(Shea Gunther) There are more than 150 million dogs and cats in the United States and close to four in 10 homes count a feline or canine as a member of the family. Most of those animals were saved from shelters or purchased from a pet store, costing no more than $100 or so, but pet owners looking for more specific breeds can a lot more money than that getting a cat or dog with breed certification papers. Then there are the rich pet owners who willingly throw down tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for an animal that will provide comfort and companionship -- and might also make their friends jealous. Some of the most expensive cats and dogs in the world are intensively bred to be hypoallergenic while others are simply rare. Whatever the reason for the eye-popping price tags, the following cats and dogs can set you back an arm and a tail.
Bengal cats are a hybrid of a domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat, a small, threatened wildcat. Bengal cats have been bred for more than 100 years, but it has only been since the 1960s that they have been bred in any significant numbers. Bengal cats are coveted for their wild markings and their rarity, and kittens can cost thousands of dollars.
The Tibetan mastiff is a large dog that originated in the mountains of Central Asia alongside the nomadic tribes who carved out a life there. They were traditionally used to protect homes, farms and flocks and could fight or scare off larger predators like leopards. In 2004, Chinese researchers found that the genetic line of the Tibetan mastiff had peeled away from the wolf 16,000 years before most common dog breeds. Last year an 11-month-old red Tibetan mastiff sold for $1.5 million, making it the single most expensive dog in the world.
The Lowchen (German for "little lion,") is one of the rarest dogs in the world. It originated in Europe around 400 years ago as a breed for the lords and ladies of the time. It was fashionable to groom the dog so that it resembled a lion with no trimming in the front half of the dog and a close trim on the hindquarters. Löwchen puppies can sell for thousands of dollars.
Khao Manee cat
The Khao Manee cat is a rare breed that originated in Thailand and is known for its white coat and typically different-colored eyes. These creatures were the royal cats of Old Siam and weren't available outside of Thailand until 1999. They are one of the cats mentioned in the "Tamra Maew," a book of Siamese cat poems dating from the 14th century. Now that's pedigree!
Canadian Eskimo dog
Canadian Eskimo dogs originated with the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic, most often working as sled dogs. They are particularly well suited to the extreme cold of the Arctic and have a thick coat capable of withstanding punishing weather conditions. They nearly went extinct in the 1950s and 1960s because of the increased use of snowmobiles by Inuit people and an alleged operation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to systematically slaughter the dogs in a bid to make life harder for the Arctic natives. The dogs were saved by an organization called the Eskimo Dog Research Foundation, which in the early 1970s bought and bred the last remaining dogs. At the low point, these dogs numbered in the hundreds. Today their numbers aren't that much better -- there are fewer than 300 dogs registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, and a puppy can cost thousands of dollars.
The Savannah cat is a hybrid between a domestic cat and a serval, the small African cat responsible for the Savannah cat's striking coat. The Savannah cat was first bred in the mid 1980s and has since become one of the most-desirable kitty choices on the luxury pet market. Savannah cat owners can usually expect to pay up to $5,000 for a healthy kitten.
Egyptian Pharaoh Hound
The Egyptian Pharaoh Hound is a striking breed of dog that was traditionally used as a companion for hunters from the Mediterranean country of Malta. Egyptian pharaoh hounds are strong, athletic, independent and active dogs that are rarely found outside of Malta. These dogs are beautiful but costly, a puppy can easily set you back $5,000.