Who doesn’t love spending time with their furry friends? But, pet expenses can soon add up, whether you have one cat or a herd of animals.
Lockdown has led to a lot more people getting pets, many of whom have not encountered these costs before. With that in mind, we’ve outlined some of the best ways to cut your pet expense without compromising on animal care.
Pets have 5 welfare needs that you are legally required to meet. These are:
Health – Protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease and treated if necessary.
Behaviour – the ability to behave naturally for their species.
Companionship – to be housed with, or apart from, other animals as appropriate for the species. i.e. company of their own kind for sociable species like rabbits or guinea pigs, or to be housed alone for solitary species.
Diet – a suitable diet and access to clean water. This includes feeding to prevent obesity or malnourishment.
Environment – This should include the right type of home with a comfortable place to rest and hide as well as space to exercise and explore.
Meeting these 5 requirements comes at a cost. But, you can be savvy and save some money without compromising your pet’s wellbeing.
The typical pet expenses
According to the PDSA, one of the UK’s leading animal charities, the average monthly cost of a dog is £50 for a small breed, £65 for a medium breed and £80 for a large dog. Meanwhile, a cat will cost you around £70 a month.
These costs included things like annual booster injections, which are very important for preventing disease, food, new equipment like leads and collars, and medical costs and/or insurance.
But, these sums are the average cost after your initial start off costs – and we’re not just talking about adoption or purchase costs. When you first get a pet, costs include the first set of vaccinations to prevent serious disease and even death (usually between £40 and £60). You may also need to pay for microchipping, which is a legal requirement. Although, some breeders may do this for you.
You will also need to buy a bed, food and water bowls and any other equipment needed, not to mention a toy or two.
These sums also don’t include any pet sitting or dog walking fees you may have to pay.
More information on what to expect in terms of costs can be found on the PDSA website.
Adopt Don’t Shop
The initial price of buying a pet can be high. Dog breeders, in particular, took advantage of the huge rise in demand for puppies in 2020 due to the lockdown – and prices have spiked to astronomical levels. A Golden Retriever puppy would have set you back around £750 – £850 in 2019. Now, you’re looking at £4000. Yes, really.
Many of those who bought puppies in the March 2020 lockdown have found a dog is harder work than they expected. The same for other pets, too! Dog shelters and rescue homes are inundated with animals who need loving homes. So, instead of supporting the backyard breeders (who care more about money than animals), consider adopting from your local shelter. Adoption fees vary, but are often around or below £100 – regardless of breed.
Buy food in bulk to cut pet expenses
If you have a bit of extra storage space, buy your pet food in bulk. This might not work for fussy animals, who like a lot of variety in their diet, but most pets won’t mind, particularly if they get the odd treat!
The cost saving of buying food in bulk is huge. For example, if you buy a standard 2kg bag of Royal Canin puppy food it will cost you £14.99 or £7.50 per kg. In contrast, buying an 8kg bag will cost you £32.99 or £4.12 per kg. This means you’re saving over £3 per kilogram!
As a bonus, Pets at Home is on Quidco, so you can get cash back every time you order food. You can also take advantage of subscriber discounts on many pet food sites – saving a few percent on each order AND getting the order automatically renewed and delivered before their food runs out!
Cheap food isn’t always the answer, either. You might be tempted to try a food because it’s the cheapest on the market – but the cheap ones are full of fillers and lack the best nutrition. If it’s all you can afford, of course your pet will be fine. However, the higher quality foods (that are more expensive) can help you avoid vet bills in the future. For example, your dog might have a grain allergy – and a hypoallergenic food will help reduce gastric problems and prevent lots of vet visits and medicines.
Share costs with a fellow pet friend
If you’re worried about having too much food from bulk buying or you only need one dog comb but the pack of 3 is cheaper – why not team up with a friend who also has pets?
This approach also applies to training classes. 1 on 1 classes can cost £50 an hour. If there’s two of you, the cost is likely to be much lower.
If you don’t have a pet-owning friend to share with, get online! Check Facebook or NextDoor for local dog walking groups, pet owner groups, or even just post in your local community app to find someone to share with. You’ll make new friends AND have something in common!
This particularly applies when you have a puppy or a kitten. They grow so quickly, that there’s no point spending a lot of money on a bed, collar or harness that will only last them a couple of months.
Maybe you struggle to get out on Thursdays, but they’re tied up with their children’s activities on Saturdays. This way, they could walk both dogs on Thursdays, while you take them out on Saturdays. Then, neither of you will have to pay for a dog walker.
If there’s a day neither of you can do, it might be worth booking with the dog walker together as most offer discounts when you book multiple dogs. The dogs may need to be picked up from and dropped off at the same house for this to work though!
weigh up self-insurance versus pet insurance
Pet insurance is one of the biggest expenses of owning a pet. It sets owners back around £24 a month. When you consider the average lifespan of a cat or dog is at least ten years, that’s a whopping £2,880 – that you might never get to use.
Insurance has its limitations. It often doesn’t cover consultation fees or the standard vaccinations. You may have to cover costs of up to £100 yourself before your insurance kicks in, too. Your pet also won’t be covered on cheaper policies for things like long-term medication, emergency admission costs, overnight stays… you can see how it adds up.
Instead, you could instead consider putting aside £20 each month and saving or investing it. You can then use this pot to fund the cost of any care your pet requires. If you don’t need to dip into it – great! You’ve kept hold of your cash and your pet stayed healthy. If you do – it’s right there to use. (That’s another disadvantage of insurance – many only reimburse you, so you’ll still have to find cash to pay for treatment first).
However, it’s worth considering how you’ll cope if your pet has a sudden accident or illness. The cost of investigations and operations can soon rack up and it’s not uncommon to be faced with a bill well into the thousands. When you self-insure, you could be faced with the incredibly tough decision of: “Spend thousands of pounds that might help your pet live a little longer – or put them down”. So, always weigh up the EMOTIONAL cost of insurance before you decide whether to self-insure or opt for a formal policy.
Cut pet expenses with DIY toys
You’ve probably all seen pictures on social media of cats ignoring fancy beds or toys in favour of the box they came in.
You really don’t need to spend lots of money on toys for your pet. Empty toilet rolls, flower pots, old cuddly toys and cardboard boxes can all be repurposed to be the most exciting toy for your furry friend.
Some dog trainers even recommend tying up old pairs of tights and sports socks to make ‘tuggies’ that will entertain puppies for hours. You can even hide treats inside them to make them seem even more exciting.
Make your own treats
Who can resist giving their pet a treat or two every now and then?
Pet food companies have cottoned on to our weakness and now sell every kind of treat you could imagine, usually at quite the price.
Instead, why not chop up a left over chicken breast from dinner for you dog or use the remnants of a tin of tuna for your cat?
One tip is to buy reduced meat – such as turkey or liver – on your next supermarket trip. Cook it when you get home and freeze it in small portions ready to use when you need it.
If you like cooking, why not trying baking your own treats? Battersea Dogs Home has a range of recipes for both dog and cat treats on its website that your pets will love – like this dog biscuit recipe.
Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.