At what cost comes companionship?


MoneyPlus Features Team

27th September 2016 at 10:30am

Well if it comes in the shape of an animal companion, then over their lifetime it can be quite considerable, according to some research by Total Money.

While man’s best friend and his compatriots might make welcome house guests they can prove to be pricey ones.

The price of pets

Did you know that the most expensive household pet to keep isn’t a dog or cat, it’s actually the Tortoise?

It appears they are no slow dozers when it comes to running up the bills. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the animal, the more expensive it is to shelter and care for but here size doesn’t appear to matter, it’s actually their grip on life that counts. They are estimated to live in the region of 75 years and in that time you could shell out around £27,787 in upkeep.

But the household pooch is no slouch either when it comes to cost. The average cost of keeping a large dog will be around £19,577 while a small dog sees it scamper up to £22,344. Smaller dogs tend to live a bit longer being the reason.

Tortoise confirmed as the most expensive household pet

And own a cat and you’ll not claw much cash back out of £17,000.

Your children’s favourites will set you back a few guineas too. Over their lifetimes Guinea pigs average out at £3,670 with a hamster being the less expensive option at £1,052, and rabbits cost an astonishing £9,000.

However, if you’re animal instinct is to go for something a little more exotic, the cost for a lizard creeps in at £4,369 over their lifetime.

Even owning one of our feathered friends can see the costs fly, given a pet budgie can live 15 to 18 years; you could part with between £2,222 and £2,649 in that time period.

However, if you’re looking for something more budget than budgie then you might like to consider the humble goldfish, it’s the winner in the cheap pet stakes setting you back just £914 over their average 7.5 year lifetime.

Do the maths

Clearly some pets will cost less than others, but whatever size or flavour you opt for there will always be costs attached. So do your research and make sure you can afford it.

There are the obvious expenses such as food and shelter you’ll need to consider but there are other things you’ll need to factor in too like insurance, veterinary bills, and necessary treatments. And incidental costs such as kennelling if you’re off on holiday.

Pet costs can escalate as they grow older

Also keep in mind that costs can escalate as pets get older, with many animals needing extra medical care in later life.

If you’d like to get a rough guide on what your pet might cost, there’s a handy personalised tool that Totally Money have launched to help people understand the breakdown of their spending when it comes to their pets.

So what can you do to counter those costs?

Here are a few tips recommended by Aol Money UK and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) that can help you keep things a little more manageable.

Buy in bulk

If space is not going to be an issue then buy supplies such as food, flee treatment and cat litter in bulk. As a general rule, the bigger the bag, the less it will cost you per kilo.

Going for unbranded pet food will also cut costs, and the ingredients are usually quite similar. Check out bargain sites like Groupon for deals, as even with the shipping costs, it can be cheaper than the supermarket.

And make sure you don’t overfeed.  If your pet is overweight, it can bring health problems and vet’s bills.

Online medication

Some of the medication you buy from the vet can be ordered online. Try for prescription and non-prescription medicines – which can cost up to 50% less than the price you might pay at the vet’s.

Shop around for pet insurance

Although pet insurance may seem to be an expense you can do without, it only takes a simple accident or short illness for those vet bills to start racking up.

Like all insurance, it pays to shop around but remember that ‘cheap’ pet insurance may not give you the cover that you need, so this may be one expense not to scrimp on if you can help it.

Find a pet sitter

If you’re heading off and need pet cover then avoid paying pricey kennel or cattery fees by setting up a pet sitting circle. You each take turns to look after each other’s pets while holidays are happening.

You can also hire dog-walkers or house-sitters who’ll charge a small fee for looking after your animal. Some sites that offer these services include and

Buy second hand

The accoutrement that comes with owning an animal can be considerable, you may be able to pick up a hamster or rabbit relatively cheaply but then be faced with a much larger bill when it comes to actually housing your new furry friend.

Charity shops, car boot sales, eBay and Gumtree can be great places to pick up cheap pet paraphernalia.

Animal magic

There is no doubting the joy an animal companion can bring, especially in later life as was highlighted in our article ‘What is the key to a happy retirement?’, but they do come with a cost. While we are a nation of animal lovers and it might feel a little dispassionate to be thinking pounds instead of hounds, it’s still always worth doing the maths; it’s in both your best interests.

Join the conversation and follow us on twitter @StandardLifeUK and Facebook.

The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice.

Standard Life accepts no responsibility for the content in the websites referred to in this blog. This is provided for general information only.