Sunday, September 17, 2017

Your Kids Want A Pet And You're On A Budget, Now What?

We have a cat at Casa Gomez that goes by the name of Tiska.  She's a tabby.  She likes two people only, and by "like" I mean she tolerates temporary handling by just my wife, Jessica, and me.  She will cuddle with my wife in the bed.  She will occasionaly rest on my lap and at the foot of our bed on my side.  But that's all the love I get from that animal.  My kids get nothing but hisses from Tiska.  My son who is braver than my daughter, will try to pet her, but she runs away, frightened or annoyed.

Tiska annoyed at my son about 3 years ago.

Now I can't blame Tiska for the way she is.  She was somewhat neglected by her first owners, before my wife adopted her at about a year old.  Tiska was very "nuts" back then according to Jessica.  When I first met Tiska she used to scratch the hell out of me.  I couldn't walk barefoot anywhere for fear of her coming by and taking a swipe at me.  In due time she grew to trust me.  When I married Jessica, I also married Tiska.  Men, if your girlfriend owns a pet before you, the pet comes with her if you marry.  Do yourself a favor and don't try to fight this.

Tiska is at least 11-years-old.  Our kids have been asking for another cat.  One they can actually pet.  With wet food, treats, dry food, and cat litter, we spend about $30/month on Tiska's needs.  She's had two visits to the vet, costing a total of $1350 for both visits, including the crazy expensive medication.  All this to say that no way, no how are we taking on a kitten while Tiska lives.  We don't know how Tiska will react with a kitten around.  Her motherly instincts may kick in, or she may just decide to fight the kitten, seeing it as competition.  I've told my kids they need to wait, much to their dismay.  Besides, we're on a budget and we can't afford two pets.

This leads me to the rest of you.  Are you a family with one or two children looking to get a pet?  Are you also on a budget?  So how does one manage pleasing their child(ren) while not breaking the bank?  I've researched the top pets for children, and combined it with research on which pets are the most affordable to own.  Finding a popular and affordable pet is the solution to your dilemma.

Image result for kids with pets

First, the most child "friendly" pets are:

1.  Dog (temperament depends on breed and also watch out for allergies).
2.  Cat (more independent than dogs and again, watch for allergies).
3.  Rabbit (you need access to hay)
4.  Guinea Pig (two recommended)
5.  Turtle (not recommended for homes with kids under 5 because they can spread salmonella; they also have long life spans).
6.  Bird (think parakeet and also more than one is recommended).
7.  Lizard (very low maintenance, best for older kids who can handle them gently).
8.  Hamster (short lifespan; will lead to a lesson on death)
9.  Fish (great to look at)

The information above was gathered at  Now keep in mind that though these animals are kid friendly, they each have their unique needs in terms of environment, feeding, cleaning, and attention.

Onto a cost breakdown of owning the pets above.  Investopedia reports that in 2011, some 62% of all households in America owned a pet and spent $50 billion on costs.  $20.5 billion was spent on food, $12.6 billion on medicine, and $13.6 billion on vet care.  That's a lot of money folks.  You can expect to pay...

Hamster: A one-time charge of about $160 on a cage, toys, and the hamster.  Then between $100 and $150 annually for food, bedding, and litter.  This is one inexpensive little pet.

Bird: Parakeets will cost you between $10-$60 to buy.  Remember, you'll need two as these animals do better with company.  Food will run you about $75 a year for an individual.  Expect to pay a one-time cost of $50-$500 for a cage.  Toys and accessories will run you $30 annually.  Finally, annual visits to the vet will cost between $100-$200.

Fish:  For kids, think Goldfish or Beta fish.  The beta fish is hardier.  The purchase cost of a goldfish vary by size and type at time of purchase.  The most expensive goldfish is the Calico, $3 to $30 for sizes 3-inch to 6-inches.  You can start with a fishbowl, $6-$13, and move into a small aquarium as the fish grow in size, $150-$600.  Goldfish pellet packs can run between $2 to $10.  Feeding them on a schedule will save you money and time not having to clean their tank so often.

Cat:  A cat will cost between $600 to $1,100 on year one.  I strongly suggest you limit your purchase costs by adopting at the local pet shelter.  Please!  Those furry felines need homes.  After year one, expect to pay between $375 to $750 a year.  Cats live an average of 14 years!

Dog: Let's face it, kids love dogs.  So do adults.  But they come with the most responsibility, and also costs!  Small and medium breeds start out at $500 to $875 a year.  Let me again suggest that you adopt.  Save a dog's life!  You'll spend between $8000 to $13,000 on average for a small/medium dog living about 14 years.  Larger dogs cost more initially, but have shorter life spans, 8 years on average.

Rabbit:  Contrary to belief, rabbits are not easy animals to maintain.  According to you'll spend between $330 to $390 initially.  This includes adoption fee, a pen, litter box, hay feeder, and other items.  Prepare to pay about $85/month ongoing for ten years (the average life of a rabbit), unless you can get hay directly from a farmer.  Then it'll be about $70/month.  That's $840 annually, times 10 for a ten year life span, equals $8,400!

Guinea Pig:  The initial cost to get a single guinea pig (two recommended) will be about $199.  Optional items like chew sticks, toys, hay rack, grooming supplies, and an outdoor run will be about $99.  Monthly maintenance costs are about $72.  I gathered this info from

Turtle:  The most common type of pet turtle is the red-eared slider.  You can get one at a pet store for as little as $20.  Visit your local animal adoption center before buying one!  Expect to pay $100 to $200 for a terrarium or an aquarium.  Remember that turtles are reptiles and require UV lamps, plus water heaters.  Turtle upkeep will run you about $50/month (food and vitamins).  Annual vet visits will cost between $20 to $80.

Lizard: The price to purchase a lizard is reasonable, between $15 to $150 depending on species and age.  Annual cost rundown: $35 to $50 for vet care, $30 to $50 for cage, light, and substrate, $120 to $150 for feeding, and $5 to $10 for vitamins.  Total = $190 to $260.

Okay, there you have it folks.  There are many benefits to your kids having a pet, among them is learning responsibility.  But before you go out and make an impulse buy, please know what you're getting into.  Don't get carried away.  Remember that your children will grow and go off to college, leaving you with their pet (unless pets are allowed wherever they live).  Pet ownership is a big commitment financially and emotionally.  So do it the right way from the start!  Thanks for reading.      

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