Alternative Pets That You’re Sure To Love (For When Cats and Dogs Are Just Too Expensive Or Mainstream)

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How much do pets cost? 

Getting a pet is a big responsibility! We’re talking about spending thousands of dollars and being a full-time parent to an animal for 10 – 20 years. As we’ve already seen, a family with a dog will easily spend $7,875 on their pet throughout its life. A family with a cat will easily spend $9,445 on it! What happens when you want a pet, but don’t want a ‘traditional’ pet, or want to spend less than $7,000? Today we have a list of more affordable ‘nontraditional’ pets that you’re sure to love. Caring for these pets on this list will cost anywhere between $9 – $7,000.

February is Responsible Pet Owners Month. Before we get started, we want to remind you that the pets on this list still need plenty of care. They’ll need food, water, and affection for their entire life. These pets are living breathing animals and are not ‘throw-away’ pets. The only difference with these pets is that they won’t leave as much of a dent in your income. 

How much does a ferret cost?  

These animals are often small and furry, so they’re thought of as rodents. They are actually in the same family as minks and skunks. Ferrets live 8 – 10 years on average. They are usually about 1 ½ ft. long and weigh 3lbs. They are playful and intelligent. 

They tend to be social animals, so they will need a lot of attention. You may even need to get two ferrets! These animals can live indoors or outdoors. Indoor ferrets will need a cage, but they can be let out of the cage to hang out with the family. Outdoor ferrets need to live in good weather. If your area has a lot of extreme weather, you should keep your ferret indoors. They are known to dig under fences. If they’re outside, they’ll need to live in a shed or in an outdoor ferret hutch.

Common complaints are that they smell bad. They will need to be bathed monthly, but their strong odor should be minimized somewhat after they’re spayed or neutered. Click here for more information on how to care for a ferret.

$125 for a ferret. $250 for vaccines. $150 to spay or neuter. $120 for a cage, bedding, food bowl, and other start-up items. Food and litter costs about $20 each month.

Lifetime total: At least $2,805 (for one) or $5,570 (for two) 

How much does a hamster cost? 

These animals are small furry rodents. They live for about 2 – 3 years. Their breed can determine how large they grow. On average hamsters are about 4 – 6 in. long and weigh less than 1 lb. Hamsters don’t tend to be super affectionate, but they can be a little playful. They tend to be cautious and nervous around new things, so be sure to take time to bond with them.

Hamsters are not social, so there’s no reason to get multiple. If you do decide to get multiple, just be sure that they are all the same breed of hamster. Different breeds will fight. Hamsters are indoor animals and will need fresh food every day. You’ll need to get them a wire hamster cage. Place about 6 inches of bedding on the floor of their cage so that they can dig.

A common complaint is that hamsters are nocturnal. This means they rarely want to play during the day. Often owners will hear their hamster running around their cage and playing in the middle of the night. Click here for more information on how to care for a hamster.

$20 for a hamster. $200 for a cage, bedding, food bowl, and other start-up items. Monthly costs including vet trips, food, and bedding will be about $50.

Lifetime total: At least $1,720

How much does a snake cost?  

Often, snakes are confused for invertebrates. Snakes are actually reptiles! Depending on their breed, they can live for about 10 – 30 years and grow to about 2 – 5 ft. long. They are not social animals and may become aggressive if they share their home with another snake.

Depending on how big your snake is expected to grow, you will need a 20 – 40-gallon tank with a secure screen lid. Snakes are known to sneak out. Make sure the lid is secure. Put a cozy hideaway in the tank so that the snake can feel secure. Cover the bottom of the tank with substrate and add some fake décor. Snakes love to climb branches and bask in the sun on rocks. A water dish is great for drinking and swimming. You’ll need an under-tank heater and basking light so your snake can stay warm. Invest in a separate feeding tank. This will keep the snake from associating the outside of the cage with food.

