Money Saving Tips for Pet Owners

You’ve had a tough day at work, and it seems like you got caught at every red traffic light on the way home. You finally pull up in your drive and take a deep breath. You walk up the path, put your key in the door, and push it open. Your dog is already there waiting for you, tail wagging. Your cat temporarily stops using the sofa as her own personal scratch post, and lovingly winds her way around your legs. Suddenly, your bad day is all but forgotten.

There’s no denying that many of us adore our animals and see them as very much a part of our family. From hamsters and horses to dogs and degus, pets can make our house feel like a home. We’re a dedicated nation of animal lovers. 57% of UK households own a pet – that’s a whopping 16.2 million homes!

Sadly, the rising cost of living has been tough on pet owners. On average, dog owners in the UK spend between £575 and £3,030 a year on their canine companions. A 2023 survey carried out by Pets at Home revealed that 38% of pet owners said they were more likely to cut back on things for themselves to ensure their pet had the same quality of life during the cost-of-living crisis. Further research found that four million pet owners were making cuts to their weekly shop so they could continue to afford looking after their pets.

Our pets mean so much to us. They’re our family, our friends, our confidants, our happiness, and often, they’re our saviours, too. In fact, a survey of 5,000 pet owners concluded that 90% of dog owners said their pet had improved their mental health. For many of us, the prospect of having to give up our pets is utterly unthinkable. With this in mind, we’ve gathered some of our favourite money saving tips for pet owners.

Money saving tips for pet owners in general

  1. Sadly, 56% of UK vets stated that the cost-of-living crisis has meant more and more of their clients are unable to afford veterinary bills, with 46% advising that customers are no longer able to afford essential services, such as pet vaccinations. When considering your budget, you might be tempted to cross pet insurance off your list of outgoings, especially if you’ve never needed it before. However, think carefully before you make any decisions. Even if you have always been lucky in the past, you never know when you’re going to need insurance cover. While the monthly cost might feel like yet another expense, it will in all likelihood be a whole lot cheaper than having to fork out hundreds of pounds for an emergency operation.

  2. Use comparison sites to get the best deal on your pet insurance. Companies such as Compare the Market can search a range of insurers to help you find the ideal option for your pet - and your wallet.

  3. If a trip to the dreaded V-E-T-S has been necessary and funds are low, it might be worth asking your vet about the possibility of setting-up a payment plan to spread the cost of your pet’s treatment. Not all practices offer this service, but some may agree to allow clients to make payments in instalments, rather than all at once.

    If you are on a low income or receive certain benefits, you may be eligible for help with covering veterinary costs through the PDSA, The Dogs Trust, RSPCA, and Cats Protection. Each scheme requires certain conditions and criteria to be met – details of which can be found on the charity websites.

  4. One of the most heartbreaking facts to come out of the cost-of-living crisis is that many households are having to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets. Nobody deserves to be in this position.

    Thankfully, various UK-based animal charities have come to the rescue, and are offering pet food banks. It’s worth doing some research before deciding which food bank suits you and your pet. For example, be sure to check that your specific pet is catered for. Please be aware that some pet food banks may request proof of certain benefits. You can find further information on each scheme via their individual websites.

    • To find your nearest RSPCA pet food bank, click here.
    • To find your nearest Dogs Trust pet food bank, click here.
    • For more information about Blue Cross food banks, click here, and to find your nearest Blue Cross food bank, click here.

  5. Ditch the novelties. Look, your pet loves you to bits… But he really doesn’t need a kilt, a pair of wellies, or a giant bed shaped like a hotdog. Sure, it’s nice to spoil our pets and get cute snaps of them in front of the Christmas tree with a tartan bow on their collar, but when it comes to clamping down on spending, the novelties should be first to go.

  6. Work commitments mean that pets are often left alone – sometimes for a whole day. Many of us choose to pay a pet sitter or a dog walker to drop by and check-in on our animals. Others may be fans of the doggy day care set-up. Pet sitting, dog walkers, and day care all come at a price.

    Do you have any family members or friends who could help out, instead of paying for a professional? For example, would your recently retired neighbour perhaps enjoy a walking companion? Could your nearby ‘work from home’ friend swing by at lunch and make sure your kitten is okay?

  7. Look out for offers on products you use regularly (such as food and bedding) and buy in bulk (if you can) to cash-in on the promotions.

  8. If you regularly buy from Pets at Home, you might want to consider signing up to their loyalty programme: VIP Club. It’s free to join, and you will receive a welcome 10% discount voucher, birthday bonuses on your pet’s special day, and tailored offers.

Money saving tips for dog owners

They’re not called man’s (or woman's!) best friend for nothing. The faithful dog is thought to be owned by 29% of UK adults, making them the most popular pet in the country!

  1. Some workplaces allow employees to bring in their dogs. If you work in an appropriate environment, why not ask your boss if this is a scheme they would consider implementing? This way, you could be looking at scrapping doggy day care or midday walker costs altogether. Alternatively, is there any way you could work from home, even if only for a couple of days a week?

