Dollars and cents, dogs and cats

Where cats and dogs are most popular, according to AVMA

How much our pets cost us – and how to save online.

We love our pets. We hate the cost. That’s the conclusion of a novel new study of dog and cat owners.

It’s no secret that everything from pet food to vet visits can really add up – up to $500 a year in food to $2,000 a year in emergency veterinary care.

Even though most pet owners vaguely know their furry friends will cost them many dollars, they often don’t realize exactly how much. That’s the conclusion of researchers who compile the annual Country Financial Security Index. They recently broke out stats about pets.

Not surprisingly, 78 percent of Americans say their cats and dogs “are like family to me.” But just like family, they underestimate the cost of that affection and responsibility.

“In fact,” researchers concluded, “43 percent of Americans say their dog or cat cost them more than anticipated. Nearly a third (30 percent) of owners spent more than $1,000 on their pet in the last 12 months, and 10 percent say they’ve spent more than $2,000.”

High-tech tools to save

There’s no shortage of advice for saving on pet costs. The Humane Society even lists organizations that offer “

However, here are three frequently overlooked websites for saving:

  • not only has an entire pet section that makes price shopping easy, it also offers Subscribe & Save, which offers monthly savings up to 15 percent and free shipping.
  • has a pet supply store and something similar to Amazon’s subscription service. This one is called O Rewards, and while it costs $20 to join, you can get 5 percent back on every order.
  • Pet Food Direct is the Amazon and Overstock of just pet food. It offers sales every day and has its own lucrative rewards program.

What to do when you can’t afford your pets

The Country Financial researchers asked a tough question: What if your pet got sick and you couldn’t afford the vet bill?

Not surprisingly, 37 percent would dip into their savings, 33 percent would cut back on their daily expenses, and 24 percent would “put off a major purchase” like a new car or appliance.

Meanwhile, 30 percent “would finance the bills with credit cards.” That last option is perhaps the most costly in the long run, says Gary Herman, president of Consolidated Credit.

“Cutting back on other expenses is painful, but you’re not going into debt,” he says. “Even dipping into savings, which costs you interest and depletes your emergency fund, is better than running up your credit card bills – which have high interest rates that keep adding to your debt.”

If you’re already  struggling with credit card debt, the worst thing you can do is pile on more, Herman says. If that’s your only option, Herman suggests getting an expert opinion first. Consolidated Credit has certified credit counselors standing by to give Americans – pet lovers or not – a free debt analysis. Simply call 1-888-294-3130.

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