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The unconditional love of a pet makes it hard to place a value on a cute little puppy or kitten. However, the monetary cost of caring for a furry friend can be a few thousand dollars within the first year, and the fees don’t stop.

There has been a surge in pet adoptions as well as rescue and foster pet applications since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. These furry companions are being referred to as “pandemic pets.” It’s great to see more animals finding forever homes, but the decision to integrate a pet into your life should not be a rash decision or taken lightly. Caring for a pet during and after the pandemic will take a lot of time and money.

Potential pet owners should understand that owning a dog or cat is more than just filling bowls with food and water and going for leisurely walks through the park – especially within the first 12 months.

According to research done by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), the costs of caring for a pet within the first year are quite large.

Cost of caring for a pet in the first 12 months

Pet Cost
Puppy $3,934.00
Kitten $2,516.00

These costs are in addition to the animal itself and don’t include discretionary expenses like grooming or boarding fees.

The bulk of the costs to care for a puppy or kitten come from first-time essential purchases, such as a bed, bowls, a collar, a leash, a carrier or crate, and other material items like toys.

Veterinary costs, while significant initially, may also dip over the years, considering certain one-time procedures, like spaying or neutering and implanting an identification microchip. However, as your pet ages, these costs are likely to come back up.

Ongoing expenses, of course, include food and litter as well as annual pet licensing fees required by most municipalities to own a dog or cat.

Preparing for a pet 

Pet insurance often overlooked

Pet health insurance is also an important consideration that many potential pet owners may overlook when budgeting for a dog or cat.

As technology and modern medicine advance for humans, so do emergency procedures and treatments for pets, which means they also come with a big price tag.

Depending on the breed, a typical pet insurance policy could cost you around $30 to $80 a month. However, a broken leg, hip problems, ear infections, swallowing foreign objects, diabetes, or urinary tract infections can cost you thousands of dollars without pet insurance. All it takes is one accident or illness to justify the cost of a policy.

The OVMA study estimated pet insurance to cost $933 per year for a puppy, and $444 for a kitten. This figure is based on the national average but can vary depending on coverage choices and the other unique factors.

Comparing the costs of a puppy and a kitten

Whether you see your pet as a friend or family member, chances are you would do almost anything for them. But before picking a pet to take home, be prepared to budget for the associated costs.

Coming in at approximately $1,418 less than a dog, a cat is easily the cheaper option when choosing a pet – at least certainly in the first year. While cats and dogs do share a lot of the same expenses, some of the necessary costs differ.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of essential pet costs.

Cost of a Pet in Canada Infographic

*The figures are as posted on the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association website for puppies and kittens.

How to build a budget for your pet

The cost of owning a pet can vary drastically by the smallest of details like the breed or standard of care. Some purebred animals can cost a small fortune to purchase while other animals are practically free. Some pets require regular grooming and haircuts, while others may only require nail trimming. And, depending on the pet owner, some of these services can be handled at home, free of charge.

To get a good estimate of how much your desired pet will cost, fill out the chart below. It is best to overestimate than to underbudget.

Planning for the costs of a pet

Expenses Cost Is this a recurring fee?
Animal One-time fee
Exams and vaccines
Heartworm and flea prevention
De-worming medication
Spay or neuter One-time fee
Fecal exam for parasites
Microchip ID One-time fee
Bowls One-time fee
Collar and leash
Litter box One-time fee
Pet food
Pet bed
Kennel/crate/ travel carrier
Scratching post
Boarding/pet sitting
Obedience classes One-time fee
Pet health insurance Monthly/annual fee
Municipal pet licence Annual fee
Annual wellness profile (vet checkup) Annual fee

Some expenses are more frequent than others like nail trimming, which can cost $8 to $15 a pop unless you can do it yourself at home. It’s also customary to tip for services even for your furry friend. So, you should budget for those costs as well.

Other fees occur annually, and you can account for them in the budget. However, when it comes to pets, unforeseen expenses are generally quite costly. Having an emergency fund can help cover the costs of unexpected vet visits or other unanticipated expenses.

How to save when shopping for your pet

Adopt a pet

When you purchase an animal from a pet store, breeder or through a newspaper ad, not only is it typically more expensive than going through a shelter, but you may also be perpetuating breeding mills that may be treating the animals poorly.

Shelter adoption fees, on the other hand, are generally less than $250 for adult dogs and $60 for adult cats. Kittens are typically less than $150, and puppies are usually less than $500. Plus, this fee often includes neutering or spaying as well as the first round of vaccines – saving you on veterinary costs as well.

Shop around for food

Pet food can be fairly expensive – especially if you have a big dog or cat that eats just as much as a small child. As you peruse the flyers for deals on your groceries, look for savings and coupons on pet food.

You could also save money by using your credit card points toward kibble, treats, and pet food cans. There are plenty of rewards credit cards that allow members to earn points as they shop and redeem them for free groceries and supplies. Cardholders who have American Express Membership Rewards can shop directly through for household essentials. AIR MILES Collectors can shop in-store at participating partners using points.

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Before you cash out, make sure you are ultimately buying food with nutrition content in mind, not only price. A lot of low-quality foods will contain ingredients like animal by-products, food dyes, corn and wheat gluten, which may not be the healthiest for your pet.

This post has been updated.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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