How much does it really cost to own a pet?

family with cat and dog

We all love our pets – whether they’ve been a constant companion our whole lives or are a new addition to the family, they bring endless unconditional love and fun. As we found in our previous blog on how to give our pets a treat on a budget, there are countless benefits to owning pets, from keeping us fit to protecting our mental health.

That said, owning a pet is a massive responsibility which shouldn’t be taken on lightly. Many people forget that looking after a pet involves more than just feeding them, neglecting to take other costs into consideration. In fact, research from People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) discovered that a whopping 98% of pet owners underestimated the costs of owning a pet in the long term. So if you’re thinking of bringing a new furry friend into your home, you need to know how much it actually costs and what kind of pet will best suit your budget.

The cost of owning a dog

chocolate Labrador puppy

As a nation, the UK has a serious case of puppy love. According to PDSA, 24% of adults own a dog, with the dog population currently at a staggering 8.9 billion in the UK alone. We’re big fans of our canine companions, and seem to happily shell out the cash to prove it.

In fact, insurance company Protectivity recently discovered that the UK collectively spends £1.3 billion on their dogs every month. A lot of this is on special treats to show them how much we love them, with around 30% of dog owners saying they’ll spend more on gifts for their dogs at Christmas than they will on their partners.

But before the decadent gifts and novelty clothing, what basic costs should we be aware of when we think about getting a dog?

Initial costs

Getting a pooch may not seem like it’ll cost much at first sight. You can adopt a dog for £150 from shelters like Dog’s Trust, or £135 for dogs over six months old from Battersea Dog’s Home and the RSPCA. If you’re looking for a puppy it will cost slightly more, set at £165 from Battersea Dog’s Home and £200 from the RSPCA.

The benefit of adopting a dog means they come fully vaccinated, microchipped, neutered and will have had a full vet check. Your new pup will also come with a collar, a starter pack of food, a lead and a month’s worth of insurance to get you started.

However, if you opt to buy a dog from a breeder it can cost between £50 and £500 – though this can go up into the thousands for rare or pedigree breeds. You’ll then need to pay for vaccinations, which costs between £30 and £60 for puppies and then up to £40 each year for annual boosters.

Microchipping only costs £20, or just £10 to get the details updated to your address if the breeder or rescue centre have already had them microchipped. If you don’t get it done you run the risk of a £500 fine, making it an absolute essential to help keep your dog safe and avoid a hefty fee.

The Essentials

After these initial costs, you’ll need to consider everyday costs such as food, bowls, beds, toys and all the other small things your pup will need throughout their life. PDSA estimates these little bits add up to between £370 – £425 for small to large dogs.

Pet food alone can cost around £25 a month depending on the food you’re buying, coming to an estimate of around £200-£400 a year according to the Money Advice Service. When it comes to ongoing costs such as regular flea and worm treatments and yearly health checks, it’ll cost between £34-£330 a year.

Dog Insurance

Then there’s the money you should put aside ‘just in case’ so you’re prepared for the worst. If your dog gets injured or ill, you need to be sure you’ll be able to cover the costs. By comparing a range of insurance providers and cover at MoneySupermarket, pet insurance for a healthy young dog can cost between £8 and £86 a month depending on the cover you opt for and from which insurance company.

Which? estimates the average cost of a lifetime insurance policy at around £472 a year, but if you skip these prices you could end up with an even bigger fee if your dog has an accident or needs surgery. Thankfully there’s a wide range of options to suit a range of budgets, so it’s simple to get a fair quote which will still keep your pet safe. Keep in mind that these costs will increase as your dog gets older.

Extras

Plus, many of us will have to factor in costs of doggy daycare and similar schemes if we don’t have the luxury of a dog-friendly office. These daycare options are great as they keep your dog happy and socialised, and some even come with training classes thrown in – but with an average cost of £25 a day the prices stack up fast.

There are also extra expenses like pet grooming which can cost between £18 and £80, not to mention dog walking (average of £10.37 per walk) or kennels if you can’t bring them with you on holiday which cost an average of £17.35 per day. Some dogs may also need some training classes, but if you’re an experienced dog owner you may well be fine training your dog at home.

