The arrival of a cuddly new family member is always exciting – whether it’s two-legged or four. But – sorry to be a downer – unfortunately, what many people don’t think about is the actual cost of owning a pet.
Now, it’s not as if pets cost millions. In many cases, they’re extremely affordable. (Goldfish, in particular, by the way.) But puppies and kittens? Some dogs and cats can live for up to 20 years. Not only is this a big logistical commitment, but the cost can definitely rack up over time.
The initial investment
If you’re interested in a pedigree or designer pooch from a licensed breeder (cavoodle, labradoodle… all of the “oodles”), it’s fair to say that the initial investment is likely to be a sizeable one. The rough cost of a purebred French bulldog puppy, for example, is around $3,500-$4,000. And what about cats? If sphynx cats are what you’re into, getting one could cost you well over $2,200… and they don’t even have fur.
If that isn’t enough on its own, you also have to commit to keeping your new bundle of joy entertained. Kittens and puppies aren’t going to look after themselves. They need chew toys, scratching posts, litter boxes, playpens, leads, water bowls, food bowls and collars. And you’ll probably have to replace this stuff more than a few times throughout their lives too.
This is the big expense that a lot of people struggle with. Say, for example, you have a fairly small dog that lives for 13 years. ASIC suggests that the cost of food for an average dog is $622 per year (more than any other expense), which means that over the dog’s lifespan you’ll probably have to spend around $8,086 on food alone. Cats are a little cheaper at $576 per year, but they also live longer. Without including snacks or treats, this is definitely a large cost that will accumulate over time.
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Health & Wellbeing
Dogs and cats require routine vaccinations, which can be expensive. In fact, kittens and puppies typically need to go to the vet every three to four weeks for check ups and immunisations until they’re 16 weeks old. Dogs need protection from rabies, kennel cough, influenza, Lyme disease and heartworm, and cats are typically tested for feline leukaemia and other diseases. ASIC says that vet care can cost $379 per year for dogs and $273 per year for cats, but this can accumulate to much more if your pet has an ongoing health condition or requires regular care or medication.
In terms of the maintenance and upkeep of your pet, while walking your dog is free, grooming it is not. Cat owners don’t need to stress about the maintenance of their cat as much, but dog owners need to be aware of health conditions that can arise from a lack of proper grooming. Dry and flaky skin and eye irritation can be triggered by a lack of care and an unhealthy coat, so it’s important to keep your dog brushed and clipped regularly.
But it’s not all bad news!
Luckily, there are often ways that you can avoid or reduce these costs. Instead of buying from a breeder, try visiting your closest rescue shelter instead (such as the RSPCA). They will often have puppies and kittens as well as adult animals up for adoption.
While it’s hard to cut costs on food, you may be able to find some form of assistance for your vet bills. Many pet owners consider pet insurance as an option for providing cover for unexpected medical expenses. In fact, most comprehensive policies will even provide some form of cover (up to a limit) for routine care such as grooming, training and, in some cases, emergency boarding.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can afford your new furry friend. Just make sure that you take your own financial situation into account and remember that buying a pet is a lifelong commitment that you should only take on when you’re ready.
Bessie Hassan is the Head of PR and a Money Expert for finder.com.au.