Should You Adopt a Pet or Buy One? Pet Costs & Finding One

Should You Adopt a Pet Rather than Buy One? here's costs of pet ownership and where to adopt one!

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We think you should adopt a pet rather than buy one for several reasons. Learn how to find the best pet and get the best deal when you adopt it.

Are your kids asking you to adopt a pet for your family? Or are your kids grown and you want a furry friend as a companion?

Many people think pet adoption is an expensive luxury. But don’t panic! Actually, getting and keeping a pet doesn’t have to cost as much as you think!

You could go to Craigslist or OfferUp. But whatever you do, stay as far away from breeding mills as possible! But your best option is to adopt your next pet from an animal shelter or rescue group. (see Shelter & Rescue list at the end of this article)

Because of the care that pets receive there, you save money both in the short-term and long-term.

And you will get your money’s worth and more!

Related Topic: Pet Medical Savings Tips

What Does A Rescue Pet Adoption Cost?

Frankly, that’s a little like asking “How much does a car cost?”

The cost of pet adoption depends on so many factors.

The age, breed, and health of the pet affect how much the fee will be. It could be as little as $25 or as much as $200 or $300. If they ask more than that, there’s a possibility that this “shelter” is actually a mill in disguise and you need to take your business elsewhere and possibly inform local law enforcement.

If you want a puppy or kitten, you might be charged a bit more as everyone wants one of those. That’s just how supply and demand work.

Would you settle for an adolescent or young adult pet? They’ve still got a lot of love to give and really need a good home. Not only do they cost less due to lower demand, but there’s a very good possibility that house training, micro-chipping, and sterilization have already been taken care of.

Also, remember to ask which shots this animal has had and which ones are needed.

Watch for Special Discounts at Shelters

Some facilities will occasionally run specials where they reduce or even waive the fee, particularly with older animals.

Give a local shelter a “like” on Facebook to be informed of when this is happening.

While an older animal might have had some house training, he may also be very set in his ways. Make sure you can live with a dog or cat’s firmly settled habits before you take him in. Often a pet is relinquished because the owner can no longer care for the animal rather than any misbehavior on the animal’s part. So don’t worry too much about adopting an unmanageable pet.

Even on the rare occasion, a shelter gets an animal with behavior problems, they try to straighten them out before offering them up for adoption.

Ask What Your Adoption Fee Includes

When you pay the fee, ask what it covers. A place that’s on the up and up will be happy to give you a full list.

Typically, this includes being spayed or neutered, a check-up from the vet, vaccinations, heartworm or other relevant tests, parasite control, and (more commonly with dogs than cats) microchipping.

They may also add the cost of feeding the animal and transportation. Volunteers and donations do much to take the edge off the financial demands animal shelters take on, but there’s only so much they can do.

Medical Costs Sometimes Spent On a Rescued Pet

If we break this down, you can see what an incredible bargain adopting a rescued pet is. You’re getting an amazing amount of value for a very small price.

  • Spaying and neutering can run $200 for a dog and $145 for a cat.
  • A vet exam can cost about $70 for a dog and up to $130 for a cat.
  • A vaccination can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 depending on the type.
  • Heartworm testing can cost $15 to $35 for a dog.
  • Screening for feline leukemia or FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) can run from $30 to $50.
  • A flea and tick treatment can be anywhere from $50 to $200.
  • Deworming will cost between $20 to $50.
  • A microchip costs about $50.

Some vets will do package deals for checkups, deworming, and vaccinations, so be on the lookout for that.

if your dog is healthy enough, you can get a sizable discount on future vet visits by donating their blood, which could save the life of another dog in need.

A free animal usually hasn’t had any medical care at all. Go ahead and pay the fee! Not only are you getting a bargain, but the fee also goes to the care of other animals.

The Cost of Keeping Your Pet

According to the ASPCA, the first year of pet ownership can cost $1000. This estimated amount covers mostly one-time purchases and there are still ways to save money.

