“If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.” — Andy Rooney

DogWhen I first met my partner, we both had our “deal breaker” issues about getting involved in a long term relationship. She wanted children and needed to know upfront if her prospective mate would be up for this down the road. My deal breaker was that I didn’t want a dog. Ever. Never. Nada. Tell people this and automatically you’re damaged and categorized as some horrific human being. So allow me to be more precise: I like dogs… I just never want to live with one.

Fast-forward five years after sealing the deal and we’re busy trying to make a baby. We also have a cat. Everyone is happy.

So this week, I smiled at the spirited debate that transpired in the comment section when Trent at The Simple Dollar introduced the topic of Pets and Money. He writes, “Earlier today, I opened a can of worms by suggesting that, if your budget is overly tight, you may wish to consider looking for a new home for your pet. My mention of this issue was extremely brief (not nearly enough to actually explore the issue in detail), but a number of readers grabbed a hold of this point and ran with it. Thus, I decided to move this discussion to a separate post so these issues could be explored in more detail.”

“Pets require constant upkeep and attention – if you are unsure if you want a pet or do not know the effort involved in maintenance, look for a situation where you can perhaps watch someone else’s pet for a period while that person is traveling. Pets also have a constant cost – vet visits, food, litter, and other costs are regular and consistent.”

In the book, Work Less & Play More, Steven Catlin challenges readers to think about purchases and determine how many are based on necessity verses such things as ego, tradition and guilt.

For example, owning a dog could be classified as a “traditional” purchase and he suggests that you might consider what the dog will cost long after you paid the $200 for it. Is it worth it? Or are you just buying a dog because it is un-American to not own a pet? Pets cost money and most people don’t consider this before they commit to owning an animal. I thought Trent was making a responsible and practical point.

But one commenter named Anne wrote, “Of course you got a lot of nasty feedback about the original article. In a bullet-point list including such items as “cut your clothes spending in half” and “reduce or eliminate your cable bill” you had the suggestion to rehome your pets. The whole thing was entitled “Trimming The Fat.” I think what was really offensive was the idea that pets were just another monthly bill, like Netflix or the gym membership. Yes, there may be situations where it is necessary to rehome a pet, but not after all other options have been exhausted.”

Trent concludes, “So what can we learn from this? The big thing I learned is that there’s a huge spectrum of feelings on the importance and responsibility of pet ownership and I actually turn out to be somewhere in the middle on it. There are a lot of people out there who really love their pets and put them on equal bearing with their children, while others feel as though pets are secondary considerations. What’s right? It’s not for me to judge – but it does make for interesting and revealing discussion.”

Paula explored the topic of The High Cost of Pet Care awhile back. She writes, “A recent unexpected late night trip to the animal hospital reminded me once again just how expensive it can get to care for our loved ones. Even if you acquire your furry friend for free from a rescue or friend, the cost of their regular, ongoing care is something you need to factor into your budget. According to the ASPCA, pet care costs for the first year of ownership can range from $800-$1600 for a dog (depending on size) and just over $700 for a cat. These figures include basic necessities for care and not any additional medical care your new baby might need.”

“Where the big bucks really show up is in the unexpected medical care or diagnostic services that tend to creep up as your pet ages. Since most people do not purchase any sort of pet insurance for their animals, an unexpected trip to the vet can be as shocking as if you headed out for medical care yourself without any medical insurance. It is best to be sitting down when you get the bill.”

“So, next time you ask the question “How much is that doggy/kitty in the window / shelter / breeder / rescue?” remember to factor in the total cost of caring for your companion. With a lot of love and regular care, pets will enrich your life far in excess of any money outlays you may need to make.”

She also gives the skinny on pet insurance and suggests that you shop and compare plans by pointing readers to Pet Insurance Review. Another helpful tool is the Pet Cost Calculator.

I’ll leave you with one final comment from The Simple Dollar post: “Most Americans have an entitlement mentality with regards to EVERYTHING. And most believe they’re entitled to pets even if they can’t afford them. They don’t think about it more than “Oh I want a dog (or a cat, bunny, snake, fish, etc)!!! Nobody can tell me otherwise. I live in the United States of America and can do what I want.” It’s sad really. That’s why so many pets end up mistreated or homeless. And it’s the main reason why so many Americans are in debt: they don’t think, they just do.”

So whatever your opinion is on pet ownership, it behooves you to consider the cost just like any other purchase or commitment. Your comments on this topic are welcomed below… minus any long prose about the love of wet dog smell. Deal breaker, remember!