9.6 billion pounds is spent on our pets

9.6 billion pounds is spent on our pets

It’s National Pet Month, and if your kids are begging for that puppy/kitten/rabbit, here’s what you need to know.


We Brits are a nation of pet lovers. There are currently 12 million dogs and 11 million cats living in UK homes. In addition to the 1.9 million guinea pigs and hamsters, 1.3 million birds, 1.5 million rabbits, and 900,000 tortoises.


And just to show how much we love them, our spending on our little furry friends has increased; 9.6 billion pounds was spent on pets and related products, almost double the pet expenditure levels of 2011.

Pet pester power 


So, it’s no surprise that asking for a pet is a childhood milestone. Whether your kids are spurred on by cute animal videos, dogs in the park or a friend’s pet hamster, the chances are, if it hasn’t happened yet, a pet conversation is imminent.


Along with the begging, be prepared for a whole host of promises, which include cage cleaning, litter emptying, assurances that they will walk dogs, feed cats and clean guinea pig cages.


“From the age of 5 onwards, our daughter asked for a puppy. Cue endless conversations for years and years about how she would do EVERYTHING, from picking up poop to baths to daily walks and even paying for snacks out of her pocket money. We finally gave in when she was 13 years old when she put together the operation-get-a-puppy PowerPoint. Four years later, she adores our dog, but, of course, none of the above has happened.”

Jo, mum to Ella, 17, and Jack, 13


As for what kids want, the pet scope is wider than you may think. In a survey of over 5000 kids, here are the pets at the top of kids’ wish lists: 

  • Dog 39%

  • Cat 16%

  • Horse 9%

  • Rabbit 8%

  • Other (including insects) 7%

  • Reptile 6%

  • Bird 4%

  • Fish 4%

  • Hamster 4%

  • Guinea Pig 3%

What pets really cost


Though getting a pet will bring joy, before committing, make sure you’re aware that the costs can vary, and it’s not just the usual suspects you’ll have to pay out for. Alongside buying a pet, there’s the hidden cost of pet insurance, food, toys, paying someone to look after your pets when you’re away, sickness, cages/beds and more.


According to MoneyHelper, the average cost of owning a pet over its lifetime is between £16,000 and £33,000 for a dog or cat. Some pets can be much cheaper, and others much, much more expensive. Here’s a taste of the costs.

  • Cost of buying a pet: A dog from a reputable breeder costs between £750 and £1,000. Cats start at about the same price. Guinea pigs, hamsters, and birds cost a lot less, usually between £10 and £20.

  • Cost of pet food: Food for cats and dogs is likely to cost between £200 and £400 a year, but there are many variables in play here. Smaller pets like hamsters and birds cost a lot less to feed.

  • Cost of pet essentials: Bedding, toys, cages, an average amount is hard to calculate, but you’re probably looking at £200 to £500 a year.

  • Average pet insurance cost: Research by Which? found the average cost of a lifetime pet insurance policy is £472 a year for a dog and £285 for a cat. Exotic pets like snakes and lizards can cost more.
  • Miscellaneous costs: This depends very much on your pet. If you have a dog, you’ll need to get it microchipped and pay for worm and flea treatment. Then there are vet bills, which start from £100, and pet medication.

  • Cost of pet grooming: Some dogs and cats, particularly those with short hair, will not need to be groomed as regularly, while particularly fluffy animals will need a regular haircut. Costs vary a lot, depending on the size of your pet, but start from £25 upwards.

  • Cost of pet sitting/Kennels/Cattery: The average cost is difficult to come up with, but you will be looking at around £17 a day for dogs and £10 a day for cats, £25 for pet sitting plus extras.


The cost of living has also put significant strain on pet owners who are struggling to afford essentials for their animals. Visits to pet food banks are up, and the RSPCA has seen an 8% increase in people wanting to give up their animals since last year.

Hidden value of pet ownership


Costs aside, owning a pet does offer a multitude of benefits that money can’t buy. Pet owners tend to make fewer visits to the doctor and have lower rates of depression. Children exposed to pets tend to have stronger immune systems, and seniors with pets tend to live longer.


A study has also found that getting a family dog is linked with a big jump in physical activity in younger kids. The study found that adding a dog to a household increased younger children’s physical activity by almost an hour a day, making a meaningful difference to health and well-being.


In separate research from the University of Western Australia, children aged 2 to 5 with a family dog spent less time on screens and slept more on average than those without a pet. The research also discovered that pet ownership was associated with fewer peer problems and more prosocial behaviour. 


Taking care of smaller pets can also help build a sense of responsibility and compassion in children. Kids learn skills such as providing their pets with food, cleaning up after them, and bathing them. Developmentally, kids can learn how to take care of and nurture others from a very young age by caring for small pets. Being caregivers to animals plants the seed of compassion early, and this helps kids grow to be more responsible adults.


Responsible pet ownership


If you feel yourself weakening on the pet front, get your kids in on the act. From a financial standpoint, you can ask kids to save towards a pet fund. Apart from being a good way to see how committed they are to pet ownership, a pet fund can bring home key messages about budgeting, saving and creating an emergency fund to deal with pet ownership.


Says Louise Hill, co-founder and CEO of GoHenry, “Involving your child in the financial process of getting a pet as well as in the practical is a great way to teach them about the benefits of longer-term saving. Plus, putting money aside for a much-wanted pet is a powerful exercise in delaying gratification.”


A final good option is to get kids involved in caring for a pet through pet ownership courses. Charities like DogsTrust have free online family workshops to teach children how to behave safely and responsibly around dogs. The vet charity PDSA has several educational resources to help kids become caring and responsible pet owners. While the RSPCA has a range of expert pet care tips, whether you’re opting for a fish, rabbit, dog, or something more exotic.

Written by Anita Naik Published Mar 25, 2024 ● 3 mins