Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet

Pets are the best! Not only do they provide love, companionship and entertainment, but studies have shown that owning a pet is also good for your health and for your quality of life.

They can help reduce your depression, anxiety, stress, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, ease pain, improve your mood, and can help improve children’s development and immunity.  

But owning a pet can also be expensive. Especially with those inevitable vets bills.

It is possible to afford being a pet owner, though. You can save a life and save money by adopting a pet.

The Pets I’ve Adopted

In the last 14 months, my husband and I have adopted 4 cats.

No, we are not “crazy cat people”. We’re just like many other millennials that are opting to adopt pets instead of having kids.


I used to have 2 brother Siamese cats of my own. They had been with me or my family since 1997, which was before I started high school. Sadly, Oreo passed away a few years ago at the age of 18. Then my nearly 21 year old little sidekick, Kit, passed away early last year.

It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a pet. My heart and our home felt so empty without them.

Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet - My Life, I Guess
Kit and Oreo

Within a few months, we sort of unexpectedly adopted two 3-year-old sister cats, Mac and Charlie. Their previous owner had rescued them from a hoarding situation, but was no longer able to keep them. We were going through a lot at the time, and they brought us some “good” that our lives needed.

Tragically, and completely unknown to us or the previous owner, Charlie was sick. Very sick. She had feline leukemia. We lost her a couple of months ago, after not even a year together.

Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet - My Life, I Guess
Charlie and Mac

Again, we felt that something was missing. We had become accustomed to having 2 cats in our family, and Mac needed a companion.

Originally we were intending to adopt this adorable 1 year old special needs kitten from the shelter. She has spina bifida, no tail and hops like a bunny! But we ended up bringing home her best friend, too.

Meaning we are now a family of 5: me, my husband and our 3 cats – Mac, Nugget and Sketch.

Needless to say, I’m a huge advocate for adopting a pet (or 2)!

Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet - My Life, I Guess
Nugget and Sketch

Save a Life By Adopting a Pet

I’m not here to depress you, but there are far too many unwanted cats, dogs, and other pets in this world. Each year, there are millions of pets that end up in shelters.

Or worse…

Whether you adopt a pet (or two, like us!) from an owner who is no longer willing or able to keep them, or if you adopt through a shelter, you are saving that unwanted animals life by adopting them into your home and into your family.

Save Even More Lives!

Unfortunately, oftentimes if you buy a pet through a pet store or a breeder, you are supporting puppy or kitten mills. (With the exception of legitimate and responsible breeders who allow you to visit their home or kennels and meet the pet families, of course.)

The conditions that these poor animals live in are horrible. They are neglected, don’t get proper exercise or veterinary care, and often have behavioural and health issues because of it. If people keep supporting these types of places instead of adopting, they will continue to operate.

If you adopt through a shelter, animal rescue or humane society instead, you are financially supporting that organization rather than supporting a puppy or kitten mill.

The adoption fee you pay helps the shelter cover the costs needed to help other animals, and needed to keep their doors open.  

When you adopt, you are also opening up a space in their facility for another animal to (hopefully only temporarily) call home until they too can find their forever family.

Save Money by Adopting a Pet

Save on Fees

Speaking of breeders and adoption fees, have you ever looked into what breeders charge?

The average costs are between $500 and $3,000 but can be closer to $10,000 for certain breeds.

Whereas adoption fees at shelters are generally between $50 – $300.

We originally wanted Siamese cats because my husband is actually allergic to cats. (And thankfully he didn’t have any issues living with my Siamese cats before.) But we have no intention of entering them into shows or becoming breeders ourselves, so having official paperwork was not something we’d need.  

Not to mention that purebred animals often have more health issues and medical needs than mixed breeds do.

After losing Charlie, we started looking at shelters and rescues websites and social media pages.

Within a week, our local animal shelter started advertising $50 adoption fees instead of the regular $250. We took that as a sign and accidently came home with not one, but two cats!

Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet - My Life, I Guess

Save on Initial Vet Expenses

Most shelters and animal rescues won’t put an animal up for adoption until they are fixed. Gotta control that pet population, right?

If the pet is being re-homed, chances are good that the previous owners would have taken care of this step as well, as it’s much easier to fix a younger pet than it is an older one. But be sure to ask.

Depending on where you live, getting your pet spayed or neutered on your own may be expensive. The average price is in the $50 – $200 range, but the prices vary a lot! For example, it costs about $800 in Toronto and is $600 through our vet.

In our case, by adopting 4 cats that were already fixed we saved $2,400!

(Thankfully there are more and more low cost – and even some free – spay and neuter clinics opening up throughout North America.)  

Vets usually also give young pets vaccines and any necessary treatments (such as fleas, mites, heartworms, etc.) when getting fixed. So by adopting, you should avoid having to pay those costs, as well.

Most shelters will microchip pets and provide a license (if your community requires one) too, saving you even more. Again, just be sure to ask what’s included in the adoption fee so you can budget accordingly.

Save on Future Vet Expenses

Another benefit of adopting a pet is that the staff or the pet’s owner knows the animal.

They can tell you about the pet’s personality, so you know ahead of time if they get along well with other pets, if they like children, etc. This helps to ensure that the pet you adopt fits your lifestyle.

They also should be able to tell you about any current or potential health or behavioral problems that the pet you are interested may have. Which is how we learned that Mac is allergic to seafood. (Thankfully that isn’t something we had to learn through trial and error!) This can help you make a more informed decision about what these problems might cost you, especially as your pet ages.

