You’ve been thinking about getting a dog or cat for a while now, but you’re concerned about whether you can afford one.
You’ve thought about all the responsibilities of owning a pet, like keeping it fed, groomed, walked, and adequately stimulated. You may have also looked up the price tag of a pet. But still, you wonder if you’re missing anything in the cost department.
That’s why we’ll go through:
- How much it costs to adopt or purchase a dog or cat in Singapore (spoiler: expect higher prices because of COVID-19)
- The upfront and ongoing expenses of caring for your pet
- Hidden costs most won’t tell you about
- Practical financial tips for would-be pet owners
Let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- Upfront Costs
- Ongoing Costs
- Optional / ‘As Needed’ Expenses
- The Hidden Costs Most Won’t Mention
- 5 Tips on Budgeting and Saving Money with Pet Ownership
|Adoption or Rescue*||$0 – $530||$0 – $200|
|Purchase*||$2,500 – $12,000||$300 – $1,000|
|License||$35 for sterilised dogs (first three dogs only)||N/A|
|Core vaccination (for puppies and kittens 6 weeks old)||$40 – $100 per shot for up to three shots, not including consultation fees||$40 – $100 per shot for up to three shots, not including consultation fees|
|Core vaccination (for adult dogs and cats)||$40 – $100 per shot for up to two shots, not including consultation fees||$40 – $100 per shot for up to two shots, not including consultation fees|
|Microchipping||$50 – $90||$50 – $90|
|Sterilisation||$200 – $1,000||$120 – $1,000|
|Misc (food bowls, water fountains, bed, collar, harness, leash, toys, scratching posts, etc.)||$110 and up||$280 and up|
|Total||Adoption: $515 and up (puppies)|
Purchase: $3,015 and up (puppies)
|Adoption: $570 and up (kittens)|
Purchase: $870 and up (kittens)
Should You Adopt or Purchase? *
The debate between adopting and purchasing a pet is a hot topic for animal lovers and one we won’t get too deep into here. To briefly summarise both sides,
- There are far greater numbers of stray and abandoned pets in Singapore than there are people willing to adopt them.
- On the other hand, there’s nothing inherently wrong with purchasing a dog or cat, provided you go to an AVS-licensed pet shop or farm with ethical breeding practices.
Cost-wise, it’s a lot cheaper to go the adoption route. Adoption centres and animal rescue organisations charge a small fee, but this is mainly to cover the cost of vaccinations, deworming, flea and tick treatments, and microchipping.
With many overseas and local breeders shutting down because of COVID-19, pet prices from licensed shops have skyrocketed. In 2019, you could still get a poodle for around $4,000. But after the onset of the pandemic, the same breed now goes for nearly $12,000.
There’s no legal requirement to license a cat in Singapore, but there is for dogs. Some owners choose not to get the license, but be warned: you’ll pay a fine of up to $5,000 if AVS catches you.
Licensing used to be a yearly affair as each would only last a year. As of 1 Sep 2020 though, you can apply for a lifetime license at $35 provided your dog has been sterilised. Check with the Animal & Veterinary Service for more information.
If you’re getting a puppy or kitten, chances are that they’ll still need their core vaccination shots. This happens from when they’re 6-8 weeks of age, with boosters given every month or so until they’re at least 16 weeks old. You can also opt for the non-core vaccines depending on the lifestyle risks your pet faces.
With adult dogs and cats, it depends on their vaccination history. If it’s unknown, your new pet should get two initial doses of the vaccine one month apart.
This isn’t a legal requirement in Singapore, but it’s highly recommended. While your pet may have a collar or tag as an identifier, they can fade or come off. Given the cost of recovering (or replacing) a fur baby, the microchipping fee will seem inexpensive by comparison.
Research shows that spaying or neutering your pet helps it live longer and be healthier. And on a pragmatic level, sterilisation is a must if you want a lifetime dog license. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $165 every two years.
Female dogs and cats are pricier to sterilise. Sterilisation is also a surgical procedure, so there’s the possibility of complications — for example, the female dog could be in heat or pregnant, and the male dog could have an undescended testicle. If that’s the case, you’ll have to pay extra.