Start-Up Expenses Can Add Up

  • Collar and tag can be between $5 and $10.
  • A scratching post will cost about $30. (It’s that or a new sofa!)
  • Obedience training for a dog can cost about $110. While that’s far cheaper than repairing or replacing anything your dog damages, you can save a bit by borrowing DVDs or books on dog training from your local library.
  • Litter Box—A good quality litter box should cost about $25. Avoid those fancy, newfangled, electronic self-cleaning litter boxes. The cat needs something bigger and quieter, the kids need some chores to do and you need to watch the budget. This electronic gizmo just doesn’t seem worth the cost.

Many pet stores have a frequent buyer’s reward program. Look into this and take advantage of coupons when you can.

For more information, you can find books for your particular animal breed at the public library.

Planning for Ongoing Expenses

And now on to everyday expenses. Feel free to splurge here if your budget can afford it.

  • Dog Food—A year’s worth of food for a dog is worth about $120 to $400 depending on the size and breed.
  • Cat Food—A year’s worth of food for a cat is about $145
  • Kitty Litter— A year’s worth of cat litter can cost $200 but you can save by buying in bulk.

A cat is an obligate carnivore and cheap fillers can cause her to hit the litter box more often.

A dog is a more omnivorous creature, but they are what they eat.

Don’t try to save money by feeding your cat or dog only table scraps. It’s not healthy for them.

Occasional treats can help with obedience training.

If you’re talented in the culinary realm, why not consider making treats for your pet? There are plenty of recipes available online and in books. Just make sure your resident cookie thief (every home has one) knows exactly what’s cooking.

Medical Care, Licenses, and Toys

You can save on medical exams at the vet by purchasing pet health insurance which can be $45 annually for a dog and $30 for a cat. Even then, it’s recommended that you set some money aside in case something unexpected happens. Consumer Reports rated Healthy Paws Pet Insurance as the best value when compared to several other companies.

Steve & Annette from have found some great deals on pet meds from Allivet (their vet encouraged them to buy from Allivet).

If it is necessary for your area, the pet license fee can cost $15.

Spot and Puff need toys and treats too!

  • For a cat, this can be $25 a year, though she might be happy with wads of paper, a laser pointer, and balls of yarn.
  • For a dog, this can be $55. Don’t try giving him an old shoe because dogs can’t tell the difference between them and your new shoes. Squeaky toys are inexpensive and stuffies go cheap after the holidays.
  • Old tennis balls are usually free at tennis clubs or found by walking around tennis courts in the evening.
  • The pooper-scooper looks handy, but really a good plastic bag will do the job just as well at a fraction of the cost.

More Reasons to Adopt from a Rescue

Many times, the animal you get from a shelter will be a mixed breed. Don’t think of her as a mutt! Think of her as a hybrid!

Breeding mills tend to produce puppies and kittens that look nice but are inbred to the point that they’re just not healthy.

A mixed-breed animal has all of the best qualities of every breed they’re related to, resulting in a long-lived and hardy pet that may not require many vet visits.

The people at a pet rescue have trained these animals how to behave in a family environment, so a lot of obedience training is already taken care of. What’s more, you’re dealing with people who just want to give an animal a good home so if you need advice, they’ll give it for free.

And since this person knows your new pet it will be individually tailored advice suited for your particular pet. You can’t buy that!

Involve Your Entire Family in the Pet Adoption

Should You Adopt a Pet Rather than Buy One? Here's costs of pet ownership and where to adopt one!

If you do decide to add a fur-bearing friend to the family, sit down and talk it over.

Explain to your children that a pet is a living being that must be fed, cleaned up after, and taken good care of.

A cat is usually cheaper to care for than a dog, but a small dog might be about on par.

Plan out a household budget and decide who will take care of the various pet-related chores and when.

