How Much Do We Spend On Our Pets?

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 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 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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  1. youngandthrifty on January 26, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I was spending an arm and a leg on my dog. He had what I presumed to be allergies..

    I took him to a naturopathic (!) vet and spent $700 the first time trying to work him up. I’ve spend a lot of money on my dog, period!

    Then he was on raw food and I was spending about $120 a month on that.

    Now he’s all better, gaining weight, and the reason why he was so thin and itchy was because I was bathing him too much! (Which the vet told me to do).

    Go figure 🙂

    • Boomer on January 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      @youngandthrifty: I’m glad your dog doing a lot better.
      Veterinary practises must be doing a lucrative business these days. When we moved to our current home there were (and still are) 5 clinics practically within walking distance.
      One of my cats hurt her paw and I paid $45 for a pill and a half of painkiller.

  2. My University Money on January 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I grew up with a dog, but as an adult I’m in no hurry to take on the added responsibility and costs that a pet presents (this should probably give some hint as to where I am in the whole ‘ready for kids’ saga as well).

    • Boomer on January 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      @My University Money: That’s OK. Having a pet (and kids 🙂 ) is a big responsibility. Unfortunately the Humane Society takes in a lot of animals that have become too much trouble to keep.

  3. Ellen on January 26, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Great post! I’ve never sat down and thought about how much my cat costs me, but, yes, she’s worth it. She’s an indoor cat and still quite young, so the vet bills are quite low. And – I know someone who owned wiener dogs, so I get the ramp, but yes, I’m with you on the stroller..that’s not right. 🙂

  4. Janet on January 26, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Just the food alone…than the vet bills. Never mind all the fancy stuff, pets are expensive. Add it up, and for an average household, that’s a lot of money.

  5. Pam at MoneyTrail on January 26, 2012 at 8:19 am

    We have one dog and love him dearly. However, he does come with a lot of expenses. Boarding costs when we go out of town are expensive. Having said all of that, he is part of the family and I wouldn’t change a thing!

  6. Echo on January 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I looked at last year’s budget and we spent $1,200 on pet food and probably another $100 on cat litter. That’s for three cats. I don’t see how cat owners are spending $1,400 PER cat unless they have some kind of expensive pet insurance plan, or some serious vet bills each year.

    That said, a few years ago we had dental surgery done on two of our cats, which ended up costing us about $700.

    • Boomer on January 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      @Echo: I agree that does seem like a lot to spend annually. Most of my expenses were a one time deal – dishes, litter boxes and scoops, scratching posts, brushes, harnesses, beds, tunnel, tree house – whew!
      However, my cat sitter charges $30 per day, per cat. No wonder we can’t afford to go anywhere.

  7. Money Beagle on January 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I have two older cats, both of whom require special food and medicine as well as additional vet visits to monitor their situations. Between the two, they probably cost around $150-200 a month. They’re great company, but man, that’s a big number to swallow at times, lol.

  8. Jean on January 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I think of them as another family member that has sacrificed its natural habitat and friends to live with you. So you owe it to them to pay for their lodging and everything else, hehe. It is truly worth it!


  9. SE Book on January 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I spend money on my cat but not an obnoxious amount. He is my friend and family but he is an animal. He gets treated well but not too well.

  10. 101 Centavos on January 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Last time I checked we spend an avearge of $600 per year per each dog. The main dog eats more, but compensated by the tiny backup dog.

  11. Andrea on January 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I recently figured out that my 10 year old cocker spaniel costs me at least $3600/year. That includes my out of pocket vet fees and medications, pet insurance, natural supplements, birthday and Christmas gifts. It does not include food which is about $45/month for a homemade diet. When my husband and I were both working full time, we also had a daily dog walker for about $300/month.

    Yes, he’s expensive but if I had to do it all over again, I’d still pick him. You can’t put a price on all the love and companionship they give!

    • Katrina on May 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Andrea,

      My name is Katrina Clarke and I’m a reporter with the National Post newspaper. I’m interested in talking to pet owners who pamper their pets. I am wondering if you would be interested in speaking to me about your experiences with a pet? My e-mail address is


  12. Melissa on January 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I don’t know that “worth it” is the right term, but yeah, I’d definitely say my cat is worth the money I spend on her and more. She’s pretty awesome, and definitely provides a good sense of companionship, especially since I live alone. (I often say no one, husband or child, will ever be as happy to see me when I walk in the door after work as my cat is. Seriously.)

    But $1,400 a year on a cat? I can’t even understand where that money goes. Each I probably spend about $150/year on food, $30 on litter (there’s this one awesome brand at Costco that is super cheap and last FOREVER) and maybe $20 on treats and toys and other incidentals. Then about $100 each year for her annual check up and shots. I don’t buy her any outfits or fancy stuff like that. (Though I did buy her a little cardboard house that’s shaped like a cabin…that was more for me.) So that’s what, $300 a year on cat-related expenses?

    I expect her costs to go up as she gets older (she’s only three now), and I’m more than willing to pay that, but I just totally don’t get where all these average costs are coming from!

    • Echo on January 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      @Melissa – I think there is an inverse correlation between the amount spent on pet food and the amount spent on vet bills down the road. Lower quality food tends to cause health problems in cats and dogs as they get older.

      We buy Medi-Cal (dental dry and preventive wet) from the vet and spend about $100 per month on cat food (for three cats, so $33.33 each).

      I agree that $1400 per cat is way too high, but $450-$500 is pretty realistic if you’re taking good care of them.

  13. Victoria-Tienda bebe on January 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I know a lot of people who spend a lot of money on their pets, even more than they can afford. It is an incuestionalbe fact that with more and more medical technology available for pets, there are more options and more expenses for the owners(chemotherapy and radiation; orthopedic surgeries…)
    But, if you have the money, why not? they are your truly great friends…

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