Ongoing Costs of Owning a Dog or Cat in Singapore
|Booster shots||$40 – $100 yearly||$25 – $50 yearly|
|Pet food||$25 and up per 2kg bag (dry)||$21 and up per 2kg bag (dry)|
|Treats||$5 and up per bag||$2 and up per bag|
|Grooming||$15 – $70 quarterly||$50 – $100 monthly (only needed for long-furred breeds)|
|Hygiene products (pet shampoo, nail clippers, brushes, litter, etc.)||$20 – $40 monthly / $240 – $480 yearly||$15 – $30 monthly / $180 – $360 yearly|
|Heartworm, flea, and parasite treatments||$10 – $40 monthly / $120 – $480 yearly||$30 – $50 as needed|
|Pet dental care||$150 – $600 yearly||$150 – $600 yearly|
|Toys||$5 – $20 monthly / $60 – $240 yearly||$5 – $50 monthly / $60 – $600 yearly|
Booster Shots (Re-Vaccination)
As of 2020, the official AVS guidelines recommend annual re-vaccination, though vets have some leeway to propose longer intervals. There’s some evidence that antibodies for the core vaccines will last up to three years, so your pet may not need that booster shot every year.
Instead, you can choose to have your pet go through a simple blood test called VacciCheck, which tests their levels of antibodies against the core viruses.
The optional vaccines still need annual booster shots though.
How much you spend on pet food depends on your fur baby’s age, size, activity level, and sterilisation status. The bigger and more active they are, the more food they’ll need.
You’ll want to get the amount just right: too little food and they’re likely to be malnourished, while too much can cause problems such as heart disease, spine and joint issues, and diabetes. As a guideline, veterinarian Dr Beth Turner recommends feeding your pet based on its ideal weight, not based on the very wide ranges stated on the back of your pet food bag.
As with humans, it isn’t just about going for the cheapest commercial brands available. You might be able to survive on instant noodles for quite a while, but the short-term savings could lead to serious health complications in future. Pet foods vary in nutritional content, and sometimes going for a more premium brand could lead to better pet health in the long haul.
A cat owner we spoke to reported spending as little as $200 a year on cat food (mostly dry kibble with some wet food mixed in as the occasional treat). But some dog owners have reported spending upwards of $1,000 to feed their pets.
Most cats are low-maintenance in the grooming department unless you’ve got a long-furred pedigree with a majestic mane that needs taming. Dogs usually need to be groomed every three months.
Even if you bring your pet for quarterly grooming sessions, you may still want to do some grooming at home. Spending a bit more money and effort here may save you from expensive bills elsewhere.
Case in point: a pet toothbrush and toothpaste will only cost about $20 (and a few minutes a day), but pet dental scaling could cost you up to $600 a year.
Heartworm, Flea, and Parasite Treatments
This is more for dogs because of the outdoor walks they need. Most indoor cats aren’t at risk of worms, fleas, and ticks.
Pet Dental Care
The cost of this is so high mainly because of the general anaesthetic required: your pet likely won’t stay still for the entire dental scaling session.
Optional / ‘As Needed’ Expenses
|Pet insurance||$80 – $750 a year|
|Vet consultation fees||$30 – $300 per visit|
|Vitamins||$160 – $480 annually|
|Obedience training||$200 – $3,000|
|Pet diapers||$5.40 and up per pack|
|Pee pads||$10 and up per pack|
|Window grilles, safety nets, and mesh||$100 – $800|
|Dog walking||$13 – $60 per hour|
|Pet boarding||$18 – $60 a night|
What price would you put on the well-being of your fur baby? It may be a difficult question to answer now, but you’d be surprised at how much you’re willing to pay when you’re about to lose part of your family.
The cheapest pet insurance plans in Singapore cover only accidental injuries and death, cremation fees, and vet fees for accidents. To get a plan that will cover vet fees for illnesses, you’ll have to pay an additional premium.
Vet Consultation Fees & Pet Medication
Like with humans, your furkids should get a checkup at the clinic once a year. Older animals are more likely to suffer from deteriorating health, so annual checkups are doubly important.
This may not be necessary as most pet food brands have additives to make sure the animal gets the minimum levels of vitamins required. However, if you’re feeding your pet mostly dry kibble or home-cooked food, you may want to consider supplementing their diet with multivitamins.
Obedience training isn’t legally required in Singapore. Still, if you’re having trouble house-training your new puppy, you might choose to seek help from a professional.
Obedience training classes vary widely in scope, ranging from basic toilet training and commands to competitive sports and agility training.
Window Grilles, Safety Nets, and Mesh
These safety measures are important given that most of us here live in “high-rise apartments” — A.K.A. HDB flats. SPCA noted that there’s been a rise in cats and dogs falling/jumping out of windows and balconies, leading to injuries or premature death.
