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Americans Love their Pets…But not the Costs that Come With Them

It’s important to plan for unexpected costs before bringing home a new cat or dog

August 25, 2015

Americans love their pets – so much that nearly eight out of 10 (78 percent) cat and/or dog owners view them as family members. However, our four-legged companions also require love from our wallets, according to the latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index.

Over a pet’s lifetime, Americans may invest thousands of dollars in animal care. In fact, forty-three percent of Americans say their dog or cat cost them more than anticipated. Nearly a third (30 percent) of owners spent more than a thousand dollars on their pet in the last twelve months, and 10 percent say they’ve spent more than two-thousand dollars.

“If you are looking to bring a pet into your household, planning should be a top priority. Knowing the costs associated with your pet and being prepared for unexpected and emergency costs will help diminish the financial burden of your new furry friend,” said Joe Buhrmann, director of financial security for COUNTRY Financial.

Plan for the unexpected

Budgeting for the predictable costs of food, shelter and annual checkups is a starting point, but planning for unexpected costs like accidents and health issues can help ease pet owners’ minds if health care decisions come down to finances.

Nearly a quarter (23 percent)of owners would turn down a necessary health-related expense for their dog or cat if they couldn’t comfortably afford it. 

Paying for a pet’s medical emergency can create lasting financial consequences, leaving owners split on how to pay for expensive veterinary bills.

  • Thirty-seven percent of pet owners would use their savings to pay for unexpected high veterinary costs and 33 percent would cut back their daily expenses as much as possible.
  • Also, 30 percent would finance the bills with credit cards and 24 percent would put off a major purchase in order to pay the veterinary bills.

“Bringing a pet into your family is a memorable experience as well as a long-term investment. I recommend researching the costs of the pet you plan to bring home, helping set a budget that factors their needs into your overall financial plan,” adds Buhrmann.

There are simple steps pet owners can take to avoid deterring their financial plan due to the cost of welcoming a pet into their home.

  1. Research the unique needs that different pets have. For example, certain breeds have health or grooming needs that can quickly become costly.
  2. Budget before you bring home your new pet. Understand how much you will spend on food, toys, grooming and other needs and if it’s an additional monthly expense you can take on.
  3. Plan for emergency and unexpected costs by contributing a portion of your income to a savings account. These extra funds can be used for surprise bills that may happen over the course of your pet’s life.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®

Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index Survey has measured Americans’ sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. Survey data, videos and analysis are available at and on Twitter at @FinanceSecure.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by GfK, an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,000 U.S. adults for national surveys, plus a sample of approximately 1000 adults with either a cat and/or dog in their household for this survey for this survey. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.