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The financial costs of getting a pet

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·5-min read
Cat and dog sleeping together. Kitten and puppy taking nap. Home pets. Animal care. Love and friendship. Domestic animals.
People who bought a pet on a whim may not realise just how expensive caring for an animal can be. Photo: Getty

With more people spending prolonged periods at home due to lockdowns, this year has seen the cost of pets soar. Dogs and cats, in particular, have reached extortionate prices, with Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increasing by 166% since the first lockdown in March.

Research by the charity Dog’s Trust has found some of the UK’s most desirable dog breeds have reached record levels. Pugs, Dachshunds and Chow Chows have never been higher, whilst English and French Bulldogs have also seen significant price hikes.

The most expensive of the breeds, English Bulldogs, advertised for as much as £2,140 ($2,856.80) on average in June compared to an average of £1,637 in March - although some listings reached as high as £9,000.

Along with fears over the rise of cruel puppy farms and dog smugglers, experts suggest many dogs will be abandoned as their owners head back to work and no longer have time to care for them. According to Dog’s Trust, up to 40,000 more dogs could be at risk of abandonment in the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

People who bought a pet on a whim may not realise just how expensive caring for an animal can be, too. Budgeting for a pet is an important part of pet ownership, but a study by the US animal charity PDSA found the majority of pet owners underestimate the costs involved with providing for their pet. So how much does it cost to share your home with an animal?

The average cost of buying a pet

The cost of your pet depends on the type of animal you’re thinking about getting. A rescue dog can cost up to £200 in the UK, which often includes vet checks, neutering and microchipping, but a dog from a breeder can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds. Popular pedigree breeds or “designer” cross-breeds can cost upwards of £2,000.

Depending on the charity, rescue cats can cost from £80 to adopt which often covers veterinary fees. However, a purebred pedigree kitten from a breeder can cost up to £1,000. Guinea pigs and hamsters cost a lot less, usually between £10 and £20.

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The cost of pet food

According to the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, cat food can cost up to £55 a month and litter can cost up to £10 a month. However, this can vary widely depending on the type of food bought.

The dog food can be similarly expensive, depending on the size of the dog and whether it needs to have specific food due to intolerances. Larger dogs will cost more to feed. Rodents cost a lot less to feed, but you do have to factor in the cost of things like bedding and sawdust.

The cost of toys, bedding and extras

The smaller purchases for your pets can really add up. If you have a long-haired cat or a dog with thick or long fur, they may need regular visits to a groomer to keep them in good condition. The cost of a full groom for a small dog, which include a wash, trim, eye cleaning and nail trim, can be around £30.

You’re also likely to stock up on toys for dogs and cats, particularly if you have indoor cats who need more stimulation to prevent boredom. Comfortable beds, bowls, dental sticks, dog chews, collars, leads and more can be quite costly. Large dogs may go through chew toys more quickly and excitable or intelligent breeds may need a wider range of toys to prevent restlessness, which can lead to destructive behaviours.

The cost of pet insurance

Pet insurance that covers accidents, illnesses and general vet checks is essential. Although it may seem like a large expense each month, it is far less than the cost of having to cover vet fees yourself, which can be extortionate.

According to a survey of more than 1,300 Which? members, the average price for an annual lifetime policy has reached £472 for a dog and £285 for a cat. The breed of cat or dog you own can make a significant difference to how much it costs to insure it.

It’s also important to remember that certain breeds, particularly among dogs, are prone to genetic illnesses or conditions that can become very expensive to treat.

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If you get a new puppy or kitten, you need to get them vaccinated. Your initial round of jabs will cost around £100, but you will also need to factor in the annual boosters, which cost about £50. Rescue animals may come with their first or both sets of injections before you can bring them home.

The average cost or a spay or neutering is between £50 and £200, depending on where you are and which vet you use. Microchipping costs between £15 and £20.

You will also need to flea and worm your cat or dog frequently, usually once every three months. Each treatment can cost around £10.

The cost of kennels and catteries

Although we’re unlikely to be going on holiday any time soon due to Covid-19, it’s likely you will want to go away at some point in the future. Keeping a cat in a cattery can cost around £10 to £15 a day and £15 to £20 for kennels. You can also get a live-in pet sitter, which can be more expensive.

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