There are so many benefits of owning a pet – including companionship, socialisation, and teaching others how to love and care to name a few. However, with the cost of living increasing, you may be debating which pet is cheapest to own. There’s no simple answer unfortunately: however, there are some key factors that you will need to consider.
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The largest factor is how much you want to spend on a pet – both initially, and for ongoing care. Each of your pet’s needs will have a large range of potential costs. Your pet may be content with one thing, but you go above and beyond to provide more. For example, choosing a collar for your pet. There will be many different collars priced very differently, a basic one will do the job, but a fancy one might be more appealing. Or consider choosing whether to groom your pet yourself or whether to pay a grooming professional to do this.
You need to be honest and set budgets so you know how much money you can afford to spend; not just as a one-off, but every day, week, month and year of their life. We would much rather a pet had a stable life where they were well cared for, wearing a cheaper collar which fits well and doesn’t cause any irritation, compared to them needing to be rehomed part way through their life due to the owners not being able to afford the cost of their pet any longer.
The size of your pet will affect the cost associated with keeping your pet healthy. Larger pets require more food and water to maintain a healthy body condition score. In addition, larger pets will also need more medication if they get poorly. This is due to most drug doses being worked out per kg of bodyweight. This generally means veterinary bills for the same condition will often become more expensive.
More boisterous pets may require their accessories to be replaced more often due to them getting destroyed. This includes items such as leads, harnesses, toys and food bowls. They will also need more exercise. Therefore they will often require more time to be dedicated to them to allow their physical needs to be met.
What housing does your pet need? Do you have enough space for the pet you are hoping to get? Creating, building or buying new housing space can be very expensive so using space you already have can be a cost-efficient method of creating a habitat. Some small furries will need to be cleaned out regularly, having their entire bedding replaced. This takes time and the material costs money. Spend time researching these costs.
Vet bills are one of the biggest expenses of having a pet. If you feel you may struggle to pay large, sudden bills, we strongly recommend you getting pet insurance. This is a monthly fee but if you know the fee and know when you will need to pay it, you can budget around it. The insurance fee covers bills above a certain threshold for reasons covered for within your policy – you will however need to pay the excess fee. Once you have decided which pet you would like, ensure you research specific breeds to ensure you are aware of common health conditions this breed may acquire.
It is important to register with a vet, and you should ensure your pet has been seen by a vet and declared healthy with no concerns prior to you obtaining the pet. If a pet develops a chronic illness such as diabetes mellitus, this could mean paying for medication monthly, paying for blood tests and veterinary care frequently throughout the entirety of your pet’s life. These chronic diseases are often unpredictable meaning we cannot guarantee whether a pet will suffer with them or not. Keeping your pet in good body condition and having regular health checks performed by a vet can help to pick up medical conditions before they become too severe and costly.
As vets, we also find it quite distressing when people spend thousands of pounds on a new designer pet – but then aren’t able to find the money to treat a curable disease, because they blew all their savings on the initial cost.
The longer your pet’s life expectancy, the longer they will require these regular payments to be made. Typically, very small animals (such as hamsters) have a shorter life expectancy compared to larger animals (such as cats), although small breed dogs do, on average, live for longer than large breed dogs.
When choosing a pet, think about how your pet would fit into your lifestyle. If you are considering getting a pet dog, you need to think about how many extra walks and how much extra driving you would need to do to get to the good walking spots. What else may be needed to provide a good quality of life for different pets? If you already have a lifestyle that would suit a certain type of pet, whereby you would not need to alter your lifestyle greatly in order to encompass their needs, then you could argue that little additional costs will be added to your budget.
You should consider arrangements you would need to have in place for when you go on holiday. Some pets are much easier to find holiday care for, whilst other pets will be much more expensive and require very specific husbandry that not many people are able to provide. Thinking about how often this kind of care would be required is important. In addition, if you work long hours, consider the length of time your pet can be left alone. If your pet needs somebody to come and visit them throughout the day, this may cause additional, regular fees.
The truth is…
Nobody can predict which pet is the cheapest pet, because each pet will have different, unpredictable needs throughout their life. When forecasting the budget for a pet, predict the worst so you know you are always prepared. Please remember, a pet is for life and, as owners, we must be able to provide a high-quality life throughout their entire time with us.