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Dogs vs. cats? Both cost hundreds, even thousands, a year to own

The cost owning dog over its lifetime can top $100000 while cats are cheaper. |  PSullivan~AP

The cost of owning a dog over its lifetime can top $100,000, while cats are cheaper. | Pat Sullivan~AP

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Updated: November 19, 2011 8:35AM

The truth about cats and dogs: They can cost an arm and a leg in the long run.

Dogs can cost between $310 and $7,100 to maintain every year and between $4,070 and $101,070 to maintain over a lifetime, says Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. That’s more than kibbles and bits.

Cats are cheaper on average: between $490 and $940 per year and between $7,760 and $15,260 per lifetime. The annual costs take into account many factors, including food, toys, monthly veterinarian visits, and other essential supplies

The first year of owning a cat or dog costs substantially more than the average annual cost. For dogs, the cost of ownership for year one averages between $710 and $8,730; for cats, the cost is between $930 and $2,060. The reason why this cost varies from the average annual cost is due to the purchase price of the pet itself. While both cats and dogs can be found for around $50, some breeds of dogs are sold for $1,000 while select breeds of cats are sold for $750. In addition to the purchase cost, there is also spaying and neutering ($190-$220 for dogs, $145 for cats) as well as an initial medical exam ($70 for dogs, $130 for cats) to account for.

Emergency care is routinely seen as the biggest cost for both dog and cat owners. In a 2010 survey conducted by the Associated Press, almost half of the pet owners polled said they were worried about the high cost of insurance.

They have reason to be wary, as emergency care can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for both cats and dogs. Additionally, most owners will face at least one emergency care bill during their pet’s lifetime, according to Louise Murray, vice-president of the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City.

“The biggest problem I see are people who assume that everything will be fine until their pet is 18 years old,” Murray said in a statement. “That’s just incredibly rare.”

While small animals such as rabbits and reptiles have been seen as cost-effective alternatives to conventional pets like cats or dogs, there is also a high price to pay for these animals. Rabbits cost an average of $1,040 in the first year of ownership, $660 annually, and $6,980 to $8,300 over a lifetime. Similarly, reptiles such as lizards and iguanas cost an average of $560 to $1,645 for the first year of ownership, $330 to $1,310 annually, and $5,200 to $12,125 over a lifetime.

However, fish remain a cost-effective alternative to the more high-maintenance pets. Fish cost an average of just $230 in their first year, $20 annually, and $270-$910 for a lifetime, which is equitable to the annual cost of a cat.

If you plan on owning a cat or dog, be sure that you have the money to pay for the expenses. Love for a pet is essential, but ultimately it’s money that pays the bills. If the cost for a dog or cat is too high, there are always other fish in the sea.

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