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Pet's Care Costs Can Add Up

A cat may be cute, but before you add Fluffy to your family, make sure you can afford it. The costs of pet care can add up, according to recent estimates by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). For example, expect to spend annually about $235 for food and $260 for medical care for a large dog, $120 and $235 for a medium-size dog, and $55 and $210 for the compact variety. A cat: $115 a year for food, $160 for routine medical care and $165 for litter. Initial costs—neutering, shots, collar, leash, litter box, carrier, toys—all add up, too. How about a hamster? That could run you $50 for food and $210 for litter per year. There’s even a sizable bill for birds ($200, plus cage) and fish ($35, plus aquarium).

One way to save on medical expenses, says Katherine Miller, assistant science adviser for the ASPCA, is to take preventive measures, such as scheduling yearly checkups and recommended shots. Consider buying pet health insurance, especially as your pet grows older. The ASPCA estimates it costs about $175 a year for cats, $225 for dogs. Remember, too, that in many communities neutering and vaccinations are available at reduced cost, depending on your financial status. Check with your local vet or humane society.

Joan Rattner Heilman is the author of “Unbelievable Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can’t Get Unless You’re Over 50” (McGraw-Hill, 2009).