Overall cost

Ultimately, according to research by PDSA, owning a dog costs at least £6,500 – £17,000 over their whole lifetime, varying depending on their size, breed and age – and that’s the minimum. Others have estimated the total price at closer to £21,000, going as high as £33,000 for larger breeds which seems like a more realistic estimate when all things are considered. The initial cost of getting a dog is under £200 if you choose to adopt, but if you buy a dog initial costs can get to around £850 when you take into account all the medical necessities.

Naturally, costs will vary depending on the dog and its special needs. Olivia Williams from My Pet Needs That told us:

“When adopting a dog, ongoing costs will vary from breed to breed as their common conditions will vary. For instance, French Bulldogs are prone to many skin conditions and allergies. For this reason, the cost of keeping a Frenchie can increase throughout spring as the pollen count rises and products are purchased to maintain the dog’s comfort.

Similarly, English Bulldogs often need a speciality diet in order to maintain not only a healthy appearance but ensure that they steer away from suffering from the heart conditions they are prone to. All of this comes at a price, so it is an inaccurate assumption to assume that the cost will stay the same for every dog you may own.”

But if we’re looking at a healthy, fit, medium size dog as an example, the average monthly cost comes to something between £120 and £180, depending on which insurance you get and how many toys you treat them to.

That’s not including extras like doggy daycare, boarding or occasional things like a new bed. Yearly looking after a dog can cost almost £1,500 – £2,000, and that doesn’t factor in the extras or unforeseen circumstances like surprise vet bills, so keep this in mind when you’re considering adding a dog to the family. 

dog fees and expenses

The cost of owning a cat

person stroking a cat

Unsurprisingly, owning a cat comes out cheaper than a dog. They’re smaller, usually less expensive to buy or adopt and cheaper to feed. They also need less looking after generally. Unlike dogs, they won’t need daycare or walking, making them far less high-maintenance.

However, on the whole they still need everything a dog needs, including pet insurance, food, toys, vaccinations, boosters and microchipping. It’s also worth noting that cats usually live longer than dogs, meaning that while initial costs may be less, they still stack up in the long term.

Initial Costs

Adopting a cat from the RSPCA costs between £35 and £55 depending on the cat. Prices can be more or less depending on the cat’s age, breed and special needs. As with dogs, they’ll come fully vaccinated and microchipped from a rescue centre, along with one month’s free insurance. On Pets4Homes you can sometimes get a cat for free or as little as £10, but for rare breeds and pedigrees such as Maine Coons kittens the prices go up into the thousands.

After looking at Pets4Homes listings the Animal Health Company found that, on average, initial vaccinations will cost around £60 to £80, neutering between £30 to £50,  microchipping £15 to £20 plus £50 a year for annual boosters and jabs.

The Essentials

Cat food works out cheaper than the cost for dogs, but still comes to around £100 – £200 a year depending on the food you opt for and whether you’ve got a picky eater. Extras like a cat basket, collar, litter tray, toys and a bed will usually be around £200 a year, and catteries only cost £5-£10 a day for when you’re going on holiday.  

Cat Insurance

Which? estimates the cost of insurance for cats at £285 a year, but again you can shop around to find a quote which suits you.

It’s worth noting that, like dogs, cats have vastly varying personalities. Some may prefer to be indoor house cats who may need cat litter and more toys to keep them busy, but are less likely to get fleas, injured or lost which outdoor cats run the risk of. How much you spend on things like insurance and everyday necessities will depend on the personality of your cat. For example, if you need to buy more expensive food for picky eaters or install a cat flap, these could make them more expensive to look after.

Overall cost and ways to save

Overall, the Money Advice service estimates the cost of owning a kitty of your own is around £12,000 to £17,000 over their lifetime. This isn’t as much as owning a dog, plus there are still plenty of ways to save. Just take it from these money-savvy cat owners:

Jo Middleton, aka Slummy Single Mummy and author of Playgroups and Prosecco:

“Having three cats definitely comes at a price! The basics like food, flea treatments, pet insurance and of course treats, sets me back about £90 a month, but on top of that there are annual vaccinations and unexpected vet bills – I recently had to spend around £160 on antibiotics and steroids for a paw infection that annoyingly spanned two insurance years and meant I had to pay the excess twice.

