Want a pet? Watch out – they are a pricey proposition

Dog and cat ownership is booming. But before you invest in a furry friend, consider how much it costs to buy, feed, care for and insure one.

The crisis has led to a boom in pet sales, with lockdown prompting many of us to decide that we could do with one to keep us company. Pets4Homes, the free pet classified-advertisements site, says it rehomed 2,000 pets per day during lockdown.

If you got a pet the chances are you paid a lot for it. With demand fast outstripping supply, prices have rocketed, with the average cost of a puppy doubling to £1,400. Cocker spaniels saw the biggest price rise. A puppy would have set you back by an average £2,109 in June, triple the cost 12 months earlier. The price of cats also shot up by almost a third during lockdown. People were parting with almost £400 on average for a kitten. 

If you are inclined to get a pet, be careful. In March and April 669 people lost £282,686 to pet cons, according to Action Fraud. Scammers post advertisements online despite not having any animals to sell. They ask for a deposit, then more money for insurance, vaccinations and delivery, but the pet never appears. 

Always “identify a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, or find a breeder through a personal recommendation”, Paula Boyden, Dog Trust’s veterinary director told the Daily Mirror. Ensure you “see a puppy, even if it’s over a video call, and ask to see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract”. Before you get a pet, consider how much it can cost you over its lifetime. Food, vets’ bills and other costs add up to an average of £4,500 for a small dog, rising to £13,000 for a large breed, according to the PDSA. The average cat will cost its owner around £12,000.

The next question is pet insurance. It is a booming industry, with 3.6 million policies. “Given the high costs of veterinary care, a growing number of pet owners are... paying a steady monthly premium for peace of mind,” says Nick Johnstone in the Financial Times. “Claims have nearly doubled to £815m in the past six years.”

The average pet insurance claim is £793. Before you sign up, note that the average premium for a dog over the age of five is £381 a year, according to moneysupermarket.com. If you have a dog that lives for 15 years, it would cost £4,975 to insure it. If you have savings to cover vets’ bills in the early years, then another option is to self-insure. Rather than pay an insurer you put the equivalent premium into a savings account. That way you have the money to pay for any problems that arise, but if Fido has a healthy life you still have your savings.

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