  2. Brush your dog’s teeth! Now, we’re aware that this may sound like a bit of an odd money saving tip, but it could really help to keep potential costs down.

    85% of dogs have some form of dental problem by the age of three. Dental issues in dogs often require veterinary treatment, which could set back your savings. Many canine oral ailments could be slowed down, or indeed prevented, by regular brushing. To ensure top dental hygiene, you should aim to brush your pooch’s pegs twice a day. Three times a week is the recommended minimum.

  3. Learn how to groom your dog at home. Regular visits to the groomers can be costly, especially if you’re the proud owner of a breed that requires a lot of maintenance! While you should refrain from attempting to use clippers and shavers without proper training, getting to grips with the basics and investing in a few good brushes may keep hair-raising groomer’s fees at bay, and prolong the time between your appointments. Purina have put together a comprehensive guide to acing your own in-house pooch parlour.

  4. Some councils offer free dog poo bags as an incentive to keep public areas clean. They can usually be picked up at various facilities, such as libraries or veterinary clinics. Have a Google in your local area and check out your local council's website to see if you can get your hands on some.

Money saving tips for cat owners

Cats take the crown as the UK's second most popular pet. An estimated 8.2 million UK households play host to the beloved, sassy, independent moggy.

  1. Neutering a cat can cost up to £100 in the UK. You can also expect to pay an additional £20 - £30 for microchipping. If you are in receipt of certain benefits, are classed as a low-income household, or a student living away from home, you may be entitled to take advantage of the Cats Protection £10 neutering and microchipping scheme, which helped over 120,000 pet cats in 2022 alone. For full eligibility and to find out more, please visit the Cats Protection website by clicking here.

  2. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ll be familiar with the following concept: you can buy cats the fanciest, most state-of-the-art toys and scratch towers, but you can guarantee that they will take one look at it, turn their back on you, and continue sticking their claws into your brand new sofa instead! This is living proof that cats do not need expensive toys.

    Why not try your hand at crafting some homemade cat toys? Check out some of these low-cost ideas for inspiration – many of which can be made from household items you might already have lying around, including old t-shirts and empty toilet roll tubes.

  3. Old carpet samples make great, cheap, quick-fix scratching stations!

Money saving tips for small animal owners

Small animals - including hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, and rats - have long been hailed as excellent companions. They are less demanding than larger animals, such as dogs, but equally as rewarding.

  1. Spending excessive amounts of money on toys is not always necessary. Like cats, small animals are big fans of old toilet roll tubes. Hamsters in particular like to bury inside them, while rabbits tend to enjoy shredding them.

  2. There’s no need to fork out on expensive treats for your tiny friend – scraps of fruit and veg will do just fine, and lettuce, sweet peppers, and cucumber are all firm favourites. For a complete rundown on pet-safe treat options, click here. Oh, and before you go, you simply must check out this adorable guinea pig ‘sushi’ recipe!

  3. Small animals – particularly hamsters – must have access to items they can chew. Chewing is natural behaviour and prevents teeth from getting too long and causing pain. Without access to appropriate items, small animals may revert to chewing the bars of their cage, or plastic food and water bowls. Buy a couple of especially designed chew toys for your small animal. Not only will this help to keep their teeth healthy, but it will also prevent you from having to replace the cage and accessories.

Money saving tips for fish owners:

Tropical fish are a delight to watch and, while aquariums are beautiful, they can be costly to maintain.

  1. Be sure to invest in a good tank. They’re not cheap, but scrimping on a less-than-durable option could result in having to replace it a few months down the line.

  2. Many fish owners cite ‘patience’ as one of the biggest hidden money savers. When you get a new tank, it can be really tempting to add fish to it right away. It’s recommended that you leave your tank to settle for at least a week before introducing fish. Any earlier, and you run the risk of making your fish sick. If your fish are sadly unable to recover, you may end up having to buy more before you’ve even really got started.

  3. Use a sponge or scouring pad from the supermarket to clean your tank. They tend to be much cheaper than specially designed tank cleaning brushes, do the job just as well, and often come in handy multipacks. Just ensure they have not come into contact with any product or detergent before you use them in the tank.

Money saving tips for horse owners:

Horses were a childhood dream for so many of us. If you’re lucky enough to own one as an adult, you’ll be familiar with the apparently ever-rising cost that seems to come hand-in-hoof with our trusty steeds!

  1. Consider buying second-hand. Sites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace are full of pre-loved bargains for riders, from pairs of jods and boots, to turnout rugs and bridles. Good old-fashioned yard and car boot sales can also be great places to pick up equine goods. Another great tip is to avoid buying yard equipment from specialist tack shops and take a look in DIY shops or garden centres instead.

  2. However, a fine-toothed skipping-out fork can be a great investment, as it will eliminate expensive shaving waste in between full muck-outs.

