Animals – they provide so much love, joy and fur in the carpet. I’ve had pets all my life. Mostly cats, a rabbit or two, and a surprisingly resilient goldfish who lived 5 years despite my tardiness with cleaning her bowl.

But aside from the goldfish, who unsurprisingly wasn’t much of a financial investment, all my previous pets have been family pets. And by family pets, I mean paid for and maintained by my Mum. The food, the litter, the vet bills – many of us grow up with pets, not knowing of the financial burden that they bring. Even when you have to put the poor buggers to sleep you stomp on out the vet bill with a broken heart and an abused credit card.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew there was a cost involved with pets, and I knew it was steep – but you never really know the cost of something until you have to pay it. I guess it’s sort of like a junior burger version of having kids. You add up all the possible costs and multiply it by three and you’re still left digging into their 18th birthday fund to fork out for yet another unnecessarily lavish school trip. (Side note, I am childless. I’m just forecasting the joy that is to come one day).

So when the switch flipped in my brain and I decided I was enough of a grown up to get my own cat, my partner and I hopped onto Gumtree to ‘have a look’, and before we knew it we had the car loaded with litter, food and a carry case and we were off to a foster home. You know, just to ‘see how we felt’. Of course about 18 seconds after walking through the door we handed over $200 and scooped up the unnamed black and white male cat and went on our merry way.

And then the financial abuse began!

My cats at home usually ate half a pouch or half a tin of food in the morning, and dry food the rest of the day. Granted those cats have always been outdoor cats, but our unnamed black and white male was to be indoor. His name is Paddington now – unnamed black and white male was a bit of a mouthful.

Anyway, I’m unsure if this made a difference to his appetite – if anything you’d think he’d eat less. But no. No, no, no. Somehow we chose a cat with an appetite fiercer than Cher’s performance of Fernando in Mamma Mia 2. Yep, he can eat an astounding amount.

At one point he was eating four pouches a day plus dry kibble. At $10 for a box of 12 pouches, we were going through about one box every 3 days just on wet food, then about a bag of dry food every fortnight or so. Throw in the flea treatment, worming treatments, some digestive distress at 4 months old and a handful of vet consultations to boot, and suddenly we had spent almost $1000 on him before his 6 month birthday!

Shocked at the financial reality of owning pets, I took to Instagram to see what other pet owners spent on their pets.

@girlsjustwannahavefunds92 “Tweezle my old cat use to have a sensitive stomach, his cat food was $70 a bag! Kevin our 9 month old kitten eats like he isn’t paying for it! And he also has a sensitive stomach. I tried him on raw, but he is now on science diet kitten and I get his bags for around $45 a bag when they’re on special. We feed our dog Luna raw meat and mix in Balanced Life which costs $120 a bag plus the raw meat at $3.5 a kilo. She’s lucky I love her so damn much!”

@the_frugal_freebird “My two Staffies have been cheeky little turds in their 5 years of the spoilt life and treated themselves to things that have seen many vet trips. At one point, we paid out nearly $2000 in a fortnight from sneaking food, to grass seeds in the nose and a foot surgery! Lucky they’re my fur babies!”

@stitchingbarb “We got 2 moodles (Maltese cross poodles) in March and less than two months later one swallowed a stone which got stuck and cost us $1,100 to get removed by laxative from the emergency vet and overnight stay. But, if that hadn’t worked it could have cost us up to $7,000 if he had needed to be operated. My husband jokingly said I can’t have been feeding them enough if they had to resort to eating rocks!”

@debtfreecharts “Our cats get dry food only, nothing fancy. $15 for a month for two cats.”

@arabbitinwonderland “I feed my chihuahua for about $20 a month by making her wet food myself, it’s so much better quality and about half the price of buying! Invest in a pet cookbook and talk to your vet about nutritional needs. My recipe is basically a stew. It is high grade beef mince with sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, peas, spinach, brown rice, and turmeric which is great for their joints, and linseed oil. It’s vet approved and she loves it.”

@opshop.savings.stockpiling “After a horrible incident involving an elaborately decorated birthday cake and our crazy dog, I now have a limit on how much I’m willing to pay to keep him alive if he has another accident!”

So, it looks like you can either get really lucky, or really unlucky when it comes to the cost of having a pet. If you want to feed your animal quality food, it’s going to cost a bit more – that’s just the reality. But in our experience, the more expensive food does last longer. We’ve moved from Whiskers kibble which we knew wasn’t great nutritionally, to a Royal Canin indoor blend that has all the nutrients he needs. We cut his wet food down from 3-4 pouches a day to 1-2, and it’s gone pretty well.

We find that buying food from Pet Circle is the cheapest and best way to get the lowest price especially if you lock in a repeat order. That said, I have read that Pet Barn will price match any other advertised price, which might be best of online shopping isn’t your thing. We recently bought Royal Canin food from Pet Barn with a 30% off voucher, and even got a free 400g bag of another Royal Canin food of our choice. So that was a bonus.

What’s more, Royal Canin offer a palatability guarantee (not sponsored, just shook). That means you can take any of their food home, try it on an introductory phase-in diet and if it’s a no from your pet, you can return the bag for a refund (providing at least 50% of the bag is still usable and it’s in its original packaging).

The biggest tip on affording pets is to over budget, and make sure you have an emergency fund available for vet bills. Some people would say ‘oh they’re only animals’ but for most people they are a part of your family – you want to be able to take care of them if they’re unwell.

Factor in the following costs:

  • Wet food

  • Dry food

  • Changing the food if they go off it (a major pain in the arse)

  • Flea, tick, worming treatments

  • Vet consultations

  • Vet operations/diagnostic scans

  • Toys (puppies and kittens will tear toys apart really fast)

  • Poo bags

  • Litter

  • Scoops

  • Litter boxes

  • Insurance

  • Collars

  • Microchipping

  • Neutering

  • Council registration

  • Treats

  • Sitting/boarding while you’re on holiday

  • Repairs to your home and furniture (RIP couch and blinds)

  • Cleaning equipment for wee-on-carpet situations

  • Birthday parties (yes I did throw a 1st birthday for Paddington)

I’m sure there’s more. But the point we’re illustrating here is that the cost of a pet goes way beyond the initial adoption fee and a carry crate. Please, please don’t commit to getting an animal if you’re not 100% certain that you’re willing and able to put in the money you need to take proper care of it. And if/when you do get one, please adopt, don’t shop!

Also in case it was unclear here, I love my cat more than life itself. I would move heaven and earth to keep him from harm!


The true cost of pets