How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Pet?

Your new furry 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.

About 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred.

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.

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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 an Urban Outfitters. 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 an Urban Outfitters store. 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.

DealNews Contributing 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. He covered consumer electronics and technology for DealNews from 2013 to 2018.
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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It is very important to note that the adoption fee is only a small part of the cost of owning a pet. Before you adopt, you need to make sure that you are willing and able to afford the ongoing costs of pet ownership. Food, grooming, regular vet visits, boarding, etc. can really add up fast, and you should be prepared for those ongoing costs before you adopt a pet.
I went to a breed association's rescue for a mate to our pound hound. Basically had to pay for the vet bill was all. Flea baths (bad infestation) , full round of immunizations, dewormer and micro ID chip brought home a Landseer Newfoundland
The "cuteness factor" is not the reason for the increased price for kittens and puppies. The adoption fees vary depending on size, age, behavior, medical condition and anticipated demand. Animals with a higher adoption fee help shelters care for other animals who stay in the shelter longer and require more resources. The cost of adopting an animal isn't just about one pet--it is contributing to the shelter as a whole and allowing them to rescue more animals.
Please adopt, don't shop...
Another suggestion is to find out when your Local County Animal Services and Adoption Center will do what's referred to as "Clear the Shelter" where most, if not all animals, can be adopted with the usual fees waived; this is how we adopted our second cat (kitten).

Just be aware, if you plan on adopting an animal this way, be very patient as many people will be looking to adopt a pet. The lines where we went were long, but because it's an annual event, they've worked on perfecting their system & had us moving through the lines fairly quickly.