The cost of pets: Can you afford your own fur baby?

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The notion of pets being your “best friend” was taken to another level when our worlds were flipped upside down by the pandemic. Through the uncertainty and isolation of lockdowns and the new normal for many working from home, pet owners have found their fur babies to be a constant source of stability and companionship. Studies have identified that there are several positive benefits to pet ownership, particularly on peoples’ mental and physical health[1]. However, the decision to bring a pet home shouldn’t be taken lightly from a financial perspective, with fur babies costing up to $25,000 on average across their lifespans. Two of the largest consideration factors and potential barriers to pet ownership, according to research, from Animal Medicines Australia, are upfront pricing (42%) and ongoing costs (53%). In this article we'll break down the numbers for you to help you with that important decision of whether or not to become a paw parent. 

Initial costs.

The first year of pet-parenthood is no walk in the park, costing as much as $3000 - $6000.

Adoption/Purchase: The initial cost of acquiring a pet depends upon the type of animal and where you to choose to get them. Adoption ranges between $0 - $500 on average while purchasing from breeders can put you roughly $500 to a couple thousand out of pocket.

Microchipping, vaccines and neutering: When buying as opposed to adopting pets, expect additional costs of vaccination, microchipping and neutering of roughly $1000, according to Money Smart.

Preparing your home: As with any new addition to the family, you’re bound to want to make your pet’s house a home. Miscellaneous set up costs include bedding, collars/restraints, utensils, name tags and toys and, depending on your budget, can vary from roughly $200-$500, according to the RSPCA.

Training: For cats and dogs, training can often be critical to a smooth transition into the family. While this varies depending on the provider, it costs an average of $170, according to the RSPCA.

Ongoing Costs

Pets in Australia: a national survey of pets and people, by Animal Medicines Australia, identified an ongoing annual cost of $1627 for dogs and $962 for cats. The table below breaks down the average household pet expenditure as of 2019.

 

Food: For dogs and cats, food costs an average of $500 - $600 annually. As with humans, it’s important to remember that health is wealth, and a well-balanced diet is critical to avoiding long term medical issues and expenses. If investing in premium quality meals and treats, you can expect your bill to rise to $800, according to Money Smart.

Medical: Health care products (average $150 - $250) and vet bills (average $250 - $450) can vary steeply from year to year. A budgeting plan or emergency fund can prepare you for unforeseen medical emergencies. 

Pet Registration: It’s a legal requirement to register certain pets such as dogs in Australia. This needs to be renewed every 12 months and can cost between $200 - $600 depending on the breed.

Grooming: In keeping your fur babies looking Insta worthy, you can expect to set aside roughly $50 - $150 for grooming and $100 - $150 for various accessories and products.

Miscellaneous: Additional expenses have their way of sneaking up on the best of us. Keeping a $200 - $300 budget is recommended for various factors such as boarding, transport, competitions and memberships.

Budgeting Tips

  • Adopt not Shop: From a financial viewpoint, adoption holds a clear advantage with substantially lower initial acquisition and medical expenses (vaccination, microchipping and neutering, if this has been done prior to adoption). However, it is important to note that an unknown health or behavioural history potentially associated with adoption may result in unforeseen medical, training or rehabilitative costs later down the line.
  • Bulk Buys: While skimping on low quality food or medical needs is never recommended, buying in bulk can help save substantially over the long run. Online retailers such as Ebay or department stores such as Big W offer budget friendly wholesale meals and treats.
  • Trash to Treasure: Not only can you rehome pets themselves but also various toys, furniture and products. Buying second hand or thrifting can save as much as 80% of original prices and has an added bonus of environmental sustainability. In the same vein, DIY toys, furniture or at home grooming services (nail clipping, brushing, hair cutting) are a whole lot of fun and can help save big bucks in the long run.
  • Peace of mind: While taking out pet insurance may at first seem counter-intuitive to saving money, it secures your ability to tackle unforeseen circumstances. In the event that your pet becomes injured or ill at any stage, this investment provides a security blanket and ensures you don’t break the bank in bills and fees.
  • Prevent not cure: Avoid putting off health plans and checks until something does go wrong. Make sure to be properly educated on your pets’ diet and exercise needs, keep up with vet check-ups and always remember that investing in early prevention is more often than not cheaper than a cure.

There’s no doubt that the initial, ongoing and emergency costs of pet parenthood are a serious commitment. With education and effective budgeting however, it’s a price well worth paying.

 

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.

 

 


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