Having a pet is brilliant but it can be costly too with everything from insurance and vaccinations to pet food and holiday care to think about. Read our money-saving guide for your favourite furry friend.
According to a Blue Cross survey in 2011, Britain’s 26 million pet owners spend about £14.9 billion a year on their pets’ care – which works out at almost £600 a year each.And that’s just an average for all pets – the average cost of owning a dog is about £1,183 a year. But you can save money on your pet without compromising on their welfare with our savvy tips.
If you're thinking about getting a pet, make sure you know the ongoing costs for that pet. Just like some cars have very expensive car parts and attract higher premiums, it's the same for pets. Insurance for crossbreed dogs, for example, is often cheaper than for pedigree or purebreds. Rabbits are often seen as cheaper pets, but remember they should be bought in pairs which will increase costs, so think wisely. Fish, reptiles and rodents probably have the lowest costs, but they all need care and time, especially if they become ill.
A rescue animal is another option. Not only is it a lovely thing to do, you'll usually be paying less than if you bought it from a pet shop or breeder, although the ongoing costs remain the same. Upfront costs usually include a donation to the charity and you may get subsidised vaccinations, neutering and other assistance.
If you're thinking of getting pet but aren't sure which one's best for you, have read through our feature on picking the right pet for your family.
goodtoknow top tip! We may have the NHS for emergencies but there's no pet version and vets' bills can be sky high, so it's better to pay a little each month so you're covered. You need to find the right level for your pet and check that the excess is affordable. Obviously the higher the excess, the lower the premium, but then you must be prepared to pay that excess.
Ensure there's no time limit on how long you can claim for each illness. If your pet gets a chronic illness where they need treatment for the rest of their life, an annual cover policy will only pay for the first year.
Make sure there's no 'cut-off' age as you want your pet to be covered no matter how long they live for.
Third party cover is, for example, if your dog causes an accident and someone injured sues for loss of earnings. You should call your home contents insurer too as the policy may include your pet.
Like home, car and contents insurance, switching is key to getting good deals so don't stick to the same pet insurance. If you can get a higher level of cover for a better price, why not? Remember, though, that most insurers won't insure your pet for any pre-existing conditions or anything that they've already been treated for, so it's not always worth switching in those situations.
If you're looking for pet insurance, check our cashback partner Quidco for a great deal that you could earn money on too!
There's no point paying for insurance if you invalidate a claim by not making sure routine jabs are up to date. Genuine vaccinations by a vet with a certificate are what you want, especially if you need to provide evidence to the insurance company. Keep these certificates in a safe place, too.
You don't necessarily have to have these vaccinations to get a quote, but if you end up claiming for something which may not have happened if they had had routine jabs, the claim could be jeopardised. Also choose which vaccinations you really need - the RSPCA website has an excellent guide.
It's worth scheduling regular check-ups for your pet, whether they're yearly or more frequent. As you may have already found out, it costs more money (and it's riskier) to treat certain illnesses, whereas protecting against them may have cost a fraction of the price.
Other good prevention tips include brushing your pet's teeth, using a topical flea treatment, not smoking around your pet and controlling how much they eat to avoid pet obesity.
goodtoknow top tip! Spaying or neutering your pet can be a real money-saver as it can prevent more serious health issues down the line, such as uterine, ovarian and testicular cancer (as well as unwanted pregnancies!). If you claim benefits and live in one of The Dog Trust's campaign areas, your dog might even be entitled to free or subsidised neutering.
It's not compulsory, but obviously microchipping can make reunions easier if you are separated from your pet. It costs about £20-£30 per pet, but more and more insurers are offering discounts if your pet is microchipped. In fact, some insurers may contribute to the costs of microchipping if you buy your insurance from them - so look out for deals.
You might even be able to get your dog microchipped for free at one of The Dog Trust's rehoming centres.
If you've got a dog, it's worth joining The Dogs Trust for £25 a year (or £12.50 if you're over 60). Membership includes 3rd-party insurance for your dog which gives you up to £1,000,000 per claim if your dog causes damage or injury to another person, their property or pets. This is in addition to your pet insurance, but it means you can choose a different level of cover and leave the 3rd-party insurance to this policy. It covers all dogs you own (dangerous dogs excluded).
You also get unlimited access to Vetfone, a 24-hour emergency advice service from veterinary professionals and a free Canine Care Card which guarantees that the Dogs Trust will take care of your dog should anything happen to you. And you'll get Wag! Magazine 3 times a year.
As with combined home and car insurance policies, many insurers will offer a 5-10% discount if you take out a couple of policies, but it;s still worth shopping around as 2 good-value policies can still work out less than a multi-policy.
Some of the best comparison sites include comparethemarket.com and gocompare.com, but it's also worth checking the likes of aviva.co.uk and directline.com as they're not included on comparison websites.
Pet food isn't always that cheap but there are lots of deals and multi-buy offers which you can take advantage of. As the expiry dates are fairly generous, you should always take advantage of BOGOF offers. It's a good idea to opt for good-quality pet food as it's better in the long-run, although that doesn't mean the most expensive brand.
Have a look at pet-supermarket.co.uk which offers free delivery and petshopbowl.co.uk (free delivery on orders over £19.99). Also, many pet shops offer good deals on pet food. You can find free and cheap pet food recipes online and consider garden weeds which can be nutritious for rabbits, guinea pigs and small rodents. Fish are usually over-fed so have one food-free day a week for healthier fish (and cleaner water).
Our cashback partner Quidco also often have deals for Pets at Home - so watch out for these.
goodtoknow top tip! Don't buy expensive pet toys. Kids' toys can be brilliant for pets (as long as there are no small parts) or use old favourites like a sock and a ball, dog treats inside a plastic milk bottle or an unstuffed cuddly toy.
Just make sure that toys are appropriate for your pet, as some can be bad for their health (for example, gerbils aren't supposed to go in balls as it's bad for their spines).
Leaving your pet at home can cost a small fortune if you're paying for a dog- or cat-sitter to feed your furry friend and spend time with them. Instead, why not form a 'pool' with friends and neighbours so you take it in turns to look after each other's pets at various intervals.
If you're going away for a while and have several pets, you could try a service like homesitters.co.uk or the National Association of Registered Petsitters as it can work out cheaper than kennels and catteries, with the bonus that your home is being looked after. Alternatively, find holidays where your pets can come with you like these dog-friendly hotels, campsites and holiday parks!