My Unemployment Pet Project

When you're unemployed, you're home a lot. Sure, you may take your laptop to a cafe or go to the library to check out the resources there, but, in general, you are home. A lot. Definitely more than you were when you had a job, and a commute and overtime.

Wouldn't this be the perfect time to get a pet?

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I thought the same thing. I could go to the shelter and rescue an adorable mutt. We could take long walks and go to the dog park for some much needed canine and human interaction.

Unfortunately, dogs are a no-no in my building. So I started thinking about a cat. We'd had one previously. She passed away right after my layoff, and I found myself really missing her companionship on those long, quiet, job-seeking days.

When a friend alerted me to a litter of stray kittens on her street, I realized the time had come to bring a pet back into our home. So my friend and I sat on the sidewalk one cold December evening and waited until one of the strays wandered into the cat carrier. Suddenly, I found myself the owner of an adorable black and grey tabby, who I named Jarvis.

I'm so happy to have brought Jarvis home-he's a bundle of energy and affection, purring next to me as I type this. Something I didn't give much thought to, however, was the cost of a pet while living on the tight income of an unemployed person.

Here's the breakdown of what I spent in the first few weeks of kitten ownership (excluding taxes):

• Pet carrier, bought at a local discount pet store, nothing fancy: $16.99

• Cat scratching pad: $7.99

• Litter box, the covered kind to go in our small New York bathroom, and scoop: $14.99 and $3.49

• Kitty litter, the scooping kind, for easy clean up: $12.99

• Kitten food, a small bag of Iams: $11.99

• Cat food, the wet kind (he gets one can a day): $1.39/per can

• First vet visit, which includes tests for parasites and vaccines, but does not include spaying or neutering: $200.00 (and we need to go back in a week or so for a second inoculation)

Thankfully, a friend brought over some toys that her cats were bored with and another brought over 20 pounds of kitty litter that was sitting in his basement (after losing his cat a few months ago), which has saved me a bit of cash for now.

The cost of bringing a new pet into your home adds up fast, and it's important, when living on any kind of fixed income, to think about how these costs will fit into your budget and to know you will be able to maintain both the quality of life for yourself and your new pet. One thing to think about is pet insurance, should your new pal get sick. Just like medical bills for humans, those costs add up quick.

Personally, I think every penny spent on Jarvis has been worth it. I couldn't put a price on the warm feeling I get when he hops up on the couch to sit with me as I slog through the job boards and write out cover letters. He's definitely worth fitting into my monthly budget!

If you're thinking about adopting an animal, check out, which pulls listings from more than 12,973 adoption groups, as well as your local animal shelters.

Has anyone else adopted a pet while unemployed? What was your experience?

Briana Campbell


After being laid off at the end of 2008, Briana Campbell started the blog Unemployed Brooklyn under the pseudonym of MatchGirl, as a forum to write about life as an unemployed and single girl in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.During her unemployment, Briana has made good use of all her "free" time: organizing happy hours for her fellow unemployed in North Brooklyn - to create a sense of camaraderie and support to those in the same situation; taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology; sewing, baking and crafting; creating stuffed animal designs for her Etsy shop, Les Enfants Terribles, and writing for her various blogs.

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