Getting a pet

The truth about cats and dogs

Dog and catAdding a furry friend to your life can give you companionship, love and exercise but animals can be costly to care for properly. Before you take on a pet, you should factor them into your budget. Here are some of the things you will need to pay for to keep your pet healthy and happy.

The cost of owning a pet

The cost of owning a dog over its lifetime can be up to $25,000 (Source: BankWest Family Pooch Index). Cats cost slightly less but also live longer than dogs, so they set owners back around the same amount.

If you are getting a new pet, the cost will vary according to the breed and age of the animal. Ongoing costs can also vary a lot depending on whether your pet is big or small, if they have ongoing health issues, and if you choose to take out pet insurance. 

Add up the weekly costs of your pet and then put them in your budget

Budget planner

Pet infographic thumbnail small

Cost of a pet

Did you know the average dog costs more than $1,400 per year? The cost of a pet infographic explores the average cost of pet ownership and pet insurance in Australia.

Expenses for a new pet

Here are some of the expenses you might be paying when you get a new pet. We estimate the total costs for a domestic pet in the first year to be between $3,000 to $6,000, not including unexpected health problems. This is only a guide and you should do your own research.

Pet expenses checklist

Item Cost
Buying the cat or dog - depends on the breed and where you get it from From $200 to $3,500 plus
Vet expenses - microchipping, vaccination, de-sexing, vet check ups, unexpected costs like accidents and health issues Up to $1,000 in first year, then about $450 every year after

(Source: BankWest Family Pooch Index)

Health expenses - flea, tick, worming

Between $300-450 each year, depending on your pet's size
Pet food - wet food, dry food and treats About $800 per year for premium dog food, PLUS treats
Accessories - collar, harness, leash, car restraint, winter coats, bowls for food and water, kennels and beds, toys, toilet mats and kitty litter, scratching posts Up to $500 initially to set up, then about $100 per year
Other services - obedience training, grooming, dog walking, boarding fees, local council registration

Ring around or check local services but council registration fees can cost between $30-$190 per year 

Pet insurance Between $20-$60 per month, per pet

Estimate of total costs for the first year: $3,000 to $6,000 (not including unexpected health problems)

Video: Looking for a spending tracker? Try the TrackMySPEND app

Video about TrackMySPEND

Track your pet expenses with TrackMySPEND.

Transcript: Looking for a spending tracker? Try TrackMySPEND

Weighing up the cost of pet insurance

Pet insurance can help cover the cost if your pet is sick or injured and needs veterinary care. The cost of pet insurance will depend on your pets' size, age and other factors. There will also be an excess to pay on most claims, so get quotes from different providers on the costs for the level of cover you would like. 

Pet insurance is optional and you'll need to work out if the cost of the insurance premium is worth the coverage you'll get. Be sure to check the claim process, excess gap cost, and the exclusions before you sign up. For more information see pet insurance.

Case study: Sarah gets a new puppy

Cute puppy dogSarah had her heart set on owning her first puppy and wanted to make sure she could afford to have a dog. She started by calling her local vet to find out how much it cost to vaccinate, de-sex and microchip a dog.

Next Sarah visited her local pet shop to find out the costs of pet foods, flea and worming treatments, and accessories for her pet including a bed, collar and lead, and chew toys. She also looked into the cost of dog obedience classes. Finally, Sarah called her local council to find out the registration fees for a dog in her area.

In the end the costs added up to a lot more than Sarah thought they would, so she saved for another 6 months before she began the search for her new furry companion.

Ways to reduce your pet costs

The cost of owning a pet can really add up, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the cost of owning one. Here are some ideas. 

  • Buy your pet from a shelter - If you buy your pet from the RSPCA or from a cat or dog shelter your animal will be de-sexed, wormed and vaccinated which will save you money and save an animal that needs a home. You may also save on local council registration fees, so be sure to check.
  • Register your petIf you don't, the fine can be much higher than the registration fee and your pet can be more easily found if they are lost. It may also be cheaper in the long-term to purchase 'lifetime' registration, rather than yearly. Some councils also have discounts to register pets over the age of 10. Check with your local council for accurate costs and requirements.
  • Get your pet de-sexedIf you don't plan to breed your pet, the cost to de-sex will be lower than the cost of bringing up a litter. With some councils, it is mandatory to have your cat de-sexed, so make sure you check this as the fine could be high. Registration costs are also generally cheaper for de-sexed pets.
  • Keep your pet's health in checkProviding regular exercise, a good diet, and dental care are important to maintaining your pet's overall health and avoiding complications later in their life. You'll save money on the long term costs of care for obesity, joint pain and arthritis and dental care. Keep an eye on their weight and provide regular bones or dental treats for your pet to keep their teeth and gums healthy. 
  • Look at what you feed your petDo your own research and talk to your vet about what to feed your pet that may cost you less. You might find that you can save money if you can avoid spending up on gourmet pet food. Also shop around for cheaper options like getting dog bones from the butcher, rather than a pet shop.
  • Don't go overboard on accessoriesWhile it can be tempting to spoil your fur baby with a bit of bling, it can also be an unnecessary cost. Be sure to weigh up if they really need that diamante-studded collar, and look for good quality products that will stand the test of time. 
  • Get friendly with your neighboursRather than shelling out for a boarding kennel while you go away on holidays, hit up your friends and neighbours for pet-sitting. It will cost less to shout them a dinner or a voucher, than to pay for pet accommodation.
  • Pamper your pet yourselfSave money by trimming your own pet's nails and treating them to a bath, rather than paying someone else to do it. If your pet requires regular haircuts, you could even invest in a pair of clippers and teach yourself to trim their coats through online instructional videos. It may take time to learn, but they probably won't mind as much as humans would if you give them a bad haircut.
  • Pet-proof your homeEspecially for puppies, make sure you pick up chargers, cables, and small items off the ground to save an unexpected and expensive trip to the vet.
  • Invest time to trainRather than paying for a professional to help with your pet's behavioural problems, do some research and put the time in yourself first. There are plenty of online resources available, including videos to demonstrate what to do.
  • Go DIYYou can make your own toys, treats, play structures, and even beds to save you money. There are heaps of online tutorials to help you, it could save you heaps and can also be quite rewarding.   

The cost of cats and dogs... and snakes?

The cost of cats and dogs - MoneySmart Teaching resourceTry MoneySmart Teaching's interactive resource that helps kids research the costs and benefits of buying a pet and tackle issues around saving, spending, planning, budgeting and making consumer choices.

Teachers can also use our Year 6 Mathematics unit of work It's raining cats and dogs...and chickens where students investigate the costs of becoming a pet owner and explore ethical considerations and other factors that influence pet choice.

It is important you plan for the upfront and ongoing expenses of your new pet to ensure they will fit in with your household and your budget.


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Last updated: 31 Jul 2017