Australian pet owners are spending $21.9 billion on their fur babies each year, splurging on everything from designer toys to chef-made meals.
Survey data published by Afterpay on Monday revealed more than half of Australians are spending more on pets than themselves in lockdown.
Social media manager Ruby Giles is one such Australian, skipping the occasional takeaway coffee or meal to spoil her cat Archie.
She spends $30 a week on essentials, but sometimes pampers Archie with treats costing up to $300, such as fancy litter trays and climbing trees.
At Christmas, she treated Archie to some kingfish sashimi made by one of her chef friends.
But even Ms Giles was surprised by some of the hidden costs of pet ownership when she picked up Archie during the pandemic in 2020.
“The main surprise for me was how expensive basic treatments are, not just something you have to do at the vet,” she told The New Daily.
“If you just go and buy a regular heart worming or flea treatment, those [prices] were a big surprise for me.”
Pet costs: Medical
Ms Giles isn’t the only one experiencing bill shock after getting a pet.
RSPCA’s senior scientific officer for companion animals, Sarah Zito, said people who have never had animals might be unprepared for how expensive the average pet can be.
She said pet owners spend an average of $309 a month on their pets.
“Obviously, every animal, just like every person, will need medical care over their lifetime,” Ms Zito said.
“You might be paying $80 just for a [vet] consultation, and probably a few hundred for any sort of routine testing that might need to be done.
“A vaccination might be around $200.”
Other traumatic accidents or illnesses, such as cancer or tick paralysis, can cost thousands of dollars.
“People need to be prepared for that,” Ms Zito said.
Although pet insurance can alleviate some financial pressure, Ms Zito said other unexpected costs – including grooming, training and boarding if you holiday – can easily pile up.
Higher prices for expensive breeds
Whether a dog is bought from a shelter or a breeder will also influence upfront and long-term costs.
Pets bought from breeders often cost more than $1000, and buyers then have to pay further hundreds or thousands of dollars for essential procedures such as microchipping and desexing.
Pets from shelters often have these extra costs built into their sale price, which is usually less than $1000.
The breed you choose can also influence how much you will spend on medical needs in the future, especially with dogs.
“Flat-face dogs like pugs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, British Bulldogs [and giant dogs such as Great Danes] … are very predisposed to having problems, which costs quite a lot of money,” Ms Zito said.
“And it’s not just the financial cost … but also the sadness and trauma of seeing a much-loved family pet [in pain].”
Ms Zito said prospective pet owners should research the breed they want to buy and how much they are likely to spend on that animal to make sure they can support their pet over its lifetime.
Diet makes a difference
Just like humans, pets are what they eat.
Ms Zito said owners shouldn’t buy cheap pet food to offset other costs.
“I think it’s really important that people recognise that pets are what they eat, just like we are what we eat,” she said.
Ms Giles made this mistake, initially low-balling her budget and spending only $10 to $15 a week on food for Archie.
She now spends more after deciding to focus on quality and buys fresh meat alongside mid-ranged cat food.
It’s worth thinking about this spending as an investment, not a cost.
“In the long term, I think that will pay dividends in terms of … they’re less likely to have health problems,” Ms Zito said.
- Pet insurance: $100+
- Vet bills for routine and emergency appointments: $600+
- Medicine, especially for conditions to which your pet’s breed is predisposed: $300+
- Quality pet food: $1000+
- Toys and accessories: $200+
- Grooming: $100+
- Training: $60+
- Boarding or pet-sitting for when you are travelling or working: $100+