It's a sad reality, but tough economic times sometimes call for tough decisions. For some people, that means facing a heart-wrenching truth—they simply can't afford to keep their pet. Don't put yourself or any animal through the pain of separation. See if owning a pet will fit in your budget before you get one.

Run the Numbers: Do you know how much each year it costs to own a pet? It's important to realize the cost of owning a pet only begins with the adoption fee. When you bring your new pet home, you've got to get food, bowls, leashes, collars, microchips, sleeping crates, carrying cases and, of course, a new toy or two. But as your pet gets older, you'll have to shell out for regular vet visits, vaccinations, medications, food, water, possible daycare or boarding and other expenses that could be specific to your pet's breed and size. Do some research and try to estimate what you'll be spending per year. It can help you plan for the financial long run.

Health Care Costs: Pet insurance plans are available, but do they make financial sense for you? Would you rather put a set amount away per month and draw on your pet savings account for vet visits and vaccinations?

In Case of Emergency: Broken bones, serious genetic defects, emergency surgery...if your dog or cat needs urgent care, can you afford it? A pet is a member of your family, so you'll go to great lengths to ensure its health and safety. But start putting some money away now so your pet's health won't send you into debt. Start a saving plan so if the unexpected happens, you can focus on nursing your pet back to health and not how you'll pay for it.

Getting the Goods: What things will you need to buy for your pet on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis? Does it need to eat premium food? Will you actually make food yourself? What sort of toys or supplies does it regularly use? Be aware of what will be coming into your home—and how much you'll have to spend on all of it.

Grooming: Is your dog or cat particularly high maintenance? Can you handle the brushing, shaving and nail clipping yourself, or will you need to get some professional help? Grooming is an important part of your dog or cat's health. Don't neglect it to save a buck.

Work with a Vet You Can Trust: Your vet should give the best care possible to your pet, but also take care of you. Do you think you're being overcharged? Do you feel like some of the things your vet is recommending are over the top or just unnecessary? If you feel like you aren't being fairly treated, don't be afraid to ask questions about your bill.

Travel Plans: Whether it's a business trip or your dream cruise, consider what you'll do with your dog or cat when you're away. Will a family member dog or cat sit for free, or will you have to pay someone to come into your home? Can you afford to leave your pet at a boarding facility or long-term pet hotel? Get an estimate of a few options in your area, think about how much you'll be away and run the numbers.

Take this quiz and find out which pets match your lifestyle


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