What Costs More? Pets vs. Babies

Having a little one to snuggle up with at the end of the day makes life better, but it’ll cost you. Whether you’ve got baby cravings or long for a cuddly, four-legged “furbaby,” there’s a lot to buy before you bring your new addition home. We would never dare to declare a winner in the baby versus pet wars, but we can help you plan for the financial implications of adding a new member to your family.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a cat person, a dog person, or a baby person—we’ve got the numbers you need to get started. We looked at the average cost of taking home a bundle of joy (fur-covered or not) so you can know exactly what you’re getting into (stinky messes and sleepless nights aside).

Here’s a look at some of our findings:

  • Babies cost the most in the first year, averaging between $2,000 and $3,700 depending on whether you use formula or not.
  • Cats hit your pocketbook the least, coming in just under $1,000 for the first year of care.
  • Dogs cost the least when it comes to taking care of “business.” We estimated $68 for a pooper scooper, baggies, and training pads. Babies ring up a whopping $970 for diapers, wipes, cream, and a changing table or pad.
  • A year’s worth of kitty litter costs more than a year’s worth of cat food.
  • It’ll cost you more to brush a baby’s head than a cat’s or dog’s—but you’ll spend hours more brushing your furbabies than your wee human.
  • A dog bed costs almost as much as a baby bassinet, coming in at $116 to a bassinet’s $128.
  • All the babies we looked at needed food, a place to sleep, a way to deal with going potty, and a contraption to safely get from one place to another in a vehicle. But human babies were the only ones that needed things like a baby monitor and clothes.
  • It costs more to brush a cat’s teeth than it does a dog’s—and that’s not even counting the potential pain and suffering of wrangling a kitty to get the deed done.

We didn’t include medical costs or adoption fees in our comparison, but those can make a big impact on how expensive the first year is. If you’re ready to open your home (and heart) to a new family member, here are some tips to ease the sticker shock.

infograph of dog costs
infograph of cat costs
infograph for baby costs

Tips to make baby’s first year more affordable:

  • Get some gifts. Baby showers exist for a reason. Take advantage of this generous tradition and register for useful items that are must-haves like a stroller, bassinet, or a baby monitor.
  • Review your insurance. Your health plan can make a huge difference on how much you spend out of pocket during the first year of your baby’s life. Look at your deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and co-pays to estimate how much you’ll pay for childbirth plus the first year of baby care. 
  • Do double-duty. Find furniture and other items that serve more than one purpose. Do you really need a crib and a pack-and-play? If portability is a key concern, consider a foldable crib that will serve both needs. Other items to look for include changing table/dresser combos.
  • Join a co-op. There are a number of new parent groups to join, and they often include resources for babysitting swaps, passing on outgrown clothes and toys, or getting together to create homemade baby food, wipes, or cloth diapers.

Tips to make your pet’s first year more affordable:

  • Rescue a pup or kitty. Fees to adopt a puppy or kitten from a rescue or animal shelter are much lower than costs to buy from a breeder or pet store. You can save money and be a hero to a furbaby that desperately needs a loving home.
  • Get grooming. Taking care of your pet’s grooming needs at home can save you a bundle. If you’re unsure about cutting nails or brushing teeth, look for a grooming class or reach out to your vet for advice.
  • Sign up for rewards. Both local and online pet stores offer loyalty programs that give you discounts and other rewards when you buy food and other pet essentials. Look for programs that offer cash rewards or free items after a certain number of visits or dollar amount spent.
  • Consider pet insurance. The monthly cost of pet insurance ends up being a drop in the bucket if your pet needs emergency care.
  • Find a low-cost clinic. You can save a lot by using a low-cost clinic to spay, neuter, and vaccinate your four-legged little one. Find local clinics that are approved by the ASPCA or Humane Society.

Both pets and babies enrich our lives and give back to us so much that we don’t mind the cost of taking care of them. But why not be smart about it and do what you can to minimize expenses? Use these charts and tips to estimate how much your new addition will set you back—and find ways to save without skimping on your baby.

Our methodology

SafeWise calculated the average cost of the highest-rated Amazon products for each essential item listed. From there we estimated the annual cost for recurring needs such as diapers or food, and we used this information to find the total amounts. We excluded hospital costs and adoption fees because these vary depending on individual circumstances.

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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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