Some new pandemic pet owners in Ontario surprised by ownership costs

TORONTO — For many people self-isolating and working from home, the pandemic was the perfect time to get a new pet and, for many, it was their first time doing so.

It’s been an eye-opener for some new pet owners just how much it can cost to own a dog or a cat and there are concerns what could happen to some pets when employees have to return to the office.

Credit Canada which offers credit counselling to those having financial difficulties said it’s seen an increase in clients with debt issues who are new pet owners.

“It’s great if we are becoming more compassionate and welcoming animals into our home, it’s just about being prepared to take care of them and that can take some planning,” Gursh Singh with Credit Canada said.

Along with the purchase or adoption fees for a pet, there are veterinary visits, training, grooming and monthly food bills. Some pet owners may also choose to buy pet insurance.

In many cases, financial problems happen because a pet had an emergency veterinary visit.

“With the increase in pets we are hearing clients say, ‘well I have credit card debt because my cat got sick or my dog needed an unexpected operation,” Gursh said.

Some pet rescue groups were concerned with so many people adopting and buying pets, and worried they wouldn’t want them when the pandemic was over, but the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Humane Society said that hasn’t taken place at this point, but there are concerns what will happen to some pets when employees get called back to the office.

“Pets can feel separation anxiety once they are left alone after being consistently with us for so long,” Kallie Milleman with the SPCA said.

If you’ll be transitioning back to the office, you should avoid sudden changes and think about what your new schedule will be like to help your pet with the adjustment.

“You’re going to want to shift the routine back to be what would be your normal works hours and so do this slowly and do it over a long period of time,” said Milleman.

Toys to keep them entertained can help, Milleman said, adding, “If you’ve always been around, maybe it’s time to start implementing some alone time for your pet, that may mean going out for a walk without your dog.”

There may be added costs if you have to pay for pet sitting and anyone having issues with the costs of pet ownership are advised to create a monthly pet budget.

A pet operation can cost thousands of dollars so pet insurance could be a good investment. It is about $30 a month for cats and $40 a month for dogs, but there are big difference in coverage, premiums, deductibles and not everything is covered.

Saving a monthly amount in a separate bank account for pet emergencies is also an option.

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