We Brits love our animals, but we also love our cash and these two things don't go well together.
There are over 13 million pets in the UK with at least 45% of households having an animal of one sort or another. And, when it comes to our pets we spend a lot of money. According to the RSPCA dog owners spend at least £833 a year on their pooches while cats cost up to £675 a year. That amounts to an astonishing £10,000 over your pet's lifetime.
So, how can you keep the costs down when it comes to your furry friend, without affecting their health and happiness?
1. Insure your pet
The best way to dramatically cut costs associated with your pet is to insure it. For a cost of around £5 - £20 a month you can avoid any unexpected vet bills. Animal medical treatment has come a long way in the past decade. Now many illnesses which would have previously resulted in euthanasia can be treated. But, these treatments don't come cheap, they can cost thousands of pounds.
Avoid having to make a difficult decision between money and your pet's life by getting them insured. You can shop around for the best policy at Comparethemarket.com or Gocompare.com.
Register your cat, dog or rabbit with Vets4Pets and for a one-off payment of £99 they will get all their annual vaccinations and two health checks a year for their entire lives. Given that these things aren't covered by pet insurance this could mean a big saving. For example, booster jabs and health checks for a dog cost £30-£50 a year, according to Whatprice.co.uk.
3. Shop around for pet food
If you aren't fussy about what brand of food your pet eats then consider switching. Check the ingredients and you'll find that most supermarket own brand foods are the same as the famous brands but at a fraction of the price. For example, Tesco's own dog food is 47p a tin compared to 60p a tin for Pedigree's tins.
Pet owners who do want to stick to a particular brand should consider bulk buying food online. For example, PetSupermarket.co.uk sells 12kg of Iams dry dog food for £21.91, whereas just 3kg costs £10.50 at Sainsbury's.
4. Make your pet a food taster
Anyone with a fussy pet (or owner) who sticks to one specific brand could end up with free food if their pet is a taster. To do this you need to show your loyalty to the brand, ideally by purchasing it straight from the company rather than via another retailer.
If that isn't possible sign up to the company's newsletters and join any online programmes they have – such as Pedigree's puppy website – and your pet might be chosen to try any new recipes they are developing. I've managed this with my own cat who is sent free food from time to time to taste and report back on.
5. Make your own food
You could really cut your
pet food bill by making your own food for your animals. You can find recipes at www.foundersvet.com/home-cooking.htm. Just make sure that you follow vet-approved recipes so that your pet continues to get a healthy balanced diet.
6. Join loyalty programmes
Make a point of supporting the brands you love by signing up to their newsletters and liking them on social media then you'll be the first to know about discounts or get sent coupons.
One example is Pets At Home's VIP club. Sign up next time you are in store and you'll get a card to swipe when you shop. In return you'll be sent a free magazine and personalised money off coupons several times a year.
7. Buy second-hand
If you need to buy large items for your pet like hutches, crates or travel boxes consider getting them second-hand from eBay or Freecycle to really cut your costs. Plenty of people are glad to be rid of bulky items they no longer need so you could grab a real bargain. Just make sure you check that the item is still fit for purpose and safe for your pet.
8. Don't pay for kennels
Going on holiday can be an expensive business at the best of times, but it is even more costly if you have to pay for your pet to have a holiday too. You can cut this cost, or even eliminate it completely by seeing if friends or family members want to look after your pets for you.
If you haven't got a willing pet sitter you could look online. There are a number of websites set up for people who aren't able to have a pet full-time. They sign up and then 'borrow' an animal. This could mean you get to leave your animal in a loving home at no cost. One example is BorrowMyDoggy.com.
9. Get your pet earning
You could really cut your pet costs by getting your furry friend a job so it can contribute money to the pot. Obviously career choices are limited – rabbits make terrible builders and cats don't have the get up and go needed for most jobs. But modelling is one area most well-behaved pets can excel. So sign your pet up with a reputable agency and they could be earning anything up to around £90 an hour.
10. Choose your pet wisely
If you are thinking about getting a pet think carefully about what you can afford. Do you have a spare thousand pound a year to spend on a dog or would you be better off going for a smaller, cheaper animal such as a rabbit?
Also, consider where you are going to get your pet from. A pedigree puppy costs from £500 - £2,500 if you get them from a reputable breeder. If that is too much then consider adopting a dog instead. There are hundreds of pets including rabbits and other small animals looking for new homes via animal charities like the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection or Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
If you do want a pedigree pet make sure you get them from a breeder who is approved by a recognised organisation such as the Kennel Club.
Whatever you do don't buy your pet from a private advert in the newspaper or on the internet. You don't know the history of the animal or how it has been treated, so what starts out looking a bargain could cost you dearly in vet bills and heart ache.
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