The Economics of Pet Ownership

Furry friends don’t come cheap.

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Caring for a pet can be a great way for kids to learn responsibility, but they don’t come cheap. Americans spent $123.6 billion on their pets in 2021, up nearly 20% from 2020 (aka the Year of the Pandemic Puppy).

Here’s a closer look at some common costs of common household pets.


Man’s best friend? More like man’s priciest friend: dogs cost their owners $1,391 a year on average between food, vet visits, grooming, treats and toys. And remember: the bigger the breed, the bigger the food bill.

Adopt > shop: Especially if you’re buying designer. Tibetan mastiff puppies can run from $3,000-$5,000, all the way to $1.95M


With many of the same carrying costs as dogs, a pet cat will run you $1,149 annually. And while you won’t have to pay for a dog walker, you’ll want to set aside $150/year for litter—unless you plan on monetizing your kitty as a “petfluencer.”

Pro tip: It’s cheaper to invest in scratching posts and cat towers than new couches and carpets.


The chattier the bird, the more expensive: cockatoos and macaws can have a $5,000+ price tag, while parakeets are the “cheepest” (sorry). Parakeets are also quite budget-friendly, with annual costs of only $185.

Customers also bought: You’ll want to invest in an air filter if you plan on getting a cockatiel, cockatoo or African grey, which produce a lot of “dusty powder down“.


Fish can be one of the least expensive pets to own, or one of the priciest. Try $300K for a single Asian arowana… Saltwater tanks also cost significantly more than freshwater. Plan to budget $15-200 per month.

Budget for home decor: Found Nemo? Next, you’ll want to kit out their tank with lights, gravel, plants and driftwood. Treasure chest optional.


A popular “starter pet” for kids, they’re relatively inexpensive and low maintenance. (Even the Cadillac of hamster wheels is only $35.) Again, litter is your biggest cost, followed by bedding—which you can DIY using toilet paper. Although that might actually increase your expenses now that TP prices are on the rise.

Guinea pigs come with a 2x multiplier: Guinea pigs are social creatures. This from the guinea pig lobby: experts recommend picking up a pair so they don’t get lonely. 


A pet rabbit’s diet consists of hay, high-fiber pellets and plenty of fresh veggies, costing owners about $190/year. Green thumb? Grow your own “rabbit food”.

What’s up, doc?: Rabbits have been known to gnaw on cables and drywall, making for potentially pricey snack sessions. Stay vigilant!


Like birds and fish, reptile costs vary: expect to pay $30-50 for a leopard gecko or baby iguana, and $100K+ for a rare white monitor lizard. Also like fish, there’s a high start-up cost involved, with terrariums typically ranging between $100-$180.

Cold-blooded ≠ energy efficient: Between the under-tank heater, heat lamp and lighting, reptiles will run up your electric bill almost as quickly as a teenager.