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Which are cheaper: Cats or dogs?

Some of us are cat people, others like dogs, but all of us prefer not to overpay for the care of our pets. Here are 3 tips.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 5, 2012 12:10PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyI love my dog, but whoever coined the phrase "You can't put a price on love" probably wasn't a pet owner. Last year, between food, treats, toys, dog park memberships, vet bills and medicine, my large dog cost me more than $900.


Dog and cat owners don't pay the same amount for their four-legged family members, on average. If you're wondering how big the difference is -- and who pays more -- Stacy Johnson has the answer in the video below. Check it out, then read on for a breakdown of pet expenses and ideas for lowering yours.

The ASPCA did a study on the average cost of owning a dog or a cat. Here's a more detailed breakdown:

  • Small dog -- $1,314 the first year, $580 per year after.
  • Medium dog -- $1,580 the first year, $695 per year after.
  • Large dog -- $1,843 the first year, $875 per year after.
  • Cat -- $1,035 the first year, $670 per year after.

Image: Dog (© moodboard/Corbis)These totals include the following first-year costs: spay or neuter, other initial medical expenses, collar and leash, litter box and scratching post for cats, cage or crate for large dogs, carrier bag for small dogs and cats, and training class for dogs. Annual expenses include food, recurring medical costs, litter for cats, licenses for dogs, toys and treats, health insurance and miscellaneous costs.


Of course, those are averages. The ASPCA says, "You shouldn't expect to pay less than this, and you should definitely be prepared to pay more. Don't forget to factor in the costs of unexpected veterinary care, as well as boarding facilities, pet sitters and dog walkers, if you plan to use them."


But what the ASPCA doesn't mention is ways to trim expenses. For example:


1. Vet bills

The ASPCA says cats and dogs should see a vet at least once a year. The first year (when they usually require the most shots) is slightly more expensive. For example, it says vet bills for a medium-size dog break down like this:

  • Recurring medical -- $235.
  • Other initial medicine -- $70.
  • Spaying or neutering -- $200.
  • Total -- $505

You might reduce some of those costs by comparison shopping. For example, one vet in my neighborhood is $25 cheaper per visit than another. However, be sure to compare the costs of both regular visits and emergencies. 


As Stacy mentioned in the video, check local animal shelters for discount spaying and neutering, shots and other medical services. You can also reduce your costs by shopping around for cheaper medicines. Target and Kroger offer $4 generic pet meds.

Some owners use pet health insurance to save money on their vet bills -- both expected and unexpected -- but it's not cheap. The ASPCA says health insurance for a cat runs about $175 a year. Before you sign up, check out "Do you need pet insurance? 6 ways to save on care."


2. Food and supplies

The ASPCA says that the average yearly cost of food and supplies for a large dog like mine breaks down like this:

  • Food -- $235.
  • Toys and treats -- $75.
  • Total -- $310.

But I spend less than that, and I buy organic. For example, I used to buy my dog's food at a local pet store, where a 30-pound bag cost $57.99. I found the same bag on Amazon for $51.99.


3. Grooming and training

According to the ASPCA, training and grooming for a small dog breaks down like this:

  • Long hair grooming -- $264.
  • Training class -- $110.
  • Total -- $374.

I save money on these pricey extras by not paying for them at all. For example, I bypassed training class entirely and taught my dog basic commands and a few tricks using dog-training websites. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • WebMD Pets has great one-minute training videos featuring a certified dog trainer. You won't learn everything you need to know, but it's helpful to watch the techniques in action.
  • Petfinder has a training section that covers everything from behavioral problems to basic dog tricks.
  • Perfect Paws has a ton of helpful articles on positive-reinforcement training. It also has a section on how to train cats.

I also learned how to do all my own grooming online, and I save about $160 a year. If you're looking for grooming advice, check out:

Bottom line? Animals aren't cheap, but you can responsibly reduce expenses. But even if your dog or cat ends up costing a little more than expected, it will still do something no other purchase can: pay you back a thousandfold in companionship, loyalty, devotion and fun.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Sep 5, 2012 3:21PM

Pet health insurance!!  Covers at 90% for a few dollars a month. 

Oct 24, 2012 10:33AM
An animal that is healthy is inevitably the least expensive.  A dog is worth every penny.  They are companions as well as protectors.  They need at least two walks a day, so the owner is ensured the minimal amount of exercise at least every day.  Animals of any kind that are prone to illness are what really makes pets expensive. My sister's rabbits are much more expensive than my 75 lb dog.
Oct 24, 2012 2:56PM

In the olden days like Rome times did they have such huge pet medical bills ???


or did they just let old faithful die without proper medical care???


no wonder they called it barbaric times.



during the great depression people would do without food in order to pay the huge medical bills for the family pet. Hence we are more civilized.


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