Many Americans purchased pets to cope during the pandemic, here’s how it’s impacting their finances now

  • Nearly a quarter of respondents got their pet(s) during the pandemic
  • 62% of respondents say rising inflation has made it more costly to own a pet 
  • 34% of those who are financially responsible for their pets say they’re not prepared for the extra pet care costs when they return to office

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted pet lovers everywhere to consider welcoming a new furry friend into their lives. This was especially true during the height of the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders were still largely in effect and our ability to engage with friends, families and coworkers was limited to Zoom calls and FaceTime. To cope with this feeling of isolation, many Americans adopted pets. 

Now, as the world reopens and many Americans return to office, new pet owners may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to the cost of owning a pet. Factor in inflation, and this could spell trouble for consumers’ finances. 

According to a recent study by Qualtrics on behalf of Credit Karma, 74% of Americans have at least one pet. Of those, nearly a quarter purchased their pet at some point during the pandemic. On the bright side, most pet owners say they were aware of the financial responsibility associated with having a pet prior to purchasing one. However, nearly half of those footing the bill say having a pet is more expensive than they anticipated. 

How much are pet owners spending? 

*The following statements apply to pet owners who are financially responsible for their pet(s)

More than half of pet owners estimate that they spend less than $100 per month to care for their pet. Meanwhile, 36% estimate they spend between $101 and $500 per month and 10% spend more than $501. These figures are expected to rise as pet owners’ take on the additional cost of inflation, which is already impacting their ability to care for their pets. According to the study, 62% of pet owners say rising inflation has made it more costly for them to own a pet. Of those, 26% say they’re no longer able to afford necessities for their pet. 

Inflation could drive up pet related debt 

*The following statements apply to pet owners who are financially responsible for their pet(s)

Nearly one-in-five pet owners have gone into debt to care for their pet(s). Of those who have gone into debt, 40% have taken on less than $500 in debt, whereas 39% have taken on debt between $501 and $1,000 and another 21% have taken on debt above $1,001. 

Here’s a breakdown of the amount of debt accrued by pet owners who have taken on debt to care for their pets:

Less than $10010%
$101 – $50030%
$501 – $750$21
$751 – $1,00018%
$1,001 – $2,50011%
$2,501 – $5,0007%
More than $5,001 2%
*Among respondents that have gone into debt to care for their pets

What are the top costs for pet owners? 

*The following statements apply to pet owners who are financially responsible for their pet(s)

The top expenses for pet owners include food/treats (89%), vet visits/medicine (46%) and toys (40%). Surprisingly, pet daycare and pet walking are at the bottom or the list when it comes to the top pet expenses for pet owners. This could be the result of many Americans being confined to their homes during the pandemic or otherwise benefiting from the option to work from home, reducing the cost for additional pet care. 

However, this could change as more and more Americans are required to return to work. In fact, according to the study, more than one-third of pet owners say they are not financially prepared for extra pet care costs when they return to the office. 

“Pets are a major responsibility, one that requires a lot of planning and preparation before actually purchasing one – that includes factoring in how return to work and rising inflation might impact your ability to care for a pet,” said Colleen McCreary, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “Beyond the time commitment and lifestyle changes that come with pet ownership, there’s a huge financial responsibility associated with it, which can have a massive impact on your wallet if you’re not prepared for the additional costs. If you’re considering purchasing a pet, consider first creating a pet specific budget to make sure you have the additional monthly funds for things like food, treats and toys, as well as medical visits. From there, consider building an emergency savings fund for your pet in the same way you would for yourself. That way, if an unexpected emergency pops up, you’ll be prepared.”  


On behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey in December 2021 of 1,050 Americans, aged 18 and above, to gauge how much it costs for pet owners to care for their pets, and how rising inflation and return to work will impact the cost of owning a pet(s).