We have joked many many times, while checking out at the veterinarian's office, that our cats should get paper routes or jobs at Starbucks to help defray the costs of their care. Two out of three of the felines at Pets HQ are old, and between the senior-wellness checkups ($175 a pop), the specialty food they need for their "dietary issues" ($85 a case), the professional claw-clipper I hire to catch and manicure a surprisingly spry 17-year-old orange tabby…it adds up. And that's not counting all the Fresh Step, paper towels to handle cat vomit, catnip, sisal mice, pet-sitters, emergency surgeries because someone thought he was a dog and chewed on a table leg, and so on and so forth. We've never considered sitting down with a pencil and paper and adding up the total cost of the cats over a lifetime, though, because we don't particularly enjoy crying hysterically.
Fortunately, Petplace.com saved us – and you – the trouble. Alex Lieber has an interesting piece up about how much it costs owners to "raise" various pets, be it small dogs, big dogs, indoor cats, or outdoor ones, over the lifetime of those pets. And the figures surprised us in several ways.
Yahoo! News: Go on a cash diet
First of all, we didn't expect large dogs to cost so much LESS to take care of than small dogs. They're large! They need more food and trample more stuff – right? Wrong. Lieber notes that small-to-medium dogs cost $740-$1,325 in the first year of their lives (regardless of size, puppies rack up costs at a higher rate than older dogs, because they're getting a full range of vaccinations – for hepatitis, distemper, leptospirosis, rabies, and parvo, and others), then $500-$875 annually thereafter. That can lead to a total as high as $12,700. Larger dogs, meanwhile, cost more per year ($1,020 to $1,825 as adults) – but the estimated lifetime cost of caring for a large dog only goes as high as $7,950, because larger dogs' lifespans tend to be shorter, 8 years, versus a smaller dog's 14 years. (Lieber notes that "the life spans of individual dogs can vary, so the figure given … is only a rough average," and adds that how well a dog is looked after and sees a vet is a key variable in how long she lives.)
Lieber's analysis of cat-care costs also contained some interesting numbers – starting with the big gap in estimated lifespan between indoor and outdoor cats. Whether a cat lives outside is "the biggest factor affecting their life span," Lieber says, but we had no idea how big that difference was: an average lifespan of just 5 years for outdoor cats – who are at risk from diseases, traffic, and cats and other animals – versus a whopping 16-year average lifespan for indoor cats.
Like puppies, kittens cost more in their first year of life, anywhere from $785 to $1,010 regardless of their housing situations. But while an outdoor cat may cost her owner as much as $4,150 lifetime, an indoor cat may nearly triple that figure ($11,275).
And all of these numbers presume "average" care, Lieber comments; they don't include serious illnesses, recuperation from injuries, fancy haircuts for dogs, designer claw covers for cats, days at the pet spa, or any of the other extras we mentioned up top like "boutique" food and expensive automated litterboxes.
Lieber also says that "the happiness you and your pet shared together" is invaluable, and while we jokingly complain about our pets' price tags, if they're happy and healthy, we wouldn't have it any other way…and we hope they don't mind when we have to give up cable for them. Hee.
For more from Lieber's piece and a nifty chart with the annual and lifetime numbers, click right here.
Have you ever done the math with YOUR pets – vet bills, breeders' fees, the cost of replacing that baseboard your Bulldog destroyed, plus a lifetime of Dog Chow and lint rollers? Did the numbers shock, stun, and sadden you – or do you not mind? How's it stack up to raising a kid, numbers-wise? Let us know in the comments.