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A Pet for Christmas? That'll Cost You

Home for the Holidays?

When I was a child, I loved the books All Things Wise and Wonderful and All Things Bright and Beautiful. Written by Jame Herriot, an English country vet, these books captivated me. The cow giving birth on a cold winter’s nigh; the horse with a sore foot; good dog Cedric, how I loved these stories!

While I knew better than to ask for a horse (even though I really, really wanted to), I lobbied endlessly, and fruitlessly, for a dog. My mom always said no, because, she told me, she’d be the one who’d do all the work.  She might also have added that she and my father would have had to pay all the bills, and, as it turns out, the cost of a dog is not nothing.

With my own daughter now lobbying heavily for a pet, I was a little taken aback by just the cost of a cat or dog. Writing in The New York Times, Paul Sullivan points out that most people underestimate the cost of an animal.  He writes

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the cost for a large dog at $875 a year for food, medical expenses, toys and a few related expenses, and $560 for first-year setup costs. The estimate for a cat is $670 a year, with first-year expenses of $365, for a total of $1,035.

Over a thousand dollars for a cat?  Thank goodness I’m allergic.

And if you’re thinking about a big animal,  the cost of a horse starts at about $1,000, but boarding, training will run you from $9,000 to $40,000 a year, every year. And no, that wasn’t a typo.

There are cheaper ways to get a horse. Sullivan tells us that some families opt for horse shares, splitting the expenses in half or by quarters. And, I assume not every horse has to be trained.  But, a horse still needs shoes, and that’s $200 every four to six weeks.  Which is to say, a horse is a lavish pet and should probably only move off a wish list if the words “lavish” and “gift” together don’t make you tense.

So, if you’re considering a pet this year, horses do make the price of puppy or kitten seem reasonable. If you adopt a puppy or cat, even better, and the yearly expenses can be budgeted. But, as Sullivan suggests, be sure to save up for surprise medical expenses. (He tells of a black lab who ate a sock that had to be removed surgically, $6,000 later.)  And, let’s not forget, there’s always a hermit crab.

photo credit: Oriovic

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