The Cost of Pets
Thursday, February 11, 2016
The joy of having a pet isn’t new to most Australians. With more than two thirds of households owning a pet, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. Quite simply, pets are part of the Australian way of life, however we no longer view our four-legged friends simply as animals we share a home with.
Our pets are integral members of the family; our comforters, our best friends, our fur babies. In fact, a survey revealed a third of UK women claim to have the same level of love for their pet as they do for their partner.
This unbreakable bond between us and our beloved animals understandably has a significant impact on our spending habits. The latest Suncorp Bank Cost of Living report, The Cost of Pets, revealed we are happy to spend heavily, to the tune of $28 billion, to ensure our pets have the best possible quality of life. This national expenditure means the average pet owner spends nearly $5,600 annually on grooming, food, clothing and accessories, veterinary expenses and kennelling for their pet - totalling more than $450 per month.
The opportunity to capitalise on this deep, profound love we have for our pets has been seized by businesses worldwide – from dog beer to cat counselling, from pet weddings to designer threads – if we can have it, there’s a pretty high chance we can get it for our fluffy mini-me.
Hey, can you blame us for our spending? With the limitless array of pet costumes and accessories on the market, it’s pretty hard to resist dressing up little Fido as Santa on Christmas Day (or as Yoda for the Star Wars premiere…or as a taco...or Superman…).
But who spoils their pets the most?
Unsurprisingly, Victoria – the self-proclaimed fashion capital – is home to the nation’s most doting pet owners who spend more on professional grooming, clothing, accessories and activities for their pets compared to all other states - $7,800 per year.
Over the border, South Australia is home to the nation’s most frugal, spending $3,000 on their pets per year, 40 per cent less than the national average.
Tasmanian pets are the nation’s lowest-maintenance, with residents spending almost half the national average ($750 compared to $1,420) on professional grooming, clothing, accessories and activities for their pets. South Australia is home to the countries second most low-maintenance pets ($978 per year), followed by Queensland ($1,045 per year).
Northern Territory pet-owners spend more money annually on professional grooming, clothing, accessories and activities ($1,970 per year) for their pets, than preventative medication and vet bills ($1,570 per year).
ACT pet-owners are advocates for pet VIP treatments, such as pet spas and salons, with the average pet owner spending more than the national average, $5,740.
What about breeds?
Dogs remain our most favoured pet, with 70 per cent of pet owners having a pooch. Nationally, Labradors and Golden Retrievers remain the most popular breed, closely followed by Terriers and Shih Tzus.
Cats retain a strong hold on the second spot with 47 per cent of owners having a cat, followed by fish (26 per cent), birds (20 per cent) and guinea pigs, mice and rabbits (10 per cent).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Poodles, Shih Tzus and Dachshunds are the nation’s most pampered pets. Rottweilers are Australia’s low-maintenance pooches. However, surprisingly, the research found Bulldogs may be the country’s best-dressed dogs, 15 per cent of respondents spent between $250-$400 per month on dressing and accessorising their Bulldog.
Is it worth it?
Although there is a long list of costs associated with owning a pet (and many extra costs that technically aren’t essential but are too fun to pass up), some would say the benefits far surpass the expenses. Owning a pet has been found to positively impact our social wellbeing, our mental state and our physical health. In fact, our pets are such positive influences on our lives that a recent study found pet ownership in America saved $11.7 billion in health care costs last year alone.
A major health benefit of having a pet is their need for physical activity relies heavily on their human getting involved. Dogs especially help us get up and enjoy the outdoors while getting some regular exercise. They are great motivators and personal trainers, never wanting to miss a training session – rail, hail or shine.
Pets have a significant impact on the health of children too. Growing up with a dog (and other pets to a lesser extent) can help to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of allergies, and children who have pets are less likely to miss days of school due to illness.
The special bond we have with our pets not only benefits us physically, but also extends to our mental wellbeing. Those who have pets, including children or adolescents, have shown to have higher self-esteem. Reports have indicated teenagers who own pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair and boredom. Pet owners report less depression and appear to cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-pet owners. Pets enhance social connectedness and social skills and are also great caregivers, keeping us company when we’re sick or feeling down. They can make us feel safe while we’re home alone and they keep an eye on the house while we’re out.
Even though pets enrich our lives in so many ways, over 25 per cent of us don’t account for ‘pet costs’ in our household budgets - even if they don’t wear Versace, they do need to be fed and cared for.
How can I spend less?
Here are some of our top tips to help make your money go further and ensure your precious pets are looked after:
- Make sure you're not over feeding your pet - this can lead to obesity and other health problems, which can also drain money from your wallet.
- Create a pet savings account or research the cost of pet insurance – setting aside money every week or month will make sure you’re covered in the case of an emergency.
- Certain breeds are more susceptible to illness – consult your vet before you adopt or buy.
- Daily dental cleanings can add years to your pet’s life - dental treats help with this. Saving money with preventative care is critical, if you don’t take care of your pet’s teeth it can lead to major health problems such as kidney disease and heart failure.
- Buy pet food in bulk – source bulk-buy options online or visit warehouse stores such as Costco.
- Groom at home – learn how to groom your pet by buying a book or watching YouTube videos, this will save you hundreds on hydrobaths and pet salons!
- Keep your pet healthy and happy by making sure they get proper exercise. Not only will this help them stay healthy, it will also help with behavioral issues you may be having.
There are plenty of ways to pamper your pooches and indulge your iguanas on a budget. Being financially prepared for the unexpected is key and will make sure your furry friends are looked after no matter what, and at the end of the day, they are our best friends and the joy they bring us is worth every cent.