Living With Animals: Cost Of Caring For A Pet

By Hope Bidegainberry on January 25, 2019
Young woman is kissing her pet dalmatian dog on the head.

To garble the bard, “To pet or not to pet?” Last week we considered the finances of pet care. Yes, economics should be considered when contemplating living with an animal and, sure, not everyone should be responsible for another life. That said, there is some pretty dumb advice out there on the topic. For example, referencing a dog’s exercise needs, from the apparently misnamed PetHelpful website: “So if you don’t live close to a park, forest, or other green area, you should consider not getting a dog.” This author clearly has not heard about the invention of automobiles, or just how well many dogs’ exercise needs can be met (along with that of their people) by a good long walk on leash. As for forests, I’m not sure I’ve met the dog who can be safely let loose, nor the wildlife who would appreciate that dog, nor the forest agency that would welcome them.

While it’s easy to talk about the cost of a pet, I wonder about the cost of not living with animals? It’s certainly harder to assign a dollar amount to animal abstinence, but cost isn’t always measured in shekels. 

My childhood was lonely. A nerdish kid (long before nerds were popular), inner-city (Brooklyn long before it became chic) and chock full of people (four of us in a one-bedroom, one-bath), I so longed for but was never allowed a pet. A dog, cat, hamster or parakeet would have meant so much. Cost factor #1: life without a pet is lonely. Cost factor #2: animals require our full engagement, emotionally and (with dogs more obviously than cats but even with cats) physically. Life without pets can be less healthy for body and spirit. Many studies document that even just visiting with an animal can reduce blood pressure and provide other measurable health benefits. We are, I believe, most whole, most ourselves, when we share our lives with and, yes, take responsibility for the care of another. The cost of life without a pet is, in my opinion, a sad life. And that’s just too high a price to pay. 

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