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The lifetime cost of owning a pet

Pets can bring a lot of joy into our lives but, just like with any other member of your household, you have to spend money to keep them happy and healthy.

Planning for pet ownership

It may seem like you can just walk into your closest animal shelter and bring home your new best friend, but the truth is pet ownership requires a lot of planning, including financially.

This is especially true in the current cost-of-living crisis, where millions of people across the UK have had to cut back on their weekly food shop to keep providing for their pets, many even falling into debt to do so. As owners struggle to keep up with the costs of pet ownership, many animal shelters are operating at full capacity, with more pets being abandoned than rehomed.

To help you make sure you’re as well-prepared as you can be to give your pet a good life, we’ve rounded up some of the common things you’ll have to spend money on and how much you’re likely to pay for them.

Initial costs of owning a pet

When you first get your pet, not only will you have to pay for it but you’ll also have to spend quite a bit of money to get everything it’ll need.

As cats and dogs are the most commonly owned pets in the UK, we’ve looked at how much it could cost you to bring a cat or dog into your home.

Your pet (rescue or pedigree)
Lower average cost
£30
Higher average cost
£2,500
Bed
Lower average cost
£15
Higher average cost
£175
Food and water bowls
Lower average cost
£5
Higher average cost
£125
Spaying or neutering
Lower average cost
£255
Higher average cost
£450
Initial vet check-up and first round of vaccinations
Lower average cost
£95
Higher average cost
£145
Microchipping
Lower average cost
£15
Higher average cost
£50
Pads for potty training
Lower average cost
£5
Higher average cost
£30
Lead and collar or harness
Lower average cost
£10
Higher average cost
£220
Toys, treats and poop bags
Lower average cost
£15
Higher average cost
£145
Pet food
Lower average cost
£25
Higher average cost
£100
Pet shampoo and brush
Lower average cost
£10
Higher average cost
£45
Total
Lower average cost
£487
Higher average cost
£3,940
Lower average cost Higher average cost
Your pet (rescue or pedigree) £30 £2,500
Bed £15 £175
Food and water bowls £5 £125
Spaying or neutering £255 £450
Initial vet check-up and first round of vaccinations £95 £145
Microchipping £15 £50
Pads for potty training £5 £30
Lead and collar or harness £10 £220
Toys, treats and poop bags £15 £145
Pet food £25 £100
Pet shampoo and brush £10 £45
Total £487 £3,940

Of course, if you choose a pet that isn’t a cat or a dog, you’ll need to buy different items, such as a cage for a hamster or a bird, and likely won’t spend as much overall. Smaller pets like hamsters and guinea pigs also tend to be even less expensive, costing on average £20.

Ongoing costs of owning a pet

Just like any other member of your household, you’ll need to spend money on your pet regularly to keep it happy and healthy!

Here are some of the things you should be adding into your monthly budget to make sure you’re taking proper care of your new friend.

Lower average cost per month Higher average cost per month
Pet food £10 £80
Poop bags £2 £24
Pet insurance £10 £43
Regular check-ups and further vaccinations (usually paid annually, or monthly as part of a vet plan) £15 £65
Flea and worming treatment £10 £15
Grooming (if professional grooming needed) £20 £90
Toys £5 £30
Treats £5 £75
Total £77 £362
Pet food
Lower average cost per month
£10
Higher average cost per month
£80
Poop bags
Lower average cost per month
£2
Higher average cost per month
£24
Regular check-ups and further vaccinations (usually paid annually, or monthly as part of a vet plan)
Lower average cost per month
£15
Higher average cost per month
£65
Flea and worming treament
Lower average cost per month
£10
Higher average cost per month
£15
Grooming (if professional grooming needed)
Lower average cost per month
£20
Higher average cost per month
£90
Toys
Lower average cost per month
£5
Higher average cost per month
£30
Treats
Lower average cost per month
£5
Higher average cost per month
£75
Lead and collar or harness
Lower average cost per month
£10
Higher average cost per month
£220
Toys, treats and poop bags
Lower average cost per month
£15
Higher average cost per month
£145
Pet food
Lower average cost per month
£25
Higher average cost per month
£100
Pet shampoo and brush
Lower average cost per month
£10
Higher average cost per month
£45
Total
Lower average cost per month
£77
Higher average cost per month
£362

It’s likely that your average monthly cost will fall somewhere between these amounts. For example, the average dog owner in the UK spends around £252 per month on their pet. Food, especially, can get expensive if your pet has specific dietary needs.

Veterinary bills, pet sitters and other occasional costs of owning a pet

So you’ve included all the ongoing costs of pet ownership in your monthly and annual budgets, and you’re confident you can afford to give your new pet a good life. That’s great! But you should also be prepared for some additional costs.

