How to Budget for a New Pet 

by | Apr 8, 2024 | Finance

Bringing a new pet into your life can be a source of love, joy, and companionship. As you research and prepare to bring your furry, feathery, or scaly friend(s) home, you’ll also want to do some financial preparation to ensure they receive the best care possible. Budgeting for a new pet involves more than just the initial adoption fee; it’s about setting up a solid foundation so you can address the ongoing food, supply, and care costs with ease. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or adopting a new type of pet, it’s helpful to take some time to know what to expect!

In this blog, we’ll cover some of the costs associated with bringing home a new pet and keeping them happy and healthy for years to come. Plus, just for fun, we’ll share some of the pets on team Milli! 

Upfront Costs of Bringing Home a New Pet 

From adoption fees to initial veterinary expenses and essential supplies, here’s a breakdown of what to expect: 

First, whether you’re adopting from a shelter or purchasing from a breeder or pet store, there will be an upfront cost. The specific cost will depend on the type of animal you’re bringing home.  Adoption fees for dogs and cats typically range from $50 to $200, depending on the organization and the age/breed of the pet. If you’re selecting a new pet from a breeder, prices can vary widely based on the breed and lineage, often ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. For rabbits, another popular pet, the initial cost can be $20 – $100 depending on the breed and whether you adopt or get the rabbit from a breeder. 

If you’re bringing home a smaller caged pet like a reptile, bird, hamster, guinea pig, chinchilla, or ferret, you can find a pet for as low as under $40 for a gecko, hamster, or small birds but the costs can go up for exotic breeds. Plus, some types of animals really need a pair for companionship; for example, it’s highly recommended to have chinchillas in pairs because of their social needs. Be aware of that when researching your pet! 

Once you’ve welcomed your new furry, feathered, or scaly friend into your home, the next step is a visit to the veterinarian. For cats and dogs, expect to pay for services like microchipping, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering. Rabbits also need spaying/neutering. If you’re adopting an animal, these various health-related action items may be included in the adoption cost, or the animal may have already had this taken care of in the past. 

The next step is to cover the initial supplies your new pet will need. These could be a leash and collar (around $10 to $50), food and water bowls, a pet bed, grooming supplies, a pet carrier and/or crate, a scratching post, litter box and litter for cats ($20 to $50), a cage and bedding, or a tank and accessories for fish or reptile. Your costs vary widely depending on the size and complexity of the setup. If you’ve had a pet before or already have one, you may have some of these supplies on hand already. 

If your city or town requires it, remember to register your pet (common for dogs), which typically has a small fee ranging from $10 to $50 and may renew annually. 

If you’re bringing home a dog, investing in training for your pet is also important for their well-being and safety around others. Dog training classes can range from $50 to $200 for a basic obedience course, while more intensive programs or private lessons may cost more. 

Rover reports that as of 2023, the upfront cost of dog parenthood ranges from $1,135 to $5,155 and for cats in 2024, the range is $535 to $2,810.  

In total, the upfront costs of getting a new pet can range from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on various factors. However, the love, companionship, and joy they bring into your life are priceless. 

Photo of a bernadoodle dog in a pile of leaves
Elaine’s bernadoodle, Rocky

Pet Food Costs

First up, we’ll cover food, because every pet has to eat! Budgeting for the ongoing cost of pet food is essential for responsible pet ownership.  

In the same report linked above, Rover reports that annual cat food costs range from $450 to $1,860 and annual dog food costs range from $560 to $4,115. That amount may seem high if you’ve never shopped for pet food or if it’s been a while, but that works out to $1.23 – $5.09 per day for cats or $1.53 – $11.27 per day for dogs.  

While dogs and cats are the most popular pets in America, they aren’t the only ones! If you’ve got a bearded dragon, expect to spend about $53 – $125 per month on food costs, rabbits between $40 – $105, small non-exotic birds $10 – $100, and for common fish it can cost just a few dollars a month.  

The type of pet you have, the quality of food you choose, and any specialized diets required greatly impact the cost. Exotic pets may also have higher pet food costs. Just like with human food, if you buy pet food in bulk, you can economize – just make sure your pet likes that flavor before you buy a huge bag of kibble! 

Experienced pet owners and vets will tell you: it’s important to prioritize quality when selecting pet food. While some “premium” pet food brands are mostly marketing, feeding your pet a nutritious diet can contribute significantly to their overall health and well-being. High-quality food can help prevent obesity, maintain healthy skin and coat, and support proper digestion, all of which can mitigate more serious and costly health issues down the line. Be sure to speak with your pet’s vet about the type of food they recommend for the type of animal and breed.  

As pets age, their dietary needs may change, such as switching to specialized diets to manage conditions like joint issues, allergies, or kidney disease. While these diets may come at a higher price point, they can help mitigate health problems and improve your pet’s quality of life. For example, many cats develop chronic kidney disease (30-40% of cats over 10 years old and 81% of cats over 15 years old); however, there is prescription kidney-focused cat food that can greatly stabilize the cat’s kidney function and slow progression of the disease. As you budget for pet food, keep in mind that years down the line the cost could jump up.  

When budgeting for pet food, consider factors such as portion size, frequency of feeding, and any dietary supplements recommended by your veterinarian. By prioritizing nutritional quality and planning for ongoing food expenses, you can ensure your pet stays happy, healthy, and well-fed throughout their life. 

