£3,500 first-year cost of keeping a pet, survey finds

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Pet owners pay nearly £3,500 typically in the first year of owning their animal, including costs such as food, bedding, toys, equipment and insurance, a survey has found.

One in eight (12%) pet owners surveyed claim they love their pet more than their partner, the research from Nationwide Home Insurance found.

Cats were found to be cheaper than dogs in the first year, on average, with cat owners paying around £2,455 and dog owners paying £4,791 on average.

While the average cost of keeping a pet in the first year is £3,446, including the cost of buying the animal, the typical cost of keeping a horse for this period is £12,654.

A fish will cost its owner £769 in the first year, including set-up costs such as a tank and pumps, the research suggests.

Meanwhile, keeping a rabbit - hutch and all - will cost £1,802 in the first year, according to the survey. 

While the average amount spent on the animal itself was found to be £147, one in five (20%) pet owners said they spend more than £250.

More than half (54%) of those surveyed saved up beforehand to cover the initial cost of owning a pet, the research among more than 2,300 pet owners across the UK found.

Nearly one in 10 (9%) pet owners use a credit card to fund the ongoing cost of their animals, while nearly two fifths (38%) dip into their savings.

Of those who have claimed on their home insurance due to an accident caused by a pet, 7% said the carpet had been damaged, 5% said sofas and chairs had been damaged and 5% said the TV had been broken.

Rob Angus, Nationwide's head of general insurance, said: "Owning an animal can be extremely rewarding, but a very expensive experience. Given a pet is for life, it's important to plan ahead and budget for the potential costs involved, otherwise animal ownership could turn into a financial headache."

Figures released by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) last week showed a record £706 million in pet insurance claims was paid in 2016.