Pets play a major role in the lives of Canadians.  In fact the pet industry has topped $8.9 billion a year.  Not counting all the rabbits, parakeets and geckos out there, more than half of Canadian households (53%) own a cat or a dog with 13% owning both.

Pets Are Considered Family Members

An Ipsos Reid poll shows that 83% of Canadians consider their pet to be a family member with 4 in 10 believing that pets can be a good substitute for human companionship.  Pet owners:

  • Allow their pets to sleep on their (the owners’) beds
  • Have the pet’s picture on display or in their wallet
  • Talk to their pets
  • Share stories about their pets with family and friends (and whoever else will listen).

Not to mention dressing them up in “cute little (silly) outfits and holiday costumes.

How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?

More than one third of dogs come from a breeder – mostly purebreds – or pet stores.  The demand for popular small breed lap dogs has really increased the price.  In my area even the cock-a-doodles and peak-a-poos currently sell for upwards of $800 for what is essentially a mixed breed dog.  Less than 10% are adopted from a shelter or the Humane Society.

In contrast, around 65% of cats are “giveaways” from friends or relatives or from a shelter.  They are not as likely to be purebred, or purchased from a breeder.

Big Financial Commitment

The average dog owner claims to spend over $1800 annually on each dog while the average cat owner spends around $1400 on each cat.  This covers food, treats, vet, meds, litter, grooming, toys and other paraphernalia (which presumably includes pet outfits).

These figures seem a bit high to me although I’ve never really done the calculations.  I have three cats and they do get a good quality food and I’m always on the lookout for treats or toys they might like.  I’ve taught them to do tricks for their treats.  Cats can be trained as well as dogs.

However, while my grand-dog is always excited and eager to show off his skills, my cats act like bored teenage girls (Whatever! Lets get on with it already so I can leave.)  Also, toys seem to be a complete waste of money when they can spend hours playing with a rolled up piece of paper or a milk ring instead.

A larger number than I expected (11%) cook up and serve home made food to their pets.  Considering how picky mine are, I’d hate to be slaving over a hot stove only to have them turn up their noses and walk away.

Most communities have bylaws requiring licensing.  In Calgary both dogs and cats have to be licensed.  The cost of $36 – $58 for dogs and $15 – $30 for cats depends on age and whether or not they are neutered.

Pet Insurance

More than half of the people surveyed claim they would go into debt in order to treat a pet suffering from a chronic disease.  On average they would expect to pay between $250 and $500 a year over and above normal care, with some (especially younger pet owners) willing to spend over $1000.

That said, only a small minority of pets have a pet insurance plan that would cover veterinary expenditures for treatments and emergency care.  I went to www.trupanion.com to compare costs.  With a deductable of $500, monthly payments ranged from $24 to over $65 a month.  I plugged in various ages and breeds and found that the older and bigger the dog, the higher the premium, with younger cats being the least expensive.

Other (Necessary?) Extras

For fun I trolled through www.petsmart.com to see what’s available.  Clothing ranged from $10 for a doggy T-shirt to $39.99 for a parka.  Sunglasses are $19.99, boots go for $24.99 and you can spend $32.99 for a life jacket. (I always thought that dogs knew how to swim.)

There are ramps and steps (up to $120) so your dog doesn’t have to jump.  I understand the necessity of a carrier (up to $175), but why would someone pay up to $245.99 for a dog stroller?  Isn’t the purpose of taking your dog for a walk to have it actually walk?

I admit to having a cat tree house (up to $399.99), and furniture covers would be handy with all the cat hair I have to vacuum up, but $139.99 each seems a little steep.  Likewise, I wouldn’t spend $600 on an indoor doghouse that doubles as an end table.

Yes, we spend a lot of money on our pets, but they’re worth it.  Aren’t they?


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