Meet our experts: Vicki Larkham-Jones is a vet for the PDSA charity (www.pdsa.org.uk); Tina Cockayne works for Armitage Pet Care (www.armitages.co.uk), Mark Spurlock is Head of Technical Services at pet care company, Bob Martin (www.bobmartin.co.uk)
Whether you share your home with cats, dogs or something smaller, there’s no doubt that pets are one of the family. But like all of us, pets need feeding, entertaining and keeping healthy, all of which quickly adds up.
The PDSA estimates that a pooch costs £16,000-£31,000 over its lifetime, while a kitty costs £17,000 and a rabbit around £9,000. And that’s not to mention the cost of vet’s fees if your pet gets poorly. But there are some clever ways to bring down the bills for your furry friend without cutting corners on their care.
Be shrewd on food
Pet food is one of the biggest costs of any pet owner and one of the best places to save the pennies.
“Cut out any expensive, unnecessary treats you give your pet because most animals would be just as happy with a cuddle or some playtime with you,” says Vicki Larkham-Jones. Another way to save on both your pocket money and your pet’s waistline is to avoid over-feeding. Weigh out your pet’s daily allowance, which should be listed on the back of the packet, and split it into two or three portions, depending on what they like best.
“And don’t pay over the odds for specialised foods unless your vet prescribes it – normal pet food from the supermarket will usually give them all the nutrients they need.”
Try a penny-saving pamper
Grooming can take a real snip at your bank account, but you can actually do a lot of it at home on the cheap. “Give your pet a regular groom with a brush or comb to keep their fur healthy” says Mark Spurlock. “For dogs, rub through a small amount of natural oil, too, such as evening primrose oil, to prevent tangles and keep skin clean.”
While you’re there, check their ears, eyes, neck and tail for anything unusual or to see if fleas are making a home there. Using flea treatments all year round is generally the best way of preventing an irritating – not to mention expensive – outbreak. “Check teeth for bad breath and any dental problems,” says Mark. Giving them foods and toys that make them chew should help keep their teeth strong.
“Walking dogs on hard pavements or getting a scratching post for your cat can help keep nails trim, too,” says Tina Cockayne.
Prevention is cheaper than the cure!
There are certain costs that should never be skimped on, however, as doing so can damage your pet’s health long term.
“Make sure your pet has all the vaccinations they’re meant to, including ones against feline influenza and canine parvovirus, to avoid a serious and potentially costly illness further down the line,” says Vicki.
“Getting your pet neutered is important – as well as the obvious, it prevents a common but dangerous womb infection in females as well as certain cancers.”
- For neutering, check with animal charities such as the Cats Protection (0300 012 1212, www.cats.org.uk/neutering) or Dogs Trust (0333 202 1148, www.dogstrust.org.uk) to see if they can offer you a discount.
If you find yourself needing urgent vet care but are struggling to afford it, there are organisations that can help – especially if you’re on means-tested benefits.
- Contact the PDSA (0800 731 2502 or www.pdsa.org.uk/eligibility) and the Blue Cross (0300 790 9903, www.bluecross.org.uk/veterinary).
Toys to keep your pet busy don’t have to come in fancy packaging with big price tags. Often your own homemade creations will be just as much fun.
“For small pets such as hamsters, wrap bits of their food in plain brown paper to keep them busy for hours,” says Vicki. “Cats, meanwhile, will be more than happy with crumpled bits of paper and of course cardboard boxes to squeeze into. Steer clear of using ribbons and string, though, as these could cause an accident.”
For all pets, stick to a small number of toys that you rotate to stop your pet getting bored and make your toys last longer.”
When it’s time for you to head off on holiday, save on the cost of the kennels or cattery with a bit of neighbourliness. “Try to form a circle of trustworthy pet owners in your area who are willing to help each other when you go away – it’ll save you all in the long run,” says Tina.
- There's more money saving advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.