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The true cost of pets

Family pet (Image: Getty)
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Cats have subsisted on scraps for millennia. I remind myself this every time my furry friend stares wide-eyed at me, hoping for a meat sachet instead of biscuits.

These days it’s possible to spend as much on the basics of life for our pets as we do on our children. After all, medical care for children is free and we don't need to pay to have them spayed or neutered.

There are people who can't afford their pets and pets do suffer when times are economically hard, with more ending up on the SPCA's doorstep.

Cost of keeping pets
The cost of different pets varies hugely. I have to say that I was quite frankly shocked when I bought all the paraphernalia (mostly second-hand) recently to begin keeping goldfish. There was no change from $100.

Interested in what our animal friends cost us on average I called SPCA Auckland's chief executive, Bob Kerridge. There are no research figures for New Zealand, he tells me — although he's hoping to change that by next year. In the meantime, our figures wouldn't be much different from the Australian Companion Animal Council's latest research, Kerridge says. That research found the annual cost of keeping cats and dogs, excluding purchase price, was:

  • Dogs: A$746 ($937).
  • Cats A$594 ($746).

Food is just the start
I worked out that cat food comes to 53 percent of the total cost of ownership — whereas many people who pick up a cute kitten probably don't think much behind that cost. Around 35 percent is spent on vets bills and other non-vet services such as boarding. Just under 10 percent is products, equipment and other purchases such as cat litter. "Other" unspecified expenses make up the final 2 percent. If you're interested in reading more about the statistics for dogs, visit the Australian Companion Animal Council's website.

Love or hate pets?
Most Kiwis fall into two main categories when it comes to pets. Those who adore their animals with money being no object, and those who simply wouldn't ever have one.

Research suggests that pets provide us with psychological and physiological benefits. They are companions, social enablers building bridges with other people, and helpers. Positive relationships between pets and owners lead to fewer visits to the doctor and better cardiovascular health, ACAC says. They're especially beneficial for the elderly and for single people as an outlet for our instinct for nurturing.

Be sensible about pets
When I suggested in an earlier blog that I felt it okay to feed my cat budget brand products — because after all my children are often fed Pams and Home Brand products — I was robustly criticised.

Having said that I think there's no harm in acknowledging what it's costing you to keep your pet — in the same way you should be aware of what everything from hobbies, to takeaways cost you over the long term. If more people thought about the cost of animals before they brought them into the family, fewer may be abandoned or mistreated.

Your say: How much does your pet cost you?

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  • User comments
    So, having a cat companion costs some 500 bucks a year. This is actually good news. $500 a year is nothing, people stupidly spend much more on alcohol, takeaways, lattes and all sorts of things like that. without getting much in return. Kids are sweet when they are little,but when leave home and become adults, they usually have no time for their ageing parents. I went to see a friend in a rest home over the weekend. Most of the elderly residents have adult children, who dumped them there. Well, kids cost hundreds of thousands, many sleepless nights and at the end many parents find, they can't rely on their grown up chilldren for love and support. On the contrary, the joy and comfort that pets give us is priceless, their loyalty is undieing. I am glad the costs of having a pet is so little. l
    I love my dog, when I tell people how much $ I have spent on her so far, many say why didn't you just put her to sleep. Hello, we don't just put family members to sleep just because their healthcare costs! My girl is a year old and so far I have spent around $5000 on her vet bills, this includes vaccinations, spaying, etc then she caught parvo which she was vaccinated for and spent 11 days at the vets, diagnosing the problem (x-rays and blood tests) and receiving intensive treatment. Now she has a limp that I have had to get x-rayed and may be the beginning of OCD and is on a treatment of injections to help this. Then we are back again for more x-rays and possible surgery if it does not heal. Our animals love us and trust us to care for them and mine and my girls loyalty is a 2 way street.
    People ought to apply this logic to children as well. It is irresponsible to take on another mouth that you can't feed. I feel there is nothing wrong with providing my dog with a good lifestyle. I choose not to spend the hundreds of thousands required to raise a child - and this is excluding all the handouts given to procreators! Pets are no less a waste of money than children are. They are however less of a noose round your neck because you can leave them at home whilst you work and board them when you need a holiday.

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