Personal Finance

Many Americans have adopted pets amid Covid-19. But beware the costs

Key Points
  • About 33% of Americans have considered getting a pet now that social distancing is the norm.
  • While dog owners spend up to $1,201 a year on average on their pets, cat owners lay out up to $687 per year.
  • Planning ahead of time can help limit how much you spend. 

In this article

Strelciuc Dumitru | iStock | Getty Images

Many Americans are adding to their families amid Covid-19.

While you might think that means babies, it's actually pets.

A new survey from TD Ameritrade finds that 33% of Americans have considered fostering or adopting a furry friend now that social distancing is the norm. Across generations, that rate is highest for millennials, who came in at 50%, versus Gen X, at 33%, and baby boomers, 25%.

And while 89% of respondents said their dogs and cats help them feel less lonely at this time, there's something else potential pet owners should be aware of: the high costs that can come with that companionship.

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The survey found that 47% of dog owners said that having a pet is more expensive than they had thought it would be, while 41% of cat owners said the same.

Dog owners spend up to $1,201 a year on average on their pets, according to the survey. Food was the largest expense, followed by veterinary care, grooming and other supplies.

Meanwhile, cat owners shell out up to $687 per year on average — about half what dog owners spend. Food, veterinary care and pet supplies rank also rank among their highest expenses.

Most survey respondents said they consider their pet their best friend, "fur baby" or starter child.

Chicago dog walker on what it's been like since the pandemic
Chicago dog walker on what it's been like since the pandemic

That means they are willing to shell out large payments if their pets get sick. Dog owners said the average maximum they would be willing to spend on treatment is $3,307, while cat owners said they would be willing to spend $1,991.

Many pet owners indicated they are also willing to engage in some more complex financial planning, including buying pet insurance, having funeral ceremonies, including pets in their wills and anticipating joint custody arrangements if they were to split with their partners.

But pet parents also admitted to more celebratory splurges. Some surveyed also said they have either bought or would consider purchasing a Christmas gift for their pet, buying them a Halloween costume or throwing them a birthday party.

Because the cost of owning a pet can add up, it's important to plan in advance, said Chris Bohlsen, director of investor services at TD Ameritrade.

"You want to think of the future and what can you do to protect yourself financially when owning a pet," Bohlsen said.

Fostering a pet can help you understand whether you're up to long-term ownership and what kind of animal would be ideal for you. Generally, the bigger the pet, the larger the food costs, he said.

Once you do decide to commit to pet ownership, having insurance will help mitigate some of the unexpected expenses that crop up.

Another important thing to keep in mind is whether the pet will fit into your lifestyle post-pandemic.

"Consider what life changes you may go through over the long haul, as well," Bohlsen said.

TD Ameritrade's survey was conducted online between April and May. It included 1,008 adults ages 24 and up with at least $10,000 in investable assets.