Photo of Yellow Goldenback Shrimp and Blue Mystery Snails
Nina’s aquatic Yellow Goldenback Shrimp and Blue Mystery Snails

Vet Bills

Of course, another key expense to account for is budgeting for veterinary bills. Regular check-ups and preventive care for overall health, parasite prevention, and dental care can help catch issues early and maintain your pet’s well-being. Of course, there are also the surprise vet visits! Here are some cost ranges to expect, from Rover: 

 Checkup Emergency vet visit Dental Cleaning 
Cats $105-$130 $1,120 – $1,495 $630 – $1,145 
Dogs $105-$130 $0 – $2,985 $630 – $1,145 
Source: Rover

Cats and dogs are not the only pets that need vet care! Rabbits, birds, rodents, and reptiles also need vet care from time to time. Before you bring home your new pet, research vets in your area and ask the annual vet checkup cost for the type of animal you’re bringing home. 

A final subset of vet bills includes any medications or supplements your pet needs, which is common as pets age. Sometimes, you can get these from your vet directly and sometimes you’ll get them from a pet pharmacy or human pharmacy. This is an area where it’s worth comparison shopping since some medications are the same for pets and humans, like antibiotics, pain medications, and even behavioral medications, and human pharmacies can fill them at animal doses affordably.  

By planning ahead and prioritizing your pet’s health, you’ll foster a strong bond and enjoy many happy, healthy years together. Consider setting aside funds specifically for your pet’s healthcare needs, ensuring you’re always prepared for any unexpected expenses. You can use a Jar in Milli to have a reserve fund for animal care costs! 

Two images of the same tortoiseshell cat, one laying on its side with a fish toy and the other of it curled up sleeping
Sylvia’s cat, Hemi

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a relatively new development in the history of pet ownership. As veterinary care has advanced, it’s incredible what vets can do for pets, but these medical miracles do come at a cost. Pet insurance can be a valuable investment to help address those larger surprise costs that we covered earlier. Rover reports that pet insurance ranges from $10 – $100 a month for both cats and dogs, depending on the coverage, age of the animal, type and breed of animal, and your geographical location. Pet insurance typically costs less the younger your pet is, so it’s often worth signing up early rather than deciding to sign up when the pet is older. 

You can get pet insurance policies for cats and dogs commonly, but also birds, reptiles, and other exotic pets. Nationwide, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, and Trupanion are a few providers for pet health insurance.  

Ongoing Cost of Pet Supplies 

Some of the upfront pet supplies we mentioned above become ongoing costs as you’ll need to repurchase them from time to time. From toys to cat litter, flea and tick prevention, waste bags to grooming services or supplies, you’ll need to have these things around to support your pet’s needs and development.  
Rover reports that the annual cost of cat essentials not including food ranges from $260 – $1,005 and $440 – $1,110 for dogs. Caged animals will require bedding which has a cost range depending on whether you buy in bulk. For animals in a tank, the electricity cost to run a heat bulb or water filter is another factor to consider and will depend on the wattage and your local electricity rates.  
Pets need stimulation and grooming just like humans, and having a supply of pet toys around can prevent destructive behavior on your home and furniture – so consider it an investment! 

Cost of Pet Sitting

Pets are a year-round commitment, so make sure to factor that into your travel plans! Depending on your pets’ needs and how much you travel, the cost of pet sitting can vary. Someone might come to your home, you might have your pet stay at their home, or you might board your pet in a kennel or pet hotel. 

Thumbtack reports that a pet visit (such as stopping by to feed or walk) costs between $15 and $30 per hour, with overnight stays approaching $75 to $85, but the rates vary by the cost of living in your area. Boarding in a kennel or pet hotel can cost between $20-$50 per night. 

To bring down the cost of pet sitting, try to connect with a fellow pet owner in your community and trade off. Or, enlist a trusted younger family member/neighbor; pet sitting is often a great way for a responsible teen to earn some cash, depending on the complexity of your pet’s needs.  

For short trips or if you’ll just be home late, an automatic feeder can be super helpful to have around, especially as a backup. Dry food auto-feeders are very common, but you can also find wet food auto-feeders with three or five portions that keep the food safe to eat thanks to special freezer packs. These can go for $35-$50 and can provide peace of mind that even if your pet sitter falls through or has an emergency, your pet will eat when you’re away. 

Sometimes, you can travel with your pets; some hotels or vacation rentals are pet-friendly for an extra fee per night. If you’re flying with a pet, you’ll pay a fee to the airline and typically make a vet visit first to ensure they are up to date on all vaccinations. Traveling by train? Check out Amtrak’s pet fees and details here. Depending on your trip, traveling with your pet may be more cost-effective. 

When you plan for vacations, make sure to account for the cost of pet sitting when you are allocating your budget! 


In conclusion, budgeting for a new pet sets you up for a smooth transition so you can focus on having a new member of the household. If you don’t have a timeline yet to bring home a pet, making a budget can inform when you may be better suited financially. With a well-prepared budget in place, you’re poised to provide the best care possible, which creates a happy home for both you and your beloved companion. After that, the walks and playtime and complete takeover of your phone’s camera roll of pet photos can commence! 

If you’re looking for a tool to help you save up and budget for pet care costs, check out Milli. We’ve got helpful automated savings features, a highly competitive annual percentage yield, and customizable Jars to save up for up-front pet costs or keep a slush fund for pet expenses. Milli is designed to help you save more for the things that matter most – like bringing home your new four-legged companion! Download Milli from the App Store or Google Play and sign up today.   

Keep reading on the Milli blog:
Budgeting for Beginners (Just 3 Categories!)
How to Cover Unexpected Expenses
Budgeting for Parenthood: Prepare Financially for a Growing Family