Reality bites as research uncovers half of owners underestimate cost of keeping a pet

A survey of 1,000 British pet owners has shown that ownership costs £1,340 a year on average, equating to £16,080 and £17,420 over a dog’s and cat’s lifetime respectively.

Over half (53%) of owners admit they underestimated the cost of having a pet .

The study, commissioned by Forbes Advisor, follows recent reports from animal charities that some desperate Brits are disguising their dogs as strays in an attempt to surrender them. And The Dogs Trust says it has experienced a 100% increase in traffic to the “giving up your dog” page since Freedom Day in England on 19 July 2021.

To add context to the scale of the issue, it was also reported this year that 3.2 million households acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, meaning the country now has 17 million pet-owning homes.

A standout insight from the research is that, despite medical bills being the priciest pet cost, more than two fifths (44%) of Brits admitted to not having pet insurance, with half of owners (50%) spending £500-£1,000 a year on medical bills.

Additionally, half (52%) of UK pet owners would resort to credit cards or raiding their savings to fund veterinary care, and a fifth (20%) would use their overdraft.

The report revealed how much on average pet owners spend on common pet expenses in a year as of 2021:

  • Medical bills excluding monthly insurance/petcare plans – £462.80
  • Food – £341.67
  • Flea/worm treatment – £164.72
  • Apparel – £41.55
  • Training/sitting/walking – £115.78
  • Insurance – £112.05 (44.4% do not have pet insurance)
  • Dental treatments – £39.62
  • Vet checkups – £71.77

The average price of specialist treatment such as orthopaedic surgery was calculated to be £1,037.80, using price data from the Animal Trust. This expense was not taken into account when calculating the average annual cost of ownership because it is not considered a common expense.

On average, pet insurance costs £9.60 a month/£115.20 a year for a dog and £5.50 a month/£66 a year for a cat, with factors such as breed and age of the pet impacting the price.

According to a Forbes Advisor’s pet insurance provider, these are the most expensive dog and cat breeds to insure, along with the average annual cost of a policy:

Dogs:

Bulldog – £688.14

Cane Corso – £669.29

Hovawart – £633.94

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – £588.22

Dogue De Bordeaux – £572.92

Cats:

Burmese Blue – £337.14

Somali – £336.95

Tabby Longhair – £309.24

Egyptian Mau – £285.49

Russian Blue – £285.43

Forbes Advisor ranked the most cost-effective pet insurance providers this year, with Insure Your Paws coming out on top. Members of the public can compare and get quotes herehttps://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/pet-insurance/.

Kevin Pratt, insurance expert at Forbes Advisor, said: “Owning a pet is not something to be taken lightly. As well as the expense, there are practical matters to consider. Dogs need regular exercise in all weathers – something that will be hitting home with new owners as we head into winter. And all pets need proper care and attention on a daily basis, so what does that mean for family trips away from home?

“It seems clear that many people bought a pandemic pet without fully thinking-through the implications, and some have realised they can no longer keep it, either because of the hassle factor or because of how much it costs.

“One thing any pet owner will tell you is that a trip to the vet – probably inevitable at some point – can be extremely expensive. This makes pet insurance such an important purchase. Having cover in place means animal lovers don’t have to worry about paying for the care their pet might need, and they won’t need to raid their savings or even go overdrawn to pay the vet’s bill. We’re clearly a nation of animal lovers, even if we sometimes let our hearts rule our heads when it comes to bringing a pet into the family home. That’s why spending a bit of time to find the right pet insurance is such a good idea.”