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Even the Most Affordable Pets Might Save Your Life

By , June 20th, 2018 | No Comments

Most affordable pets and who owns whatYou really can prolong your life through pet ownership — abundant scientific findings corroborate this, especially where mental health is concerned. With American’s overall psychological health supposedly declining — suicide rates have risen 30 percent since 1999 — you could easily argue that pets can be lifesavers from an emotional health standpoint.

Pet ownership seems to be an easy choice for those whose lifestyles, budgets and living arrangements allow for it: Nearly seven in 10 U.S. households include pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Dogs are the most prevalent, followed by cats.

Pet ownership and all of its associated costs are generating about $72.13 billion in spending in 2018, four times what was spent in 1994, according to APPA.

The Most Affordable Pets

Generally speaking, smaller animals tend to cost less — both in terms of the food budget and what you might have to pay to obtain the pet.


Of course, adopting animals saves money in addition to doing the right thing for your community and the animal population at large.

Adoption fees are nominal compared to what you might pay a breeder, but if you don’t mind waiting and you’re open to adopting any species: Many animal shelters with no-kill policies may waive fees when the kitten population exceeds capacity.

Adults Versus Babies

Otherwise, you’re likely to pay more to adopt puppies and kittens than adult animals, while generally paying less for smaller mammals.

Varying Fees

Depending on local supply and demand, along with the expenses incurred by the respective animal shelter, what you might expect to pay in adoption fees can vary, according to the Animal Humane Society.

The price usually includes the cost to spay or neuter the animal — which otherwise would cost you about a Franklin per animal – and it’s within the following ranges:

  • Dogs and puppies – $160 to $623
  • Cats and kittens – $47 to $255
  • Birds, rabbits, and other small mammals – $5 to $159

Food Costs

Once you get beyond the adoption or purchase of the pet, then you see more differences in annual costs. As for averages across species, according to the APPA, it’s about $307 a year for food and treats per dog, compared to roughly $200 per cat.

Of course, larger animals will incur much greater costs to feed, and you’ll pay a lot more if you decide to feed them  organic food or anything that comes out of a can.

Grooming and Veterinary Care

Similarly, larger animals end up costing more for grooming, veterinary care and toys. If you really want to save money on pet ownership

Freshwater Fish

Of course, goldfish are probably the cheapest it gets in the animal kingdom. In fact, you’ll probably spend more money on the fishbowl than on the goldfish themselves.

Depending on how big you want to go and how much gravel and decor in it, you’ll probably spend $10 to $100 to set up the bowl. After that you average about $11 per fish annually for food and maintenance of the aquarium.

Aquarium prices go up once you go beyond goldfish to more tropical varieties — although if you can stick to freshwater varieties you’ll have less overhead from a maintenance standpoint, even if your one-time cost for the aquarium goes as high as $220. As for the fish themselves, you might pay:

  • $3 to $15 for goldfish
  • $3 to $4 for guppies
  • $5 for fantails
  • $4 to $10 for betta fish and
  • $5 to $25 for angel fish

If you want pets that are more interactive than fish, never fear: You have plenty of options in the small animal category.


Here’s an ideal choice for first-time bird owners. The parakeet, also known as the budgie, is affordable and has a good personality. They’re a lot more open to socializing with humans than many other parrot varieties, albeit less likely to sing for you.

The more colorful varieties of parakeets tend to fetch higher prices, but you might find them for $20 to $50 apiece at the pet store — but you could pay less if you can adopt any at your local animal shelter. Feeding them might cost you $50 annually.

Leopard Geckos

Look at how cute this thing is

Reptiles usually aren’t for people who want pets that like to cuddle — but then there’s this adorable critter called the leopard gecko. Just look at how cute that thing is.

Apparently, they’re relaxed and docile enough to sit on your shoulder — which is a step up from fish. And they’re pretty  low maintenance: just give them fresh water every day, clean the tank regularly and feed them.

Care for it well enough and it could live anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

Guinea Pigs

Although they aren’t as cute as rabbits, guinea pigs are a lot more cost effective — both in terms of initial costs and maintenance.

They’re also less of a hassle than hamsters, both in terms of the amount they eat and their potential health issues.

Guinea pigs can cost $10 to $30 apiece at the pet store — but less if you can find one to adopt. Cages or aquariums and associated supplies cost anywhere from $30 to $80, depending on size. From there you might spend another $75 a year to feed the animal.

The Absolutely Most Affordable Pets

Some recommendations of low-cost pets include a few animals that might be a little too offbeat for some people’s tastes, but in the interest of thoroughness, let’s give an honorable mention to the relatively low maintenance involved in owning… hermit crabs and ant farms (just remember to keep them inside the aquarium and it’ll work out, right?)

Although pet ownership isn’t for everyone, those who have pets often consider them to be members of the family in addition to best friends. That kind of bond is priceless beyond measure — but achieving that kind of relationship doesn’t require you to spend endlessly.

Readers, what kind of pets do you have and how much do you spend on them? What are your biggest expenses for the animals in your life — and what, if anything, have you done to manage that spending?The most affordable pets prolong your life and save you money

Most affordable pets infographic

U.S. Pet Ownership

Pet Millions of Households Millions of Pets
Cat 47.1 94.2
Freshwater fish 12.5 139.3
Saltwater fish 2.5 18.8
Bird 7.9 20.3
Small animal 6.7 14
Reptile 4.7 9.4
Horse 2.6 7.6

Source: APPA

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