I also pay a friend of my daughter’s to come in and feed them when we go away, so that probably averages out at around £20-30 a month, depending on how often I can justify a mini-break!”

Personal finance expert Mrs Mummypenny cuts costs with her cat Trev:

“I’ve got one cat Trev. He is mega cheap to look after. Aldi food pouches cost around £5 per week. We don’t have pet insurance. When we go on holiday the neighbours pop in to feed him. He cost £35 from the Blue Cross cat shelter. Oh, and don’t forget flea and wormer treatments at £20 every 3 months.”

cat ownership expenses

Cheaper options: Rabbits and fish

pet rabbit on bed

The cost of owning a rabbit

There are plenty of other options if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly pet. Rabbits and fish are popular options and great starter pets if you don’t have the budget or the space for a dog or cat.

However, unlike cats and dogs who can integrate happily into the family home, these pets will all need specialist environments such as cages, hutches or tanks which will need constant upkeep. They will also have more varied food which varies from cheap fish food to fresh vegetables.

Initial costs

Rabbits only cost around £25 to £60 from adoption centres, or £15 to £55 from pet shops and breeders. At adoption centres they’ll come neutered and vaccinated, but if you buy them you’ll have to cover vet fees of around £30 for yearly boosters and £80 to have them spayed or neutered.

The Essentials

The hutch itself will cost you at least £60, then hay for the month between £10 and £20. Veggies you can buy with your own grocery shop, but expect to spend around £20 a month, plus £50 for pellets.

Insurance

Rabbits run less risk of being injured in the same way as cats and dogs since they’re kept in the home, meaning insurance is an affordable £6 to £16 a month.

Overall cost

When considering food, the hutch, vaccinations and insurance for rabbits, the average cost of owning a rabbit comes to just £500 to £1,000 a year – far cheaper than cats and dogs. Give or take an extra £50 or so for treats and toys and this still doesn’t come to much – less than £100 a month. This makes a rabbit a budget-friendly pet which is still super cute and cuddly for the whole family.

pet rabbit expenses

The cost of owning a fish

goldfish

Fish are the perfect option for those of us living in houses where other pets might not be allowed, and for those of us on a tight budget. Both relaxing and beautiful to look at, they’re popular with all sorts of pet owners.

However, depending on how many fish you choose and the size and type of tank, the initial cost of getting them can stack up fast, though the general upkeep over their life is dramatically lower than dogs, cats and rabbits.

Initial Costs

Unlike the other pets on the list, it’s rare to buy just one fish. Most fish owners have a few fish in their collection, with tropical fish owners often having a beautiful selection in the double digits. According to Pets4Homes, classic fish like goldfish cost only a couple of pounds, whereas tropical fish range in price from just a few pounds each to around £20 depending on the species.

The Essentials

The bare monthly essentials won’t set you back much. A box of fish food usually costs around £5.99 at most and will last you a long time as it’s dry and fish don’t eat very much.

Most of the costs for owning fish come down to maintenance – namely keeping the tank clean and making sure their aquarium environment is right to keep them happy and healthy.

Depending on the size of tank you need and whether it needs to support coldwater or tropical fish, it can cost anything between £30 for a basic tank to £600 for a big, top of the range aquarium. Cleaning essentials will cost another £20, while bonus tank accessories, live plants and aquascaping could cost another £40-£50.

Insurance

You won’t need to worry about vet bills and insurance like you do with other pets, but as a fish’s lifespan is considerably shorter than cats, dogs and rabbits you won’t get to enjoy their company for as long.

Overall cost of owning fish

Overall, although the cost of fish is less they are arguably more high maintenance than other pets due to their environmental needs. Although they’re cheaper to buy and feed, and there are no insurance fees, their environment can cost a bundle and will need constant care and attention, so make sure you’ve got the time to put in if you want a vibrant collection of tropical fish.

prices and expenses for owning fish

How to save money while looking after your pet

Don’t worry, this isn’t about putting you off getting a pet – it’s just to make you fully aware of the responsibility you’re taking on. As we’re sure most pet owners will tell you, the love and companionship you get back from your beloved pet will absolutely make all the costs worth it. Plus there are still plenty of ways to save money and cut costs while still giving your pet their best possible life.

