When I was a kid, I always had a friend with a litter of kittens or puppies stashed away at home. Few of our parents had their pets spayed or neutered because it was an expensive surgery beyond the means of most people in our town. I understand why people might be reluctant to shell out several hundred dollars for an elective surgery, but in the long run, you’ll likely pay a lot more.

I decided to take a look at some of the lesser-known costs of not spaying or neutering your pet to see how much extra you might shell out over a pet’s life, as well as research ways to get the surgery done for cheaper.

Behavior problems, or “What’s That Smell?”

If you don’t spay or neuter your pet, chances are that they’ll make a mess out of your living space.

Both male and females can spray, claw, dig, howl, and bite through things in a desperate attempt to find love.

You could end up facing thousands of dollars in repair bills if you own a home. You may even lose your deposit on an apartment if you’re a renter. The deposit on my apartment is $400, and I want to get it back when I leave!

Intact animals who do escape are more likely to roam far and wide in their quest for a mate. They could ignore cars and bikes, causing expensive accidents. If they are picked up by animal control, you’ll also face impound fees. My local animal control charges $40, plus an extra $10 per day for boarding costs.

If your animals are roaming, there’s also a good chance that they could harm someone – especially dogs. Intact male dogs are two and a half times more likely to bite people than neutered dogs. You could be sued for tens of thousands of dollars if your dog bites someone.

Health problems galore

Un-spayed females are prone to an infection of the reproductive system called pyometra. In one study, up to 24 percent of un-spayed females developed pyometra by their tenth birthday, and the most common treatment is surgery – with an average price tag of $1,200.

Intact animals are also prone to cancer in their reproductive system simply because they have a lot more parts that can get cancer!

Un-spayed female dogs, for instance, have a 200 times greater risk of developing breast cancer than spayed females. Cancer surgeries don’t come cheap. You could spend upwards of $10,000 to treat your pet.

The high cost of dealing with newborn puppies and kittens

The consequences might be cute if your pet unexpectedly becomes pregnant, but they come with a high price tag of their own. New puppies and kittens need to be checked, vaccinated, and wormed.

Dogs can give birth to seven or more puppies in a litter. Cats can give birth to five or more kittens. That could add up to a vet bill of several hundred dollars!

Licensing fees – yes, you have to pay them

Did you know that you’re supposed to register your pet with your local government? Most people ignore registering their pet, but it’s a good idea because in most places it is the law. Plus, it’ll help you get your pet back if you lose them and it helps to support your local animal shelter.

However, you’ll likely pay higher fees if your pet isn’t spayed or neutered. My local government charges $12 for each fixed cat or dog. But if your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, that number jumps to $35. If my dog and two cats weren’t spayed, I’d be spending an extra $230 over the course of 10 years!

How to find affordable options for spaying or neutering your pet

Hopefully I’ve made a good case for you to get your pet spayed or neutered (if they aren’t already).

But if you’re still strapped for cash and can’t afford the surgery, there are plenty of low-cost options available.

You could adopt a dog or a cat, for example. You’ll be helping out a homeless animal and driving down the demand for backyard (read: often unscrupulous) breeders at the same time. Plus, these pets usually come already fixed – or else the shelter will provide you with a financial incentive to get the surgery done.

You can also find low-cost spay and neuter clinics all over the country. These operations work through ace volunteer veterinarians and technicians who schedule many operations in one day, driving the cost down for you.

Some local governments even offer voucher programs that will reduce costs even further. My local government runs a Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (SNIP) and offers vouchers for surgeries that cost between $35 and $75 per pet – that’s as much as a bag of food! With prices that low, there is really no excuse.