Pet for Christmas? What will it really cost you?

Pet owners vastly underestimate the cost of pets: some cost over £20,000

The cost of pets

Most pet owners would agree that their pets are worth every penny they fork out on everything from vet's bills to food and insurance. But then again there's a pretty good chance they have absolutely no idea how ruinously expensive their pets really are. Wood Green animal charity and Totallymoney have built a tool for you to check the cost of your pet, and the results are shocking.

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A small dog, for example, will cost you an average of £19,224 over its lifetime - and that's no a pampered pet, it's an insured one who spends a week in kennels every year, and keeps its jabs up to date. A cat, meanwhile, will cost £12,322 over its lifetime, a rabbit £7,504, and even a hamster £1,052.

The top five most expensive pets are:

1. Tortoise, costing £27,787 over 75 years
2. Small dog, £19,224 over 15 years
3. Large dog, £17,234 over 11.5 years
4. Medium dog, £16,828 over 11.5 years
5. Cat, £12,322 over 16 years

For dogs, the biggest expense is insurance, which costs an average of £4,500 for small dogs. For cats, the biggest expense is food - at £3,500 (that's even assuming they aren't the kinds of cats that wait until you have bulk-bought their favourite food before they suddenly and inexplicably go off it). For smaller pets, food tends to be the biggest cost - except for chickens - which apparently cost more in healthcare than in grain, and tortoises which cost more in insurance.

The figures come as a huge shock to owners. The study asked people to guess what their pet would cost over their lifetime, and the guesses came in way under the actual costs. Owners of small dogs, for example, thought they would cost £9,800 - compared to the actual cost of over £19,000. Cat owners were also way off - estimating £7,400 instead of £12,322, and guinea pig owners thought they would cost them £1,800 - instead of £3,700.

Worth it?

The good news is that most people are willing to open their home to a furry friend - even when they realise how much they will cost. TotallyMoney found that only 2% of pet owners regret getting their pet, while even after telling cat owners that their pet would cost them the same amount as a deposit on a house, 88% claimed they'd rather have the cat.

It also highlighted that at this time of year, animal charities have enormous numbers of pets looking for a new home. This Christmas, Wood Green alone will be looking after 650 animals. It points out that if you choose to take on a pet from them, you know the animal has had property veterinary care, and that you will be given the support you need in order to keep your pet healthy and happy.

Serious thought

However, given the costs involved, it's vital that owners go into it with their eyes open. The charity says the number one reason for people taking animals to be rehomed is that their owners can no longer afford to keep them.

It means that it's essential that people seriously consider all the costs involved before taking an animal on, as it can be horribly distressing to realise the full extent of the responsibility when it's too late.

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