If you’re considering adopting a pet, you should be aware of the expenses that will come your way as a responsible owner. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, pet spending is at an all-time high. The survey says that the “current basic annual expenses” total $1571 for dogs and $948 for cats. That breaks down to approximately $131 per month for dogs and $79 for cats. If you have a dog & two cats, that’s a car payment. If your dog lives for 10 years, that’s $15,710. Cats typically live at least 15 years, bringing their total to $14,220.

Those numbers include surgical vet visits, routine vet visits, food, kennel/boarding, grooming, vitamins, treats, and toys. I noticed that they don’t include the costs of the pets themselves or the costs of “start up” supplies like crates, leashes, litter boxes & bowls. Probably most significantly, they don’t include the cost of replacing, repairing or cleaning any items that your pets might destroy or damage. My own total would skyrocket if I included those kinds of things. And you do need to include those items, unless you’re happy living with a leather couch that you can’t get the smell of urine out of, don’t mind if your curtains are in a shambles, and have no problems with the occasional uprooted plant. I bet I’ve spent an average of $1000 a year on those kinds of things, which would add another $83 per month to the total. Plus, some insurance companies charge extra if you own a pet, because they represent an increased liability. (What if Fido bites the mailman? What if Fluffy gets out and claws the neighbor’s toddler that just squeezed her too hard?)

This is probably going to be an unpopular thing to say, but if you’re in debt or on a very tight budget and longing for a pet, don’t get one. Volunteer your time at the local animal shelter instead. Yes, there are millions of pets out there that deserve a loving home, but they also deserve a home that can put the needed time, energy, and money into taking care of them. Pets can’t live on love alone. Especially beware the “free” kitten or puppy, who often wind up being the most expensive pets of all. At the minimum, you’re unlikely to consider the actual expenses involved when presented with a “free” pet. (Remember, cats and dogs can live anywhere from 7-22 years — sometimes longer.) Worse, many of those cute little puppies & kittens don’t have all of their shots, leaving them vulnerable to diseases that are expensive to treat and still often fatal. If you do decide on a pet, be sure you’ve done your research and truly understand the financial and time commitment required for their well-being.