The True Cost of Owning a Cat or Dog

The cost of owning a pet video

Getting to grips with pet ownership costs


When it comes to man’s best friend, the true cost of caring for him might just be more than you think. In fact, our research has shown that dog owners typically underestimate the price of owning a dog over its lifetime by 10%, with the true figure being £15,303. Cat owners are less realistic; the average total cost is £11,523 and they typically underestimate it by 30%. Expense may not be a concern but it’s an important factor to consider before bringing home your new companion.

So, whether you have a pet waiting at home, or hope to own one in future, our research covers some key considerations – from purchasing that first cat bed to the annual vet’s bill. For the vital statistics on cost of owning a pet, take a look at our illustrative Pet Infographic  PDF: 1.79MB  and discover how easily pet care costs can rack up.  

Food and equipment - don’t underestimate the cost of the basics 
Providing a well-balanced, nutritious meal is an important part of owning a pet.  Many owners are cost-conscious when it comes to pet food, with 30% finding that feeding leftovers is an easy way to supplement their pets diets. However, 85% are buying dry food, indicating a cross over. Taking all food types into account, the average monthly cost of feeding your furry friend can vary but averages between £15-£20.

Aside from food, the average pet owner has spent £43 on pet care. These monthly outlays can soon rack up and it’s important to make sure they can be budgeted for before making a commitment to pet parenthood.

Vet care - a trip to the vet is more likely than you think

Alongside food, vet care bills represent one of the highest cost for pet owners – a healthy pet is a happy pet. Excluding routine visits or vaccinations, trips to the vet cost owners £676 on average.

A common reason for appointments is joint ailments, but with 77% of vets believing that pet obesity is on the rise, and 45% of all pets they treat being overweight – this is also a real contributory factor to health problems requiring treatment.

Pet insurance - pet cover will take the sting out of vet treatment 

Our research highlighted that the vast majority of pet owners do not have insurance. Cat owners are less likely to insure their pets – just 16% have cover – compared with 30% of dog owners. But no matter what animal you call your own, maintaining its health is a big and important responsibility, and pet insurance can help protect them. Given the rise in vet bills, the right pet insurance means you can get access to treatment, without having to cover the whole cost outright (and sacrificing your rainy day fund). 

Attachment - the time and emotional cost of ownership 

Speaking of rainy day funds, it might be that some plans fall by the wayside where pets are concerned. Not only do you naturally invest emotionally, but where time was spent in the past doing leisure activities, it is now taken up looking after your pet. While some cats are independent and happy to roam outdoors, dogs should not be left alone for prolonged periods of time, making spontaneous day trips or jaunts away a thing of the past. Despite not having overt financial implications, the ‘emotional’ cost of leisure time spent with our pets is perhaps more than we realise. And when we do choose to escape for some downtime, there’s the cost of kennels and catteries to consider. 

Toys and treats - prepare to pay for impulse pampering 

Even if you’re on a budget, it’s sometimes hard not to spoil a pet with biscuits and squeaky balls, which is worth considering as an additional cost. We discovered that 55% of pet owners had bought toys in the last year, with 55% also saying they can be encouraged to purchase on impulse. Pampering is also popular, with 81% of owners saying they take pride in their pet looking healthy and well groomed. You may want to consider this an essential cost – especially if your pet has fur that gets matted when not cared for. 

Exercise - don’t let lack of exercise be the cause of additional vet costs 

The cost of exercising your pup is potentially minimal, depending on whether you need to drive to a park, or choose to use toys during playtime. Whatever your playground, it’s one of the most important elements of owning a dog, and the cost of not walking him could be high. Lack of exercise contributes to pet obesity, which is on the rise, and could lead to vet treatment. Exercise is fundamental to a dog’s health and wellbeing, but with 46% of pet owners saying they struggle to always give their dog the exercise it needs, some owners aren’t considering how they might fit a dog walk into their busy routine. 

We’re sure these research findings will take many pet owners by surprise, while giving future owners some food for thought. Yet one thing is clear: the true cost of owning a four-legged friend is far more than some of us would have imagined.

We love our pets and they're an important part of our family, they're reassuring and a constant presence in our lives. Pet Insurance provides peace of mind and can help to cover the cost of unexpected vet fees when your pet needs treatment due to an accident or illness.