If you are interested in an older pet, shelters also keep animals up to date on their vaccines.

We noticed Nugget on the shelter’s website almost right away. She is a special needs cat (she has spina bifida) and was with the shelter for over 6 months. A few others had expressed interest in her. But because of her condition, no one wanted to give her a chance.

So we did some research. We talked to the shelter staff. Asked a lot of questions. Spent some time with her in the shelter. And we determined that after spending the last few years looking after senior cats, we could easily provide Nugget the home and special attention she needed.  

My Adopted Cats - My Life, I Guess

Save with an Older Pet

Most people want to adopt puppies and kittens. But we didn’t. We actually wanted to adopt cats that were a bit older.

One reason is that the first year of owning a pet is typically the most expensive, thanks to those vets trips and purchasing supplies (especially for your first pet).

Another reason being training.

I hadn’t had a kitten in over 20 years, and wasn’t sure I had the time to train them. Or if I’d be any good at it.

And as we learned when we first adopted Mac and Charlie, our place it isn’t exactly cat-proofed either.

So we were happy to adopt cats that were already trained.

Puppies and dogs typically need more training than cats or kittens. But training any young pet can take up a lot of time and possibly a lot of funds. Not only is there the cost of training classes (if you choose to go that route), but there’s also the potential damage to consider while housetraining. Pets might chew your belongings. Scratch your furniture. Get into nooks and crannies. Knock things over. Break things. And of course, use random places in your house as their bathroom.  

Older pets, even those that aren’t fully trained, tend to be calmer, require less supervision, and at least can recognize simple commands, like “sit” and “no!”.

With a life expectancy of 12-18 for indoor cats, and 10-13 years for dogs, adopting a 3 year old could still give you 10 years (or more) together.

Save on Supplies

Although pets don’t necessarily need a ton of supplies, there are basic things that they need. Food, of course. Toys and treats are also nice. For pets like rabbits, birds, or rodents, they probably need a cage, too.

By adopting a pet, you might be able to save money on pet supplies, depending on who or where you’re adopting from.

Many shelters and rescues have starter kits available for sale, usually at a discounted price versus buying the items in store.

If you are re-homing a pet from an individual that has to give up their pet for whatever reason, they’re probably no longer going to need any of the pet supplies they have, either. (Again, be sure to ask.)

We were very fortunate to not only adopt Mac and Charlie for free, but the owner gave us a ton of stuff that she had for them too. We were given 2 cat carriers*, a cat tree*, a month’s supply of food, and more treats and various toys then we could have imagined. All in all, this would have cost us $300 – $500 if we bought it on our own.

My Pets - My Life, I Guess

You’ll Need an Emergency/Pet Fund

Some pet owners will do anything for their pet. I know I would. But we don’t always have the financial means to do so.

Which is why regardless of how your pet entered your family, you need to be ready for the unexpected costs that comes along with pet ownership.

I was pretty lucky. While attending school and for the first few years after I graduated, the cost of owning my 2 cats was next to nothing. They were both happy and healthy, and didn’t require anything more than the basics.

In the last few years, however, we’ve had 3 emergency vet visits for 3 different cats. It costs us over $400 per visit just to see the emergency vet. Plus the costs of whatever tests or treatments are needed. And trust me, it doesn’t take long for the charges to add up!

The first emergency call happened while I was laid off, and I had to ask my sister to cover the costs, because we didn’t have the money to. (And it’s not fair to let our beloved pet suffer because of it!)  

After learning this lesson the hard way, we knew that part of being responsible pet owners has to include being able to afford such emergencies.  

Although there are things you can do to keep them in good health, you never know if your pet will live a healthy and accident free life or not. Or just how much it will cost you.

The decision to adopt a pet into your family is a big commitment. In my family, we’ve had 2 cats that lived for over 20 years, and another 2 that were over 18. Which is longer than some people have children living at home for!

But if you have room in your home, your heart, and your budget, you can save a life (and save money) by adopting a pet.

And it will be worth every penny.

YOUR TURN: If you are a pet owner, how did your pet come into your life? Did you adopt your pet? Share your story in the comments below.

And please feel free to share any other benefits of adopting that I might have missed, as well!

Images by Amanda of My Life, I Guess, StockSnap from Pixabay
& Andrew Neel from Pexels

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

1 thought on “Save a Life (And Save Money) By Adopting a Pet”

  1. Adorable cats!

    I have a cat too. She’s crazy but sweet, still very kitten-like even though she should be around 3 years old. Frankly, I’m hoping she calms down a little over time and stops darting all over the place randomly. But admittedly it is kind of cute if baffling.

    My ex-husband and I got her from a shelter. She’d gotten pregnant and her previous owners dropped her off and didn’t return the calls the shelter made (she was chipped). Lovely. Like you said, you need to be ready to cover expenses. Also, get your damn animals fixed! But if not for her previous owners’ carelessness, I wouldn’t have my crazy kitty today. So I guess I should be grateful for their being so irresponsible.

    My first cat was also a shelter animal. And the cat we had in between was a stray. She cost us a bunch because she came with a bad burn on her paw that wouldn’t heal. Though I loved her, I told my husband no more strays. At least shelter animals have had their health problems addressed before you get them. We had to have paid at least $1,000 in vet bills for something that would’ve been fixed for free if we’d adopted her through a shelter.


Leave a Comment