A common complaint about snakes is that sometimes they do not like to be handled. Since they don’t wine or yelp, it can be difficult to tell if they are uncomfortable or even in pain. Click here for more information on how to care for a snake

The snake will cost about $50. It’s tank, décor, and heating will cost about $143. Food will cost about $50 each year.

Lifetime total: At least $1,193 

How much does a rabbit cost?  

These animals are smaller than a cat, but larger than a guinea pig. Rabbits are very affectionate rodents. On average, rabbits will live for about 8 – 12 years. Most will grow to be about 15 in. long and weigh 4 lbs. They are social animals and will need plenty of attention. A lack of attention can make them grumpy. Some people recommend getting a second rabbit so that they can play and keep each other calm. Just be sure your rabbits are spayed and neutered.

Rabbits are indoor animals. They will need a large space to run around and explore. Some people let their rabbits have free rein of the house. Others confine their rabbits to a bunny-proof room or two. Others keep their rabbits within a large puppy pen. Make sure that the rabbits are located somewhere where they’ll get tons of attention from the family.

One common complaint is that bunnies are known to chew through everything, similar to a teething puppy. You’ll have to bunny-proof the area by covering wires, baseboards, and the bottoms of furniture. You may also need to block off beds, bookshelves, and house plants because rabbits chew these a lot. Click here for more information on how to care for a rabbit.

$40 for a rabbit. $190 for an initial vet visit including spay or neutering. $147 for pet start-up supplies like a puppy pen, hay feeder, litter box, and more. You’ll have to take your rabbit to the vet about once a year for $50. Each month you’ll spend about $30 on food and litter.

Lifetime total: At least $4,477 (for one) or $6,917 (for two)

How much does a fish cost?  

We’ll focus on a betta fish because you only have to take care of one at a time, rather than an entire tank. They live for about 3 – 5 years and grow to be about 2 ½ in. long. Beta fish are also known as Siamese fighting fish. They are absolutely gorgeous fish, and come in a variety of colors.

Betta fish hate other fish and should be in their own tank. If you have another one in a separate tank, make sure they can’t see each other. They’re very aggressive animals. They’ll need a 1-gallon or 5-gallon tank. Placing an LED light above the tank is best because they’ll have some natural light and it won’t heat up the water. Their tanks will need to be cleaned out about every 2 – 3 days. You’ll have to keep an eye on the temperature and chemistry of the water

A common complaint is that you can’t hold or play with a fish. They just sit in a tank, and some people find that incredibly boring. Click here for more information on how to care for a betta fish

Your betta fish will cost about $12. The tank, filter, lighting, and décor will cost about $70. You’ll need to spend about $45 each year for medication and food. 

Lifetime total: At least $262 

How much does a plant cost?  

You laugh, but plants actually make great pets! You have to care for them, make sure they’re in a comfortable environment, and water them daily or weekly. A lot of research shows that spending time to talk with your plants can actually help them grow. Let’s face it, your life already consists of work and raising your kids. Do you genuinely have enough hours in the day to care for a living breathing animal? Plants don’t require nearly as much attention as any of the other pets on this list. Plants will never make a mess on the rug or wake you up in the middle of the night demanding food.

I’ve seen it time and time again: once you become a plant parent, you’ll never want to stop. You may start out with one plant, but soon you’ll find yourself with multiple. You could grow a succulent plant, like a cactus, which is easier to take care of. Or, you could grow plants that produce edible fruits and vegetables. This is a great way to save money on groceries. Click here for more information on how to take care of a houseplant.

In comparison to the rest of the pets on this list, plants are relatively affordable too. You might spend about $4 on a plant and $5 on a ceramic pot and some dirt.

Lifetime total: At least $9

Again, getting a pet is a huge responsibility. You should consider the financial price of a pet, as well as the amount of time you will have to take care of it every day. The pets on this list are just as valid as a cat or dog. They will need to be fed, cleaned, cared for, and loved their entire life. Be sure to read up as much as possible before making the decision to adopt a pet. Check out websites, read blogs, and even consider joining Facebook groups with people who already own that type of animal. There is plenty of information out there to prepare you for being a pet parent! 

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