Pet sitting and long-term temporary housing

Some people have friends and family willing to look after their pets when they go away, but this isn’t the case for everyone. But there are a few options available to make sure your pet is looked after while you’re on holiday.

If you don’t mind someone staying in your house to look after your pet, you can arrange this on services like Trusted Housesitters, where memberships start at £119 per year. Otherwise, pet sitting can cost an average of £25 a day if you’re leaving your pet with someone in their own home.

You could also leave your pet in a dedicated facility, like a kennel or a cattery. This tends to be a good option if you know you’ll be away for more than a few weeks. Leaving your cat in a cattery can cost anywhere between £12 to £29 per day, while a kennel can charge from £17 to £29 daily to look after your dog. These prices will go up if you want your pet to have its own enclosure.

Dog walking and pet daycare

For dog owners, a dog walker can be essential if you’re going to be out of the house for several hours at a time but it can be expensive. Dog walkers charge on average between £10 and £15 per hour, but it’s also important to choose the right dog walker for you and your dog. Depending on your dog’s needs, the price can be a bit higher, for example if it can’t be walked with other dogs.

Cat owners also have the option of paying a cat sitter to visit while they’re out of the house to check on their cat, give it food or medication, if necessary, or simply to keep it company. This can cost between £10 to £30 per hour.

You might also choose to leave your pet in daycare while you’re at work. This is a great option if you were one of 3.2 million people in the UK who got a pet during the pandemic and have since returned to the office, leaving your pet home alone.

The cost of pet daycare can vary, but you’ll be looking to spend anywhere from £10 to £30 each day your pet spends in daycare. Some facilities give you the option to leave your pet with them for only part of the day, which you’ll pay a little less for.

Veterinary bills

If you’ve just got a happy, healthy kitten, going to the vet and being dealt a hefty bill is probably not in your plans!

Veterinary bills, even if very rare, can be one of the biggest costs of pet ownership - especially if your pet needs more serious medical interventions. For example, if your dog needs surgery, this could cost you upwards of £1,500, while a full course of chemotherapy could cost you an eyewatering £5,000.

Even if your pet is doing great now, you never know what can happen. Depending on what kind of medical problem it will have to face, you could end up in the terrible position of not being able to afford to pay for your pet’s healthcare.

The lifetime cost of owning a pet

It’s also worth bearing in mind your pet will, hopefully, be around for a long time. While smaller pets like hamsters tend to have shorter lifespans, most breeds of cats and dogs tend to live longer than 10 years.

Taking the average costs from the table above and a lifespan of 12 years, here’s how much you can expect to spend on your pet throughout its lifetime.

Lower average cost Higher average cost
Monthly costs £77 £362
Yearly estimated cost of pet sitting or pet day care per year £119 £1,125
Total yearly costs £1,043 £5,469
Total (over the course of 12 years) £12,516 £65,628

You might still need to cover some additional costs, if you get a vet bill your pet insurance won’t cover or if you need to hire a dog walker for the day, but having an estimated figure to weigh against your budget is a great first step to being well-prepared for pet ownership.

How pet insurance can help you save

To protect themselves from ending up in a situation where they could go into debt for their pet’s medical care, many pet owners choose to add pet insurance to their monthly ongoing costs instead. That way, if something unexpected happens, they can be sure their pet will get the care it needs without having to empty their bank account.

The average cost of pet insurance is currently around £6 per month for a cat and £12 per month for a dog, but it’s worth bearing in mind that cheaper policies might not cover everything your pet might need.

If your pet is diagnosed with a lifelong condition, a cheaper policy might only cover the first twelve months of medication, while a more expensive one might cover your pet for life. Many insurance policies don’t cover dental costs, for example, so you might want to pay extra for this.

Another thing to keep in mind when looking at cheaper pet insurance policies is what excess you’ll have to pay. Your insurance excess is the amount you have to pay towards each claim, for example if you're claiming for a £300 treatment and your excess is £50 - you'll pay £50 and the insurance company will pay the remaining £250. This amount will be different between policies and provider, so you should take care to choose a policy with an excess that matches your budget.

Even so, regardless of what level of pet insurance you end up choosing, an x-ray alone can cost more than £300, so your investment will give you some peace of mind that you won't be caught off-guard if something happens.

Having a pet is always worth it

Regardless of the cost, if you're an animal lover, having a pet can be one of the greatest joys in your life. They'll be with you through the good times and the bad times, so it's important that you appreciate them by giving them the care they deserve.

But whether you're sticking to a lower budget or splurging a bit more on your pet, at the end of the day what they care about most is you, so make sure to enjoy every moment with them!

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