Every tax season, my friend Tracy checks to see if by some miracle the tax dependent laws have changed.
Tracy is mom to two cats and in her annual call she lets me know, in detail, why she should be able to claim the felines as dependents. I agree with her. Pets are part of the family and many are much more agreeable than human relatives.
Alas, lawmakers and the IRS don't see it that way.
That's not one of Tracy's "children" there at right. It's Paul Newman, the blue-eyed owner of another friend, Julie, who shares Tracy's tax time sentiments.
Lack of tax breaks, however, doesn't stop millions of us from adopting furry kids every year. According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet. That's a pet in 71.1 million homes.
We know those numbers soon will increase by at least one family as the Obamas continue their quest for a dog or two. And many others will join the soon-to-be First Family as pet owners during the holidays, when many a puppy or kitten shows up under the tree.
So it's as good a time as any to look at some considerations, financial and emotional, you need to be aware of if you're thinking of getting a pet.
Picking the proper pet: Whether you want a dog, cat or nontraditional pet, The Veterinarian has some tips on making an appropriate choice.
The Dog Owner's Guide has a comprehensive plan for selecting a canine companion. KittenCare.com has tips for feline fanciers. Cats and Kittens Central has a bit more on the various cat breeds. (Can you tell I've always been owned by cats?)
If you get a purebred pet, it'll cost you, sometimes big bucks. You can pick a pet for a more minimal cost at a shelter. In those cases, you simply have to pay for the animal's shots and spaying or neutering. And some pedigreed animals also are found at shelters or rescue facilities.
Now for the financials: Most pets will be a part of your family for many years. Hopefully, they will mostly be healthy, happy times. But even then, the costs of pet can add up.
According to APPA, basic annual expenses for dog and cat owners include:
|Surgical Vet Visits||$453
|Routine Vet Visits
As the APPA survey shows, pet medical care is the biggest expense. As I blogged just about this time last year, sometimes the cost of pet medicine is greater than that of their human owners.
But nowadays there is help out there. Just Google "pet insurance" and you'll find several companies that offer coverage for accidents, illnesses and routine preventive care. As with your other family insurance, shop around and compare services and prices.
Progressive insurance also now offers auto insurance coverage for your pet while he or she is riding in the car with you.
Then there's food and toys and outfits. Really. I don't get animal attire, but that's between each pet and owner.
But as is the case for most of our family members, the costs are incidental. That doesn't mean, though, that we should overpay.
So select your pet, or vice versa as is often the case, and enjoy the companionship as cost-effectively as possible. That way you might be able to afford a few more kitty toys or doggie sweaters!