The hidden costs in PET ownership

Pet ownership is common in Australia but few people really know how much a pet can eat into the household budget – and we’re not talking about its food!!

In this article I lay out some the various costs that need to be considered before making a commitment to a pet. Yes Maxwell has cost me ALOT over the last 8 years....

Without a doubt, Australians are a nation of animal lovers. According to the Australian Companion Animal Council, we have one of the highest incidences of pet-ownership in the world! AWWWWW… We certainly love our fur babies!

Dogs and cats are our favourites; around 36% of Australian households own a dog, and 23% own a cat.

Most of us are familiar with the companionship our furry friends bring, and the social interaction they can improve (yes!- with other humans!), but there are other benefits too, such as:

· Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol

· Increased physical activity

· Strengthened immune system and reduced incidence of allergies

· And enhanced responsibility, empathy and respect. (children in particular)

When considering a pet, you expect costs like, food, bedding and the annual vet visit, but there are other costs you may not have thought about.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Those purchasing a pet from breeders, could pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000 dollars, increasing more for rare breeds and unique colours. Additionally, there are de-sexing, vaccination, and microchipping costs. These medical costs can easily add another $1000 dollars to your ‘fur baby’ bill depending on your veterinarian.

There are fewer upfront costs from rescued cats and dogs. Shelters are overflowing with abandoned pets seeking a second chance and adoptions cost around $200 (puppies/kittens) or anything from $150 (adult dogs/cats). De-sexing, vaccinations and microchipping are usually included in the adoption fee. Plus these animals need the help and you can feel good about giving a pet a second chance.

But that’s not the end of it. Actually its just the beginning- How much, for example, will your pet grow and can your weekly grocery budget expand to feed another hungry family member? Standard dog food can be around $2 per 700g tin. A large dog may require more than one tin a day in addition to dry food and treats.

Also there is puppy training and socialising programs. Usually from $150 onwards for a few weeks of group classes. Private lessons can be more.

In most municipalities, pets must be registered – at a cost, of course. Then you need to think about fencing. Pets must be restricted to your property meaning ensuring your boundaries are securely fenced; cat-owners may need to invest in a cat-safe enclosure.

Regularly exercising your pet and providing toys to keep them mentally stimulated will assist in preventing costly property damage through boredom or escape attempts.

Ongoing health care can be pricey too.

According to, health care estimates start around $3,000, excluding unexpected problems. For example my pet Bichon Frise Maxwell needed a dental procedure just last week that cost in excess of the first $800 that was quoted. He also needs regular grooming appointments to keep him clean and tidy , as his coat is wool not hair. This is a breed specific consideration.

Pet insurance policies are widely available and offer cover from $50 per month.

As with any insurance, choose wisely. Carefully read the policy document checking for:

· Benefits and limits

· Eligibility/age limits

· Pre-existing conditions

· Excess options

· Waiting periods/discounts

Depending on your pet’s circumstances, you might opt to regularly contribute to a dedicated SAVINGS account instead, ensuring there’s money available when needed. Make sure you add this to the budget!

You can reduce costs by keeping your pet healthy and happy through diet, exercise, training and play.

Pet-care while you’re on holiday is an additional cost and a hugely important consideration, based on your lifestyle. Dog boarding kennels charge from about $40 per day (cats about $20).

Alternatively a pet-sitter staying in your home could charge anything from $30 per night.

In recent times household expenses have been attracting more scrutiny than ever from financial institutions.

Lenders are increasingly antsy about approving loan applications without seeing a full household budget.

When looking to borrow or renegotiate an existing loan, you must know your position. Your financial adviser or broker will help you work through your income and expenses to determine whether a new family member will fit into your budget.

Pet ownership is a long-term financial obligation, BUT there’s no denying its rewards. With a pet-ownership of 62%, the majority of Australian households would agree!

Sources: Pet ownership statistics (No date available) Adoption fees (Copyright 2019) Compare pet insurance from 10 Aussie brands Getting a pet (Last updated 20 February 2019) What prices to charge for your services as a pet sitter and house sitter

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