How Much Pets Cost & How To Save

Four Minutes
Mar 22, 2023

We all know that pets are more than just pets. They’re our family. But families cost money, and pets are no exception.

So, how expensive is a pet really? The average cost of owning a dog is around $1,400 per year. The average cost of owning a cat is around $1,200 per year.

But, every pet is different and the cost of living has increased for people and pets alike. MetLife’s 2022 Pet Parent Pulse survey revealed that 84% of pet parents nationwide have seen the cost of caring for their pets increase over the last year.

Fortunately, there are ways to save on your fur baby’s care, like pet insurance and retooling your budgeting. But before you make any changes to your spending habits, it’s important to understand what types of costs to expect when owning a pet.

Pet Expenses: A Closer Look at the Cost of Pet Ownership

We may not be able to predict exactly what you’ll need to spend on your animals. But, whether you’ve got a cat, dog, or both, there are some common expenses that most owners experience.

Purchasing a cat or dog

Many people pay a fee for their pets, whether it’s from a breeder or an adoption shelter. When it comes to dogs, breeders still remain a popular option, as reported by the The Humane Society of the United States.1 This route often comes with the largest price tag. Common breeds like Labrador retrievers can cost up to $1,500, while more specialized breeds like the English bulldog average out at $2,500. 

Cats are less likely to be purchased from a breeder, but it is an option.1 Prices may be generally lower than what a dog breeder may charge. Still, a purebred cat could cost $1,000 or more.

Adopting a cat or dog

Adopting an animal is by far the affordable option. Taking a dog home from the shelter may cost up to $767, according to the Animal Humane Society.2 Cats may cost up to $200.3 These fees often include the cost of vaccines, microchipping, and spaying/neutering, which may help you save on veterinary bills.

Initial medical costs

Depending on where you obtained your pet, you may need to pay out-of-pocket for initial medical expenses. Here are the average costs of some common procedures:

Average Costs

This table has 3 columns and 4 rows. 1st column represents the Procedure 2nd & 3rd represent Dog Dog  and Cat. Each row indicates whether the Procedure is covered by dog  or cat
$50 – $500 $200 – $500
Core Vaccinations
Microchipping $50 $454

Wellness and preventive care

Routine check-ups keep your pet healthy and may help your protect them from potentially serious conditions. Preventive care, such as repellents for fleas and other parasites, help ensure your animals are safe year-round. 

Annual Averages

This table has 3 columns and 3 rows. 1st column represents the Healthcare 2nd & 3rd represent Dog (annual average)5 and Cat (annual average)6. Each row indicates whether the Healthcare is covered by dog  or cat
Dog (annual average)5
Cat (annual average)6
Routine care 
Preventive care

Worried About Vet Bills?

Pet Insurance Can Help

Food and Treats

Food tends to be the highest annual expense for both cats and dogs. On average, owners spend $300 per year on dog food, while cat food comes out to $225.5,6 This can, of course, fluctuate if you have multiple pets or a particularly large dog.

Treats are an additional expense. Although technically optional, treats are useful for training or just making your fur baby’s life that much better. Cat owners spend an average of $366 annually on treats, while dog owners typically spend around $60.7

Toys and supplies

Dog parents spend an average of $37 per year on toys. This is another expense that can vary dramatically depending on the behavior of your pup.5 Even the toughest bully stick or rawhide chew might not last very long.

While dogs usually love their toys, cats tend to accumulate more accessories. Toys, scratching posts, beds, and towers are all recommended to enrich your kitty’s daily life. That means the reported average annual cat toy budget — just $41 — might be an underestimation.8 Cats also require litter boxes and a year’s supply of litter. The box itself is a relatively low one-time cost of about $20 on average. However, litter comes in at around $150 per year.6

How To Lower the Cost of Owning a Pet

As mentioned before, the average yearly cost of owning a cat is $1,200. For dogs, it’s a bit higher at $1,400.

According to MetLife’s Pet Parent Pulse Survey, 50% of owners worry about being able to afford the cost of pet ownership in the future. But, there are a few areas pet owners are willing to reduce their spending on in order to provide for their pets.

Taking stock of your budget can help you identify other expenses you might be able to cut down on, such as travel and entertainment. In fact, 59% of pet parents would consider reducing their entertainment budget to provide for their furry family members.

There are also resources you can tap into for reducing pet expenses. One in four pet parents we surveyed had leveraged their family and friends for financial support, however only 20% of people had pet insurance to help cover the cost of their pet’s care.

The cost of veterinary care is the largest annual pet expense after food. According to MetLife’s Pet Parent Pulse survey, only 13% of cat owners and 17% of dog owners have pet insurance. Gen Z was more likely than any other generation to invest in this coverage.

An emergency vet visit can cost as much as $5,000. By contrast, MetLife Pet policies can start at $9/month for a cat and $15/month for a dog.Plus, they can help you save on covered expenses for unexpected vet bills and medical emergencies.

MetLife Pet has paid out thousands of dollars to pet parents across the country, helping to cover the costs of pet emergencies, hospitalizations, and serious illnesses such as cancer.10

How MetLife Pet Has Helped Pet Parents Save

This table has 3 columns and 3 rows. 1st column represents the Procedure 2nd & 3rd represent Out-of-Pocket Cost and MetLife Pet Insurance Paid. Each row indicates whether the Procedure is covered by Out-of-Pocket Cost or MetLife Pet Insurance
Out-of-Pocket Cost
MetLife Pet Insurance Paid10
Cancer surgery for a 7-year-old mixed breed dog
About $1,400
About $1,400
Vehicular trauma care for a 4-year-old shih tzu
 About $1,000
About $900
Surgery to remove a swallowed hair tie for a mixed breed kitten
About $5,000
About $4,200

In addition to providing a financial safety net for pet owners when it comes to large vet bills, MetLife Pet Insurance can help cover the cost of routine care — from exam fees and diagnostic tests to prescription medicines and even holistic treatments.8,11

See exactly how MetLife Pet Insurance can work for your lifestyle and budget. Start your research with a free quote now.

Protect your Pets

Even the healthiest of pups can come with unexpected vet costs. Pet insurance can help keep your dog and your bank account happy.

1 “Pets by the Numbers,” The Humane Society of the United States

2 “Adoption fees,” Animal Humane Society

3 “How Much Does a Cat Cost?”, PetFinder

4 “The Ins & Outs of Microchipping Your Cat: What You Need to Know,” Daily Paws

5 “How Much Does a Dog Cost?” MetLIfe Pet Insurance

6 “How Much Does a Cat Cost? What You Need To Know,” MetLife Pet Insurance

7 “Cutting Pet Care Costs,” ASPCA

8 “Cats Will Play,” Pet Business

9 Calculation based upon select plans and coverages. Actual rates may vary based on pet age, breed, location, deductible, reimbursement rate, and annual limits you choose.

10  All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022.

11 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review. Policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain restrictions, exclusions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions contact MetLife Pet.

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