THE REAL COST OF OWNING A DOG OR CAT

Source:  Good Housekeeping (Extract)
Posted:  February 25 2021

This is how much it costs to own a dog or cat, from pet insurance to food costs.

We’re a nation of pet lovers – with 11 million cats and 10 million dogs in the UK, over half of all UK adults own a pet.

But while our furry friends can be a source of joy, comfort and company, they can also be expensive. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) estimates that owning a dog could cost you as much as £30,000 over its lifetime.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and adopting or buying a pet, here’s everything you need to know about the costs…

What’s the difference between buying and adopting?

If you’re choosing a pet, decide whether you want to adopt or buy. While this comes down to personal preference, adoption can help a pet that needs caring for enjoy a new life, and be incredibly rewarding. ‘There are so many rescue dogs and cats helping their owners through difficult times every single day,’ explains Claire O’Hagan, Rehoming and Welfare Manager at Battersea, ‘as much as we rescued them, they’re now rescuing us in return.’

Buying from a responsible breeder may suit others better. ‘You’re more able to predict its needs in terms of space, exercise and environment, during both its puppyhood and later in life, and make sure this matches with what you can offer,’ says Bill Lambert, Head of Health and Welfare at The Kennel Club.

If you’re buying a pet, the average cost of a Labrador puppy – Britain’s most popular dog – is £780, according to Pets4Homes. In comparison, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’s rehoming fees are £175 for dogs over six months and £250 for puppies, £95 for cats over six months and £125 for kittens. This cost includes microchipping, initial vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and neutering.

‘We assess every animal that comes through our gates,’ adds Claire O’Hagan, ‘so that we’re able to match them with the best homes possible and potential owners will have a clear picture of what they’re taking on, and any extra costs that could be involved.’

How much is pet insurance?

With the average claim costing a hefty £793, insurance for your pet is a good idea.

Annual insurance covers your pet for a year, typically for injuries or short-term illnesses, but check what’s covered by individual policies carefully. At around £279 a year, this tends to become more expensive as your pet ages and may not be offered for much older pets.

  • Per-condition policies allocate a fixed sum of money to treat different illnesses or injuries. If treatment for a condition exceeds the maximum amount specified, you pay the difference.
  • Lifetime insurance is usually the most comprehensive cover you can get for your pet. It is designed to cover chronic and recurring conditions your pet may suffer from. There’s an annual limit per condition and animals may be refused treatment when they reach a certain age.
  • Accident-only – the cheapest type of insurance only provides cover for vet bills if your pet is injured in an accident.

How much do microchipping, neutering and vaccinations cost?

Microchipping

Microchipping your dog is a legal requirement. The cost is around £15, with the microchip being inserted by your vet. The cost is often covered by the rescue centre or breeder before you take your dog home.

It’s not a legal requirement to microchip your cat, although it is recommended. ‘If not, there may be no way of tracing its owner if the pet gets lost. They may be rehomed, or face a life living as a stray,’ explains Jacqui Cuff at Cats Protection.

TIP: Increase the chance of your pet being found should it go missing by registering it. A full list of the 15 databases that meet government standards is available at GOV.UK. For an extra cost, there are services that actively put out an alert if your pet is lost.

Neutering

Costs for dogs vary according to sex and breed, with the Blue Cross putting it anywhere between £110 – £365. Cat neutering costs £40 – £100, according to Cats Protection. The RSPCA offers neutering for £5 if you’re financially struggling, and the Blue Cross offers free neutering to dogs belonging to people receiving benefits.

Vaccinations

Puppies are typically immunised at eight -10 weeks, with second vaccinations and boosters to follow. Kittens should have their first vaccinations at nine weeks old, with boosters afterwards. Responsible breeders and all adoption centres will ensure your puppy or kitten has received its first set of vaccinations before you take it home. You are then responsible for paying for additional vaccinations, with booster injections costing roughly £35 for a dog and £44 for a cat.

What about flea and worm treatment?

Staying on top of flea and worm treatment is important to keep pets healthy. They’re available from your vet, but subscription services can be cheaper, with flea treatments starting from £4 and worming treatment starting at £5.

Before using these services, always consult a vet. ‘They will take into account factors such as animals in your home and your pet’s risk profile, temperament and potential exposure to other pests,’ says Daniella Dos Santos, Senior Vice President at British Veterinary Association.

What are the everyday costs of owning a pet?

Factoring in everything from food and toys to leads and litter, Battersea estimates the annual cost of owning a cat can cost around £888 a year, while PDSA estimates that small dogs will cost roughly £600 a year, medium breeds £780 and large dogs £960.

Food is probably going to be your biggest outgoing. The Money Advice Service puts the cost of feeding a cat at between £100 – £200 annually. Dog food can cost between £200 – £400, depending on their size.

How can I save money on pet costs?

  • Some retailers offer money off for bulk buying food, if you’ve got the space to store.
  • If your pet needs medicine, don’t automatically buy it from your vet without comparing costs. You could ask for the prescription and order what you need from certificated pharmacies online, often at a fraction of the cost.
  • To find the best value pet insurance policy, use a comparison site.
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