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The real cost of pet ownership

While many people dream of owning a pet, it can be more expensive than you might expect.

Here we outline the average costs of pet ownership, including top level costs for owning dogs, cats, rabbits and fish.

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The unexpected costs of pet ownership 

The dream of owning a pet can quickly become a nightmare.

Despite it being an aspiration for so many people, inflation and rising bills mean that it’s become less affordable.

And due to this unaffordability, it’s an unfortunate reality that many owners just can’t afford to keep their pets. 

Since the pandemic, and the wave of new pet ownership that came with it, there has been a 20 per cent jump in pet abandonments.

Among the reasons for this jump, in 95 per cent of cases, the cost of care, including vet and grooming costs, was listed as the main reason. 

So, although many pets remain with loving owners, it’s important for anyone considering buying a pet to be fully aware of just how much pets can cost, so that they aren’t met with an expensive surprise further down the line.  

What are some of the average costs of owning pets? 

There’s no exact amount for how much owning a pet will cost you, as it varies a lot depending on how much you choose to spend on them, but there are some rough estimates that can be made: 

  • Dogs: Depending on the breed and level of care that you give to your dog, you could be looking at a lifetime cost of as much as £30,800. That would be around £80 a month  

  • Cats: With the same conditions as dogs, you should always expect to spend a minimum of £70 a month on a cat. This will normally come to between £12,000 and £24,000 over a cat’s lifetime 

  • Rabbits: The average cost of owning a rabbit is slightly lower than larger animals, but you should still plan to spend roughly £6,500 to £9,000 a year on a pair of rabbits 

  • Fish: Fish are a more budget-friendly pet to own, and will typically only cost a couple of thousand over their short lifespans 

What are the upfront costs of buying a pet? 

The first cost you will need to prepare for is the upfront price of the pet itself.

The amount you’ll need to pay will vary depending on what pet you’re looking to buy, but generally the larger, more popular and better pedigree the pet, the more you should expect to pay.  

Cats and dogs from rescue homes and reputable breeders can come as cheap as £50, but if you’re looking to buy a pedigree breed, you might need to spend thousands.

Guinea pigs, hamsters and small birds will normally cost only around £20.  

How much does pet food cost? 

Pet food is another area where costs can vary a lot.

More budget-friendly pet foods for cats and dogs won’t set you back too much, but there are more premium foods that cost a lot more.

In a year, with a larger pet like a cat or a dog, you’re looking at spending between £200 and £400.

For fish and other small animals, food is even cheaper and won’t set you back too much.  

How much do medical bills and pet insurance cost? 

Lots of pet owners choose to take out pet insurance for the same reason they may have some form of life insurance of their own; should their pet get ill or need treatment, it can be an unexpected cost.  

Vet bills are extremely expensive, meaning owners can be set back hundreds, sometimes even thousands of pounds, for surgeries and treatments.  

But this doesn’t mean that insurance premiums are significantly more affordable.

In a year, cat and dog owners will be expected to pay anywhere between £285 and £472 to protect their pets, with premiums becoming more expensive the older they become.  

Smaller mammals can also get insurance, and these policies are normally more affordable, however the same caveats apply.

Exotic animals, like snakes, are much harder to insure, and many providers won’t cover them at all. 

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How much does it cost to get a pet neutered? 

While lots of pets don’t need to be neutered, lots of dog and cat owners choose this option so as not to end up with more kittens and puppies than they bargained for.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always a cheap option to pursue, with costs varying anywhere between £60 and £180 for average-sized cats and dogs, and several hundred for much larger pets.  

How much does it cost to get a pet microchipped? 

Microchipping helps pet owners keep track of their animals should they get lost.

And while it’s a good idea to get a cat microchipped, it’s now a legal requirement for owners to get their dogs microchipped.

Thankfully, chipping pets is very affordable, and should cost around £15.  

How much does pet grooming cost? 

From keeping pets in good shape to avoiding worms and other illnesses, lots of pets need somewhat regular grooming to keep them healthy.

These are running costs and depending on the breed and pedigree of your pets, they can be substantial.  

Flea and worm treatments usually only come to around £5 and £10 a month.

However, dogs that need (or owners that prefer them to have) more regular grooming can be more expensive to maintain.

Dog owners should expect to pay between £20 and £80 each time they look to groom their pets.  

How much do kennels and catteries cost? 

When pet owners go away, there are a few options open to them when it comes to making sure their pets will still be looked after.

If owners choose to keep their pets in a kennel or cattery, they can expect to pay between £10 and £17 a day. Live-in carers will cost more.  

Accessories and pet beds 

From toys to beds, it’s a pet owners’ preference how much they choose to spend on their pets.

There are ways to keep costs down though, even when it comes to making sure pets are entertained and have fresh beds to sleep in.

In a year, owners should look to spend around £200 on accessories.  

To avoid any nasty shocks down the line, the key to ensuring you can afford a pet is through diligent planning.

And when planning your financial future, it always helps to seek advice.

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.