Skip to main content

How much does it really cost to own a cat vs. a dog? The answer may surprise you

When you’re thinking of adding a new pet to your home, it’s natural to focus on elements like how that animal will fit into your lifestyle and what its care requirements are. But how much do you think about what it will cost to care for the pet, both over a year and over its lifetime? Unfortunately, pet ownership can get expensive, and it’s important to make sure that you can financially afford the pet that you’re considering. Weighing the cost to own a cat or a dog can help you to tell if you’re truly prepared to give the pet everything it will need. The costs of pet ownership can vary, and even if you’ve adopted a cat or dog before, the actual costs of caring for pets might surprise you.

Relaxed cat sleeping in a cat bed
JonasOgrefoln / Pixabay

What does it cost to own a cat versus a dog?

According to MarketWatch, you’ll pay significantly more when you own a dog than you will when you own a cat, and those price differences start when you bring home your new animal.

The upfront costs of bringing home a new dog range from $1,050 to $4,480. In contrast, bringing home a cat costs between $695 and $3,100. While adopting from a shelter may save you some money compared to buying a pet from a breeder, keep in mind that the costs to bring home a pet also include purchasing essential supplies like crates, beds, food, and toys.

You’ll also pay less to care for your cat long-term than you will to care for a dog. Cat annual essentials, including vet care and food, cost from $300 to $1,450 per year. Dog parents pay significantly more, with costs ranging from $480 to $3,470. Even expenses like pet insurance and grooming cost more for dogs. These services can cost up to about $3,440 for cats, whereas dog owners can pay up to $4,040 per year for these services.

Several different factors explain the difference in these prices. When it comes to acquiring a new pet, it’s more common for pet owners to buy dogs from breeders than it is for them to buy cats from breeders. Adopting from shelters tends to be a more affordable option, so cat parents may save some money right off the bat.

Feeding dogs cost more because dogs, particularly large breed dogs, eat more than cats do. Grooming costs are also higher because dogs are larger animals and take more time to groom.

Keep in mind that, while dogs cost more per year to care for, they have a shorter lifespan than cats. As a result, if your cat lives to 20, you’ll pay more to care for him over his lifetime than you would pay for a dog who only lived to 12.

Dog sniffing at a black cat's ear
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Understanding vet care costs

One variable can turn these figures on their head, though: vet care. The above figures are averages and ranges, and vet care is even included in the “annual essentials” category. But if your pet suffers a serious injury or an accident, those vet care costs can increase tremendously.

According to MarketWatch, it can cost between $3,000 and $6,000 to fix a pet’s broken leg. These veterinary emergencies can be incredibly expensive and can drive up the cost of having a pet.

That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for these emergencies. You can create your own emergency fund by opening a savings account just for your pet’s emergency vet bills. Contribute some money from each paycheck to that account and you’ll be able to grow that balance fairly quickly. Knowing that you have these extra funds on hand in case of an emergency can make dealing with your pet’s medical issues less stressful.

It’s also worth looking into pet health insurance. The price of the policies will vary depending on your pet’s breed, age, and medical history, but pet health insurance can help to reduce the size of the vet bills you might see in an emergency. Policies and coverages vary, so be sure to carefully read the information, including the deductible, exclusions, and limitations, of any policy that you’re considering.

If you’re undecided about whether you want to add a cat or a dog into your life, you might want to consider the difference in what you will pay to acquire and care for each type of pet. Keep in mind that those figures are estimates only, and your costs may vary depending on your pet’s breed and health issues. Getting a cat might save you some money, but it’s more important to make sure that the pet you choose is a great fit for your life. You’ll be spending the next 10 or more years with your pet, and she’ll become an integral member of your family. Spend plenty of time making this decision so you’ll know that, in the end, you’re bringing home the pet who’s meant for your family.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Does your dog drink a lot of water? Here’s when you should be concerned
It's usually just the weather, but you should look for signs of dehydration or excess thirst
A pug drinking water from a sink faucet

Ensuring your furry best friend gets plenty of water is one of the most important parts of being a pet parent. But how much water should your dog drink on a daily basis? Veterinarians claim the general rule of thumb is a simple equation: The majority of dogs require around 1/2 to 1 ounce (about 1/8 of a cup) of water per pound of body weight each day. Don't want to reach for your measuring cup? Make sure your pup has round-the-clock access to clean water, and everything should be fine.

That being said, if your dog empties their water bowl several times a day, or you notice their intake has increased drastically, you should probably keep a close eye on things. If your dog drinks a lot of water, you may be wondering, "Why is my dog always thirsty?" We'll share how to monitor your pup's water intake, the most common reasons your dog may be thirsty, and when you should speak with your vet.

Read more
Is a Belgian Malinois a good family dog? Everything you need to know about this amazing dog breed
Belgian Malinois breed description, family behavior, and more
A Belgian Malinois leaps through a meadow of dandelions

If you're considering opening up your home to a new four-legged family member, there may be a lot of thoughts swimming through your mind. This is totally normal. Bringing home a new pet is a big change, so it's only natural (and responsible) to think through every aspect of the decision before you commit. One thing you may be considering is which dog breed would be best for your home. Although you may not be able to hand-pick your perfect breed when adopting a pet from a shelter, knowing a bit about the most common dog breeds can help you make an informed choice.
The Belgian Malinois is a breed often seen in cities, suburbs, and farms, though it's often mistaken for an entirely different dog -- the German shepherd. While they are related, these breeds are completely separate from one another. Familiarizing yourself with Belgian Malinois characteristics and traits will help you decide whether this may be a breed for your family, but first, we'll have to ask -- is a Belgian Malinois a good family dog?
Let's find out everything there is to know about this strong and loyal dog breed.

Belgian Malinois breed characteristics

Read more
Family member allergic to cats? Where to find hypoallergenic cats for adoption
Here's how you can have a cat even if you have allergies
Bengal cat peering around a row of potted plants

While our opinions may differ on innumerable issues, there is a universal constant we can all agree on: No one enjoys suffering from allergies. If you're dealing with itchy eyes, a running nose, constant sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or even hives, then you're suffering from an allergy to something in your immediate environment.
Maybe it's just pollen, but it can also be ... your cat. Cat allergies are relatively common, but just because someone in your family has cat allergies doesn't mean you have to give up your dream of being a cat parent. From bathing your cat to allergy treatments, there are a few tips you can use to limit exposure to allergens. Even better, you might even find the purr-fect solution waiting for you in a local shelter. Keep reading to learn more about hypoallergenic cats for adoption.

Should I adopt a cat if I'm allergic?

Read more