Whether you go for grilles, safety nets, or window mesh, just make sure to give it a hard tug to test its sturdiness. Grille gaps should also be 1-2 inches wide so your pet can’t squeeze itself out.
The Hidden Costs of Pet Ownership
Besides the upfront and ongoing pet expenses, there are also a few not oft-mentioned bills you may have to watch out for:
1. Travel Expenses
If you’re travelling (post-pandemic) and not bringing your pet along with you, you may have to find alternative arrangements for its care. This includes putting it up at a pet hotel, hiring someone to pet sit, and dog-walking.
2. Replacing Damaged Items/Flooring
Cats are notorious for pawing at anything that resembles a string, like electrical wiring or those loose threads on your clothes. They also have a natural urge to scratch, so woe betides that IKEA sofa you just bought if you haven’t got a scratching post around the house.
Dogs also tend to scratch and dig — even if your flooring is made of parquet or marble.
That means you’ll have to expect damage to pretty much anything in your home, along with the cost of replacing it.
Buying and selling property is a favourite pastime of Singaporeans, so we should warn you: potential homebuyers may not take too kindly to the presence of pets in your house. Many will likely be wondering about the animal accidents that have happened and be on the lookout (or smell-out?) for pet odours.
Be prepared to conduct a thorough deodorising and moving your beloved fur babies elsewhere if you plan on selling your house.
4. Cleaning Fees/Supplies
Whether your pet is poorly house-trained or just weak and ailing in its later years, know that you’ll likely have to stock up on extra cleaning supplies (or hire a professional cleaner) for all the extra “accidents.”
5. Chronic Health Conditions
Unfortunately, certain pets may suffer from chronic health and psychological conditions — regardless of age. These can be costly both in terms of your finances and emotional health.
For example, one dog owner reported that her beagle had a severe case of separation anxiety and epilepsy. He would howl whenever she left the house and rile the entire neighbourhood, so she ended up trapped in her home for weeks at a time.
6. Use of Paid Time Off
Owning a dog or a cat is like adding a member to your family. Sometimes, caring for your pet will require you to take leave from work. This is especially true of puppies, kittens, or older animals, which may require more attention or have more health issues.
Tips on Budgeting and Saving Money with Pet Ownership
If going through the long list of pet-related expenses makes you a bit queasy, don’t worry — you’re not alone. But even as you’re not taking the responsibility lightly, you’re probably also hoping there are ways to save money while still keeping your adorable fur baby.
Here are five practical tips to help you do just that:
Tip 1: Consider fostering first to get the feel of caring for a pet.
If you’re uncertain whether you can afford to keep a pet for life, try fostering one for a shorter period as a dry run. This way you’ll get a sense of the time and costs involved along with your mental readiness for the task.
Tip 2: Set aside an emergency fund for pet expenses.
There are few things as stressful as getting a large bill that you don’t have enough to pay for. Just as it’s important to set aside funds for your unexpected bills (or perhaps if someone in your family is out of work), it’s wise to do so for pet-related expenses as well.
As a general guideline, we’d suggest owners set aside between $100 to $200 each month (or $1,200 to $2,400 per year) to meet veterinary costs. You may not use it all (and that’s great), but it’s better to have that emergency fund available just in case.
Tip 3: Prepare your pet’s food yourself.
If your pet doesn’t have any chronic health issues, your biggest expense is likely feeding it. And if you’ve got a big dog or want only the best for fido, then your pet food expenses could almost equal feeding a whole other person.
In that case, you may want to home-cook your pet’s food instead.
This requires a lot of research up front to get the nutritional requirements right, of course. Your furkid has different dietary needs from humans, and many of the foods we put into our bodies are toxic for pets. But like going keto on a budget, once you settle into a weekly rhythm it’s possible to feed your pet premium-quality food at a lower cost.
Tip 4: Learn to groom your pets.
Bringing your dog to the groomer can cost hundreds of dollars per year. Over the entire lifespan of the dog, that adds up to thousands. If you pick up the skills yourself, you could pocket those thousands of dollars instead.
Tip 5: Home-make those pet toys and accessories.
Pet toys, beds, scratching posts, and all the miscellaneous accessories can set you back by hundreds every year — maybe even thousands if you want your pet to live large. A premium cat condo could set you back $250, for example.
If you’re on a budget, you can mitigate these costs (while not compromising on your pet’s quality of life) by making some of the items yourself. Those old clothes and pillows, for example, could be turned into a comfy dog bed. And you can refresh those cat scratching posts with an inexpensive cloth from Spotlight.