Why Get Pets If You Can’t Afford to Care for Them?

Pets rely on us for everything, and it’s upsetting to see them not get the care they need.

Toys are just one expense of owning a pet. By: Scott Wilson
Toys are just one expense of having a pet in your family. Photo: Scott Wilson

Why would people get pets if they can’t afford to care for them in the first place?

This is a question of the ages — and one I am intimately familiar with, because I was one of those people.

What I have since learned is that pets, like people, need a great deal of care to both survive and thrive. If we can’t provide what our pet needs, we’re not being good pet caretakers.

As a backstory, I had a German Shepherd named Gypsy. On the whole, Gypsy was easy to handle — shots once or twice a year, regular checkups and, of course, a never-ending supply of dog food and those squeaky toys that she never could get enough of.

However, as she got older, Gypsy contracted myasthenia gravis, a serious and rare condition that shot her needs from the mundane to the massive.

Costs Vary

Gypsy needed special food, special care and, most of all, special medication and vet visits that quickly had a crippling effect on the household finances.

Veterinary bills were in the many thousands of dollars, and it took me a year and a half from her death to pay them off — with a vet who often gave discounts and sometimes even free medication because he knew how desperate my financial situation was.

Is that going to happen with every dog or cat? Probably not, but the potential is there.

Just like people, pets contract disease and infirmity as they age, and you can count on having to shell out more money toward the end of their lives to make them comfortable. If you love your pets, you need to be able to provide for them because they can’t provide for themselves.

The word “caregiver” absolutely applies to being a pet parent. Pets are dependent on your care for their comfort and well-being, and if you can’t afford to provide it, you should probably get a stuffed pony.

Justifications for Getting a Pet

“But, I’m lonely,” you might say, or “That poodle was just so Aunt Ethel; I had to get it for her,” or “I need that dog for home protection,” or even “I saved him from death at the shelter.”

Sure, those are all reasons why people buy or adopt pets. That doesn’t always make them the right reasons.

If you can’t afford to care for your pet, you shouldn’t get one — that’s the bottom line. Your pet can’t provide for him- or herself, so it’s on you (or Aunt Ethel) to do so.

If you’re lonely, join a club. Aunt Ethel is great, but can she afford to care for Sir Jacques the poodle? Do you need home protection? A burglar alarm is probably cheaper in the long run.

And saving an animal from death is noble, but if you are condemning him or her to a life of unfulfilled needs, is that really better?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of shelter adoptions and if I could, I would go there right now and adopt all the animals. The key words there, though, are: “if I could.” I know that I couldn’t possibly afford to care properly for all those animals and that they would suffer more in the long run.

Considerations for the Life of Your Pet

When you’re looking to get a pet, there are basic financial considerations:

  1. Pet food, of course, is the first. That should be rolled into your monthly budget. Depending on what kind of food you purchase and where you purchase it, you’re probably looking at anywhere from $50 to $100 per month. Now say you have your pet for 10 years. That adds up to $6,000 to $12,000 just in food. It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?
  2. Now, of course, you must also factor in veterinary care. Every pet needs yearly checkups and sometimes medication. This figure varies wildly around the country, but it’s a safe bet you’d be spending at least $150-$400 per year on your pet’s veterinary bills. That’s another $1,500 to $4,000. Holy moly!
  3. Then think about supplies, such as flea and tick control (necessary, especially in wooded and rural areas) as well as toys and home care or boarding when you go on trips.

The list is almost endless. When you think about it, making a pet part of your family is a pretty big financial responsibility!

Does my pet really need all those things? Well, yes. If you want to be a responsible pet parent, your pet will need all those things — and, in many cases, more.

This is really relatable to dogs and cats, but what if you have a turtle? Tanks and supplies are needed. What about a horse? Astronomical costs.

Taking pets in and giving them love is important, but it’s only the first step in the pet–caregiver relationship. It is up to you to provide your pets with the care and comfort they will need for the rest of their lives.