all of your other expenses, prior to adoption. This is also the part that might be a letdown for some readers as you may find that you can’t balance your budget with these added costs. If this is the case, you may need to trim from other categories, or hold off on adopting an animal until you can better afford it.

Emergencies and pet insurance



Animals do become unwell and sometimes they get into accidents. Having emergency reserve funds can help pay for unplanned vet bills. Some pet owners incorporate pet insurance into their regular monthly budget, and the prices and coverage range widely. But, in the event of a major medical emergency, the insurance is designed to cover only a portion of the expenses. I would suggest that if you do not purchase pet insurance, that you allocate the same amount of money into your emergency fund should you need that money to pay out-of-pocket for your pet’s future medical bills.

As you’re running the math on becoming a pet parent, there’s one more factor to consider; the investment of your time. Proper care for your animal will take time every day. So, you may need to rework your calendar and/or draft up a schedule of care amongst your family members to ensure your pet has everything they need to thrive.