Have the whole family visit the shelter or rescue and get to know the dogs and cats and start the process of selecting the one that will go home with you.

There are workers at the shelter who will be more than happy to assist and answer any questions you might have such as background, health, and whether or not this pet would be good to have around children.

Take all the time you need to come down to a final decision.

Talking With Your Kids

Of course, if it’s your children who want the pet, you should encourage them to pay for some of the expenses their new friend accrues.

You can handle the big things like vet bills and picking up pet food while grocery shopping.

Toys, treats, sweaters, combs, leashes, and other little things can be bought by your kids out of their earnings.

Your kids will not only learn about managing money but about caring financially for another the way you do for them.

Best Child’s Age For Pet Adoption

The ASPCA recommends waiting until age 6 or older before letting them handle a dog.

The child should be comfortable around animals and be able to show them the respect proper for any living being. If your children can handle basic chores without being reminded, they may be ready to take care of a pet.

You know your child, so you know what they’re capable of handling. Please be sure to supervise the tasks as the kids are learning. This way your pet will have their needs met, and your kids will learn to do the job well. Trusting that a young child will always check water, litter, and food could result in devastating consequences for pets and children.

Related Article: Picking the right pet for your family.

Other Money-Saving Advantages to Pet Ownership

There are other ways of having a pet that may save you money.

  • Exercise: Who needs a gym membership when you can take Fido for a brisk walk?
  • Pest Control: Who needs an exterminator when Whiskers occasionally likes a snack that moves?
  • Opportunities for Care: Your children will not only be merely entertained, but they will learn about the care and nurturing of another living creature.

And, of course, there are the rewards of having a pet that no money can buy.

You’ll have three bonuses as well:

  1. An adorable little friend who will give you undying love and loyalty.
  2. Peace of mind knowing that the money you spent on the adoption fee went to a good cause.
  3. The joy that you’re helping to reduce the overpopulation of pets.

And most importantly, you’ve saved an innocent life. If you’d like to read about more reasons to adopt, consult this infographic. (see a list of the top shelters in the top 15 cities in the US below)

Pet Rescue Infographic 1
Pet Rescue Infographic 2
Pet Rescue Infographic 3

Some of the best Shelters in the US are:

Best Friends Pet Adoption Center
Location: New York
Address: 307 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Address: 5026 W Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016

PAWS Chicago
Location: Chicago, IL
Address: 1997 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

The BARC shelter
Location: Houston, TX
Address: 3300 Carr Street, Houston, TX 77026

Arizona Animal Welfare League
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Address: 25 North 40th St., Phoenix, AZ 85034

Street Tails Animal Rescue
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Address: Liberties Walk 1030 N 2nd Street, Suite 401, Philadelphia, PA 19123

 San Antonio Humane Society
Location: San Antonio, TX
Address: 4804 Fredericksburg Rd., San Antonio, TX 78229

San Diego Humane Society
Location: San Diego, CA
Address: San Diego Campus 5500 Gaines Street, San Diego, CA 92110

Dallas Pets Alive
Location: Dallas, TX
Address: 11700 Preston Rd. Suite 660 #263, Dallas, TX 75230

City of San Jose Animal Care & Services
Location: San Jose, California
Address: 2750 Monterey Rd, San Jose, CA 95111

Austin Pets Alive
Location:  Austin, TX
Address: 1156 West Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78703

Jacksonville Humane Society
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Address: 8464 Beach Blvd Jacksonville, FL 32216

San Francisco SPCA
Location: San Francisco, CA
Address: 250 Florida Street San Francisco CA 94103

Pets Without Parents
Location:  Columbus, OH
Address: 629 Oakland Park Ave Columbus, OH 43214

Humane Society of Indianapolis
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Address: 7929 N Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46268

Animal Humane Society
Location: Found at multiple locations throughout Minnesota

For the full list of the animal shelters in every state please refer to this link.

Written by Mary Nielsen. Mary is a cat lover and founder of

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