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How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Pet?

Your new friend could be free! Learn where to find pets and how to save on adoption fees.
Pet adoption costs

There's never a bad time to adopt a pet. Of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 80% are fit for adoption; there's an abundance of animals in need of homes!

Of course, pet ownership is a big responsibility. You need to assess your living situation, and what sort of pet would be a good match. If you're unsure, consider volunteering at an animal shelter so you can become acquainted with different animals.

Here, we offer tips on where to look for a new furry friend, how much the adoption fees may be, and promotions that can help you save.

Always Adopt a Pet, Never Buy

Before you can deal with fees, you'll have to figure out where to adopt a pet. You'll notice we said "adopt." Unless the retailer's hosting adoptable shelter animals, you should never buy a pet at a pet store. Looking for a purebred dog? About 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred.

Once you find a shelter or rescue group in your area, friend them on Facebook. They're more likely to update that page regularly with photos of newly available pets.

These days, it's easier than ever to find your ideal pet. Petfinder has an extensive database that's searchable by criteria such as location, breed, age, and gender.

You can also search online for animal shelters and rescue groups in your area, as most have their own websites with information on adoptable pets. However, these sites are often updated infrequently. Instead, once you find a shelter or group in your area, you should friend them on Facebook. They're more likely to update that page regularly with photos of newly available pets.

Look for Adoption Events

You can also search for adoption events in your area where you'll be able to see lots of pets in one place. PetSmart Charities holds a National Adoption Weekend four times per year at PetSmart stores. Similarly, many Petco stores play host to rescue organizations and their animal adoption events.

Don't Expect Consistent Fees

So how much does it cost to adopt a pet? Your new furry friend's fees can vary wildly — from nothing to several hundred dollars — depending on where you get your pet.

SEE ALSO: How I Save $600 a Year on Cat Food Using Amazon Prime

Every shelter and rescue group has different expenses, and their fees reflect that. Here in New York, I found fees for cats as high as $150, while the local ASPCA charges $75 to $250 for a dog. Meanwhile, at the Capital Area Humane Society near my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, cats are $10 to $25 and dogs run about $150 to $300.

Due to the cuteness factor, kittens and puppies are adopted more quickly and thus cost more; adult dogs and cats cost less. Regardless of age, many organizations offer a discount if you take more than one animal, and it's always nice to keep siblings or a bonded pair together.

Keep an Eye Out for Promotions

Speaking of discounts, why pay full price when many organizations offer adoption promotions? For example, the ASPCA waives the fee on cats a year old and older if you adopt on a weekday (Monday through Thursday). And the Best Friends Animal Society, a national organization, offered $20 adoption fees for cats and dogs throughout the month of August.

I got two kittens at an event Best Friends NYC held at Urban Outfitters stores last year. Urban Outfitters took care of the fees that weekend, so the cats didn't cost me a thing.

Best Friends branches throughout the country also have their own promotions. For instance, I got two kittens (Lux Interior and Lulu) at an event Best Friends NYC held at Urban Outfitters stores last year. Urban Outfitters took care of the fees that weekend, so the cats didn't cost me a thing. Plus, in August, over 900 animal shelters nationwide participated in the annual Clear the Shelters event, where they offered pets for free or at a dramatically reduced rate.

Regardless of where you get your new pet, you should expect them to be spayed or neutered, up to date on their vaccinations, tested for health issues such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and possibly microchipped.

Readers, are you planning to get a pet soon? What do you expect to pay in fees? If you have a pet, how did you get it? Let us know in the comments below.

Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years, and has been covering consumer electronics and technology for DealNews since 2013.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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Thankfully my two cats are indoor cats! I refuse to have them get shots every year as the oldest one developed a lump at the injection site so he had to have it removed. I don't know about all animals, but I have read from holistic veterinarian Dr. Michael W. Fox VMD, some animals are okay just receiving titer shots. HOWEVER, DO YOUR RESEARCH!! I stood firm against my vet & the only shot they have to receive, unfortunately, is for rabies (which I hear is also coming into question, as it should).
@ 01100001
Do you need the prescription first from the vet to do this at home?
I adopted two cats from humane society. One cost $25 another $90. The HS took good care of the pets, fed them, vaccined them, and I think it's totally worth the price if not more.

As far as vet visits, I usually go to mobile vet - they drive an RV all around the city to serve people who cannot afford regular vet visits. I never spent over 30 dollars there. Vaccine, microchip, flea/heartworm meds are all under $20 each. No visit fee is the best part.
As an aside for money-savvy pet owners: you can save a boatload if you vaccinate your pet at home. Dr.'s Foster & Smith offer many common routine vaccines at like 80%+ less than what the vet charges, and at least for me, it's the exact same vaccine manufacturer as those the vet uses. And it's seriously super easy to do. Might think injections are difficult, but subcutaneous isn't even noticed by them, and plus it's less stress to do at home. $300 annual for 2 dogs vaccines @ vet (that's not including exam fee), $18 at home. I still go to annual checkup, but do all but rabies at home now.
Wow. All of you got a remarkable deal. I've adopted two dogs in the past three years. One was $350 and the other was $400. Both were from the Humane Society. One in Oregon and one in Florida. We just got the second a few days ago. I did research for a month and not a single dog was under $300. Some puppies were $600+. I thought to myself "what the hell are the vets doing to them to be so much?" Yes they are fixed, chipped and healthy but Jesus. Plus they are mutts.
Ten years ago at the Humane Society it used to be $35 for an older dog and $60 for a young dog. Now its $70 to $200 if you want a non pit bull which are 90% of the dogs. A puppy can be $250. I think these rescue groups adopt the non pit bulls and charge double
This article is focused on the costs at the time of adoption, remember that there are other costs to take into account within the first few months of adoption.

Young animals will usually need booster vaccines and follow up vet care. Other surprise costs may include de-worming, fecal testing, internal parasite prevention (de-worming meds such as heartworm, roundworm, etc.), and ectoparasite prevention products (fleas, ticks, walking lice, etc).

If adopting a dog (>6m old), a follow up Heartworm test within 6m will add further expense as heartworm disease can only be detected 5-6 months AFTER the initial infection. This is VITAL as it is increasingly difficult to understand where a dog/cat has traveled from, especially after major disasters such as hurricanes.

Not all adoption organizations employ a health care professional, or have resources to accomplish preventative testing/care.

Other fees include microchipping (if not provided) and local gov't licensure.