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Are You Ready to Get a Pet?

What you need to consider before you get a pet.

Pets Need Your Time and Energy continued...

Some of the most popular birds, such as cockatiels and budgies, need play time outside of their cages every day, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). These feathered creatures can also be quite social and crave human interaction.

“Since birds are flock animals, they want to form tight bonds with their owners. We see a lot of behavioral issues when birds are not getting the kind of attention they require,” says Austin, Texas veterinarian Brad Singleton, DVM.

Regardless of breed, most birds regularly need a steady supply of bird seed or pellets, and fresh water, fruit, and vegetables. Another time investment: weekly cage cleaning, and regular bathing.

Time-wise, smaller pets usually need the basics of regular feeding and a frequently cleaned cage or aquarium, says Singleton. Fish, reptiles, and amphibians generally don’t require a lot of human interaction. However, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, and gerbils are sociable beings who do want some time to hang out with their owners.

Can You Afford a Pet?

Along with time commitment, money can be a major factor in owning an animal.

“It doesn’t always mean spending a lot, but if you don’t have the discretionary income, then having a pet may not be the best idea right now,” says veterinarian Greg Hammer, DVM, of Dover, Del.

The first expense: the pet itself. An animal can be as cheap as free, but certain prized breeds could cost thousands of dollars, Hammer tells WebMD.

Among household pets, dog-related expenses tend to be the highest, according to the ASPCA.

First, there are initial costs once you’ve adopted a dog. For a medium-sized dog, it costs about $200 to spay or neuter your canine, $70 for basic medical expenses such as deworming and blood tests, and another $300 or so for other one-time costs such as training, a crate, and a collar.

Every year, the average dog owner spends about $120 on food, and $235 on regular veterinarian visits for exams, vaccines, and heartworm, flea, and tick prevention medicines. Tack on toys, treats, and other smaller expenses, and that’s at least $500 annually, the ASPCA says.

Cats are generally the second-most pricey. Up-front costs after adopting a cat are about $145 to spay or neuter, $130 for first-time veterinarian expenses, $25 for a litter box, and another $90 in smaller expenses, according to the ASPCA. Annual recurring costs run about $115 for food, $160 for regular medical expenses, $165 for litter, and other fees, adding up to about $500 a year.

Rabbit owners should expect to spend about $1,055 the first year. Small mammals, birds, and fish run in the $200 to $350 range.

Veterinarian fees are one of the biggest expenses with many pets, but there are ways to cut these costs.

Pet insurance, which costs as little as $15 a month, can assist with unexpected medical bills from accidents or illness. Check out a policy carefully before you sign up, so you know what's covered.

Adopting an adult animal means avoiding initial vet fees for things like exams, vaccines, spaying, and neutering, Singleton says. Also, picking a smaller mammal with a short lifespan such as a rodent means you will probably never have to visit the vet.

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