How to save money with a dog

Firstly, it’s miles cheaper to adopt a dog from a trusted seller rather than buying. Not only does it save you money in upfront costs and initial vet fees, but it also means you’ll be giving a dog in need a loving home, so everybody wins.

You can also cut costs with easy habits like buying own-brand dog food in bulk and making homemade treats. Ask friends and family to look after your dog if you can’t take them with you on holiday, and for dog walking and pet sitting services use low-cost sites like BorrowMyDoggy.com or Dog Buddy. With sites like this, you only pay a small fee and a dog lover near you will look after your pet for the simple reward of being around your lovely dog for a lovely walk around the park, or a discounted rate for pet sitting compared to kennels.

By all means, treat your dog to the finer things in life, but keep track of your spending so you don’t overdo it. If your dog ignores their expensive toys but adores that dirty old stuffed bunny, then it’s probably not worth buying them more goodies.

You can also groom your pet at home rather than paying expensive dog grooming fees, and train them at home to make sure they’re kept safe. Plus, if you have multiple pets, most insurance companies will give you a multi-pet discount so you save overall.

You can get absolutely everything you need for less with Savoo’s top voucher codes. Find them a bed, collar, leash and other must-haves at bargain prices with our discount codes for Pets At Home. Get medical supplies from VioVet and dog food in bulk from Pure Pet Food. Whatever you need, find a bargain with the latest pet deals.

How to save with other pets

Many of these tips work for saving money with cats and rabbits too. Whatever kind of pet you have, a few more ways to save money include:

  • Get own-brand pet food.
  • Make homemade treats.
  • Make your own toys or keep in simple with basic tennis balls and bits of string.
  • Groom your pet yourself.
  • Ask friends and family to watch your pet while you’re away.
  • By all means, treat your pet, but keep track of costs for treats like toys and clothes
  • Train your pet to help keep them safe. 
  • Insurance discounts for multiple pets, plus discounts thanks to Savoo’s voucher codes from companies like Argos pet insuranceand Top Dog Insurance.
  • Make small lifestyle changes so you have some extra cash to spend on your pets (e.g. skip your morning takeaway coffee and put aside what you save into a ‘just in case’ savings account.)
  • And of course, use Savoo’s great voucher codes to save you money at top brands like PetsatHome, VioVet, Christie’s Direct and many more great pet vouchers and deals.
  • Don’t buy flea worming treatment etc at the vets, just get the prescription, if needed, then buy online to save money.

Top tips from My Pet Needs That are:

  • Obtain pet insurance that specialises in the type of animal you keep. For instance, there is pet insurance solely for French Bulldogs, birds and reptiles. These insurers will be experts in the type of animals they promote and therefore, be aware of the likely conditions that they carry. They often offer a ‘lifetime cover’ option that will ensure that any hereditary conditions will be covered for life.
  • Many believe that medicine prescribed to an animal has to be bought from the vet that issues it, but this isn’t true. Call around your local vets and check online to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
  • When adopting any kind of pet, don’t initially buy the food in bulk. Pets can be very fussy and ‘turn off’ their food, which will leave you with a stack of unwanted food. Buy small at first and be sure that your pet likes the food you’ve found, then buy in bulk to save later on.

For rabbits specifically, a few ways to save are:

  • Grow your own veg.
  • Buy a hutch secondhand or build your own.

price comparison of owning pet dog cat rabbit fish

Support animal charities for free when you use our voucher codes

Remember, as well as giving an animal a forever home, you can also help support the great charities that help look after animals in need without spending an extra penny. Simply create a Savoo account and take a look at the charity directory to start supporting a charity that means something to you, such as Blue Cross, RSPCA or Cats Protection.

Every time you use one of our voucher codes to save on a purchase, we’ll donate to your chosen charity, meaning you’re giving back without spending anything extra. You can also donate simply by using our Search, Save and Raise search engine. For every search you make we donate a penny to your charity. If you think about how many searches you do in a day, from checking the weather to searching for dog toys, these pennies will add up fast.

So why wait? Start shopping from your favourite brands now and give essential donations to a charity you care about.

cute dog and cat friends

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