  3. Not only do horses demand a lot of money, but they also take up a lot of time, too. If you’re finding that racing between home, work, and the stables is getting stressful, have you considered part-loaning or sharing your horse out? This way, you will still have full control, but the loanee will take on their share of the jobs and pay you a sum of money to ‘share’ your horse. If you’re considering a part-loan or share, it’s a good idea to make sure that both parties have a written agreement for how you will share your mare (or gelding!).

  4. Do you have regular private lessons? One-to-one tuition can be pricey – is there anybody else on the yard you could double up with, split the cost, and have a semi-private lesson instead – or even a group lesson for further savings?

  5. Turn manure into money! This may seem a bit of a strange one, but it’s a cash saving tip that has been passed around the equestrian community for years. Manure is a well-known fertiliser containing an array of nutrients that keen gardeners swear by. Bag up your manure and sell it outside the stables to earn a bit of easy money.

  6. Some farriers, vets, and equine dentists charge a ‘farm call fee,’ whereby an extra sum is added on top of your bill to cover the call out. One way to combat this is to synchronise visits with other owners on your yard. This way, you can split the call fee between you. You may also want to consider if your horse really needs shoes; many happy hackers don’t. Your horse will still need a hoof trim every 4-6 weeks, but at around £30-40 this will be considerably less than the £100 or so for a full set of new shoes. You can find more about transitioning to barefoot here.

  7. Horse insurance can be incredibly valuable but it’s important to understand that some insurers will not cover a recurring injury or illness, such as colic. You should read the terms and conditions of your policy to fully understand if your pony is no longer covered for something he has suffered from previously. Insurance packages can be complicated, so it’s also important to make sure you have the right cover. If you only hack out you will probably not need the same cover as an eventer; some companies also offer specialist quotes for veteran horses too.

  8. Shop-bought treats and toys can easily rack up the pennies, so why not try your hand at some DIY alternatives? This horsey hanging kebab will provide hours of fun! The article also helpfully includes examples of fruits and veggies that are pony-proof and safe.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet…

It’s important to know that ALL pets come with an immense amount of responsibility. Many will require you to make certain lifestyle changes, even if these are just minor or temporary.

Your pet will be a huge commitment for the entirety of its life, and you must also consider how this will affect you financially.

If you are in any doubt whatsoever whether you will be able to afford or look after your animal, please ask yourself whether this is the right time to take on the responsibility. It’s better to put your pet search on hold until you’re 100% confident. The last thing you want is to have to give your pet away once you have bonded with it – it’s not fair on you or your animal.

Research different types of pet and choose the best option for your circumstances.

For instance, if you have little free time and need something relatively independent, you may be better suited to a hamster, rather than a dog.

Make a list of every associated cost of your chosen pet and factor this into your monthly budget.

Be aware that the unexpected might happen from time-to-time – do you have the savings to cover incidents such as emergency flea treatment, or a new filter for the fish tank?

Rescue vs. buying

This is a topic that tends to generate many pros and cons on either side.

Depending on the breed, you can expect to pay as much as £3,000 for a puppy and £2,000 for a kitten.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed and are fully committed to the raising and training of the animal, then you might consider purchasing directly from a breeder.

Be sure to avoid puppy farms, and ask to see a legitimate breeder’s licence before handing your money over. You should always ask to see a puppy with its mother.

Buying from a trustworthy breeder will minimise the risk of purchasing a sickly animal, which may end up costing you hundreds of pounds in vet bills further down the line.

A rescue centre may appeal if you’re not fussed about breeds and want the opportunity to give a pet a second chance of love.

When you rescue a pet, you don’t always know their history. While most shelters should do a thorough assessment on the animal, you can never really determine their behaviour until they have been in your home for a few weeks. This is something you might want to think about, especially if you have children.

Many rescue centres charge a donation fee, which is usually significantly lower than buying a dog from a breeder. Your pet should also have been neutered by the rescue centre before joining your family.

If you can no longer afford the costly demands of pet owning…

You may have thought about rehoming your pet if you feel you have exhausted all options and are still struggling to afford the expense they bring.

  • If your financial strain is temporary (for example, you have been made redundant), could a family member or friend look after your pet until you get back on track?

  • If rehoming your pet is the only option would anyone you know be interested in taking them in? This way, you should still be able to see your pet and receive regular updates.

  • If all else fails and you are unable to find a local home for your pet, you should contact a nearby rescue centre.

  • Under no circumstances should you abandon your pet in the hope that they will be picked up. Of course, you are going to be distraught, and you may find it hard to take your pet to the shelter, but you have a duty of responsibility to ensure your pet is passed into the right hands. If you really can’t face taking your pet to the shelter, ask a loved one or friend to accompany you, or go in for you.

This is a devastating decision, but doing what’s right for both you and your pet makes you extremely brave.

We hope, however, some of our tips and tricks might come in handy to help you and your pet stay happy and healthy

For more information of pets, check out our blog on the cost of buying a pet.

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