The price of owning a pet, from goldfish to horses

Cat owners are more likely to risk paying for expensive treatments than dog owners. Picture: iStockphoto/Getty
Cat owners are more likely to risk paying for expensive treatments than dog owners. Picture: iStockphoto/Getty
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April is National Pet Month (, but have you ever stopped to consider how much your furry or scaly friend is costing you?

New research suggests the first year of owning a pet can set owners back nearly £3,500 on average, including the cost of buying the animal and set-up costs, such as food, bedding and equipment.

That’s according to a survey of 2,300 pet owners across the UK from Nationwide Home Insurance.

For many owners, a pet is like a member of the family – which may explain why they are happy to fork out so much on their beloved animal. Indeed, one in eight (12 per cent) of those surveyed claim they love their pet more than their partner – and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) say they love their pet more than their best friend.

The cost of buying and keeping a pet in the first year can vary significantly, particularly when it comes to what type of animal it is. Even a goldfish, which might be seen as a “cost-effective” pet, can cost hundreds of pounds in the first year, the research suggests.

By the time the owner has forked out on a tank, a pump and a year’s supply of fish food, the cost can run to £769, Nationwide found.

The survey also suggests cat owners can expect to pay around half the amount shelled out by dog owners in the first year.

Cat owners pay £2,455 typically, while dog owners spend around £4,791 in the first year.

Meanwhile, a rabbit will set someone back around £1,802, the survey found.

A lizard was also found to be at the cheaper end of the spectrum, costing around £1,788 in the first year, while a guinea pig may set someone back £3,715 over the same period.

And the annual cost of a horse was found to be £12,654 – perhaps not all that surprising given the money initially spent on the animal and the cost of livery yards.

The cost of buying a pet in the first place was found to come to £147 on average.

But one in five (20 per cent) pet owners will spend more than £250.

While some costs of owning a pet are predictable, there are also the unexpected expenses, such as if a pet falls ill or causes accidental damage.

Nationwide found that among home owners who have made a claim for accidental damage caused by a pet, 7 per cent had claimed for a damaged carpet, 5 per cent had claimed for damaged sofas and chairs and 5 per cent had claimed for replacing chewed wires.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), a record £706 million was paid out in pet insurance claims in 2016, with the average payout at £757.

But the ABI says that while an estimated 40 per cent of households have pets, the vast majority of pet owners are not insuring them. Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to risk expensive costs if their pet needs treatment.

Rebecca Hollingsworth, general insurance policy adviser at the ABI, says: “There is no NHS for pets, and the cost of getting quality veterinary treatment can quickly run into thousands of pounds, particularly with rising veterinary costs and a greater range of medical treatments for pets now available.”