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Can you afford a pet?

Pets – be it dogs, cats, birds, turtles or rabbits - are adorable and bring unconditional joy into our lives. Many of them don’t cost much to purchase. However during its lifetime its owner shells out a considerable amount.

Saint Bernard or German Shepherd? That’s what is running in your mind, if you are planning to invite a dog into your family. Or perhaps it’s a tie between a Persian and a Bombay cat, if you prefer the company of the feline.

Pets – be it dogs, cats, birds, turtles or rabbits - are adorable and bring unconditional joy into our lives. 

Many of them don’t cost much to purchase. However during its lifetime its owner shells out a considerable amount. 

Fixed and Recurring costs

You need to be aware of such costs, which are essentially of two types. 

One that is capital-centric. For instance, you pay Rs 25,000 on one-time basis to buy a Labrador. In addition, you pay for its accessories like leashes, collar, bed, mattresses, food and water bowls, dog house as well as for its vaccination and registration. In addition, you might hire a trainer. 

Moreover, you incur recurring costs in the form of food, medical (Vet), pet-sitting costs, grooming as well as expenses on toys and treats. Not the least, there are additional expenses for pet-friendly travel and accommodation. 

Budget percentage

You need to estimate total costs over the lifespan of the pet (after factoring for inflation) and arrive at a monthly outgo. Owning a Persian cat costs about Rs 6 lakh over a period of 12 years or Rs 4,200 a month. If you have a take-home salary of Rs 80,000, it works out to 5.2 percent of your budget. 

Do you have the cushion to absorb these incremental costs and still adequately save for retirement?

Moreover, you need to pad up your existing emergency fund – thanks to addition of a family member. A sudden and severe health issue or an accident that impacts your pet may require surgery and it is prudent to prepare for such unforeseen emergencies. 

Pad up emergency fund

Moreover, you need to pad up your existing emergency fund – thanks to addition of a family member. A sudden and severe health issue or an accident that impacts your pet may require surgery and it is prudent to prepare for such unforeseen emergencies. 

If need be, take a pet insurance that covers death due to accident as well as illnesses, loss or theft including third-party liability. Dog insurance, for instance, is available for all kinds including exotic dogs, from 8-week-olds to 8-year-olds. 

Lighter on wallet 

Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that it is cheaper to own fish, birds, and rabbits than cats or dogs. On an average, birds and rabbits cost less than Rs 1,000 a month and are lighter on the pocket than cats or dogs which need monthly outgo of Rs 3,000 or more. 
You can, however, slash costs by adopting a pet from the near-by shelter for free rather than from a dog breeder. Unless, your dog is intending to participate in the ‘Dog of the Year’ contest, don’t pay a high price for champion bloodlines. 

Other factors

While cats might have nine lives, outdoor cats tend to have a short life expectancy of only 2-5 years. Similarly, owning a turtle is relatively cheaper, but it can outlive you – as they live for 50-60 years. Unless you have such a long-term commitment or a large farm or pond, think otherwise.

Do your due diligence, before you cuddle any of the pets.

Food for thought

Pets require different nutrition than human beings. And bigger the dog, bigger is the expense for buying its feed. A small dog weighing up to 10 kg consumes 110-170 grams of dog feed - that costs Rs 23 a day. For a giant-sized dog, it swells to Rs 128 a day. 
Unless you are specific breed lover, a diminutive Chihuahua might work out cheaper for you than a Great Dane. 

Opportunity cost

Its priceless being in the company of your pet. However, spending Rs 4,000 a month on its upbringing entails an opportunity cost. Over the 12-year period with annual 10% step-up to factor-in inflation, it could have otherwise become Rs 20 lakh (if invested in equities) – large enough to sponsor part of your financial goals.

Takeaway

Look at the lifetime cost before inviting a pet into your house. And ensure its not compromising your contribution towards financial goals. If it’s a stretch, fret not. Unleash your love in a petting centre instead.

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