Here's how much it costs to own a dog or cat in 2021

Pets can be expensive. Here's our overview of some common costs -- and tips for saving on the essentials.

Grace Kim Contributor
Grace is a contributor for CNET.
Grace Kim
4 min read
ASPCA pet adoption

Owning a pet isn't cheap: In a typical year, the average pet owner spends between $500 and $1,000 for a dog and more than $600 for a cat. If you're considering adopting a pet, it's good to have a handle on the costs involved in year one and beyond. Read on for an overview of some common expenses and tips for new pet owners.

How much are adoption fees?

Your first year of owning a pet is often the most expensive due to one-time startup costs. Expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 during your first year of pet ownership. 

To start, adoption fees will vary depending on whether you adopt from a shelter, breeder or pet store. Generally, adopting from a shelter is the most affordable option and many initial expenses such as spays/neuters, vaccinations, microchips, and other veterinary visits are often included in the adoption fee. Standard shelter adoption fees generally range from about $100 to $700 for dogs and $30 to $300 for cats, according to the Animal Humane Society. Note that some animals may cost more if they have a particular medical condition or are a more exotic breed. 

When buying directly from a breeder or pet store, expect to pay more. In fact, according to PrudentPet Insurance, some dog breeds can cost as much as $14,000 to adopt. Pets from breeders typically come with their first set of shots included -- but other vaccinations and procedures, including spaying and neutering, may not be included.

Common one-time expenses

There are plenty of one-time expenses that pop up when you buy a new dog or cat. These can include spaying or neutering, vaccinations, rabies shots, microchipping, licensing, training and pet supplies such as a crate, food bowls, leash, toys, brushes, litter boxes, litter and puppy pads.

Here's a breakdown from the ASPCA with average one-time costs you can expect to pay for a dog or cat:

Common one-time expenses per pet

Crate/cage $35-$150$35-$70
Training classes $100-$400N/A
Spay/Neuter $200-$800$200
Carrier bag $40-$100$60
Litter box N/A$25-$50
Collar/leash $25-$50$10-$20
Scratching post N/A$10-$20
Puppy pads $50-$100N/A

Recurring annual costs of owning a pet

The average cost of owning a pet can range from $700 to $1,100 per year, depending on the type of pet and its size, according to the ASPCA. (Bigger animals typically eat more food.) 

Here's a breakdown of typical yearly costs of owning a dog or cat: 

Average annual costs per pet

Small to large-sized dogCat
Food $200-$400$200-$300
Litter N/A$200
Toys $50-$100$50
Treats $50-$100$50
Health insurance $225$175
Grooming $200-$500N/A
License $15$15
Recurring medical costs $200-$500$200-$300

Be sure to also consider pet care expenses if you plan to travel and board your pet or hire a pet sitter. You might also need a dog walker while you're at work or boarding a few times a week. These costs can vary, so be sure to shop around for a service you trust.

Remember that these are just average costs. Every pet owner's specific expenses will vary, but this can help you plan ahead if you're thinking of buying a dog or cat. 

How to save money on pet expenses

Pet insurance

The average yearly pet insurance cost is $225 for dogs and $175 for cats. Although pet insurance isn't required and is a relatively new concept, purchasing a pet insurance plan can help you save thousands on vet bills in certain situations. It could be worth considering if your pet requires frequent vet conditions, develops a medical condition or if you're worried about affording the cost of a one-off pet visit. While pet insurance can save you money, most policies require you to pay out-of-pocket and then provide qualifying reimbursements once you've met your deductible. That means you'll still need to pay upfront but could receive a discount back.

Food delivery services

Pet food can be expensive, but some food delivery services like Chewy or Petsmart offer discounts when you have food autoshipped or order in bulk -- offering you peace of mind and saving you a few bucks. If you buy the same pet food brand consistently, you may also be able to sign up for rewards with that brand, receiving discounts for each dollar you spend. If your pet requires prescription food, your vet might be able to provide you with samples and coupons when you visit, which can put a dent in the overall cost.

Affordable pet medication services

Pet medication can be expensive, so it's important to shop around for the best deal. Get a quote from your vet and reach out to other pet pharmacy providers, like 1800-Pet-Meds or Walmart Pet RX for quotes. Some vets will even price match other pharmacies, so talk to your vet staff to find out their policies.

Don't skimp on dental care

Caring for your pet's teeth might not seem important, especially when so many food brands and treats tout oral care benefits. But, by age three, most dogs and cats have some form of dental disease, which can reduce their quality of life, develop into other diseases and leave you with hefty vet bills. Scheduling yearly dental cleanings and cleaning your pet's teeth at home are two great ways to keep your cat or dog healthy and dental costs at bay.