Brits ‘Feline’ the pinch as we spend up to £3.5k on pets in their first year

25 April 2017

  • Dog owners fork out £4,791 in year one - twice as much as those with cats
  • Costs range from bedding to damage, but one in seven are without insurance
  • More than one in ten claim to love their pets more than their partner

Owning a pet can be expensive with research1 showing the first year costs thousands on average – from bedding and food, to the damage they wreak on our homes. The poll from Nationwide Home Insurance, which coincides with National Pet Month, reveals Brits pay an average of £3,5002 to cover the initial starting costs as well as the ongoing monthly bills3.

Nationwide, which is the only high street financial services provider to offer accidental damage caused by pets as standard on their Home Insurance product, conducted the research to gauge the true cost of keeping an animal.

The research shows a huge variation in the costs of keeping different animals. When it comes to cats versus dogs, felines come out on top financially as the poll shows cat owners pay on average just half (£2,455) the amount dog owners do (£4,791) over the course of the first year.

And for anyone thinking about getting a horse, they will need to be prepared for a significant outlay as the Nationwide poll shows that the first year of equine ownership costs an average of £12,654 – perhaps not surprising given the cost of a horse is likely to run into thousands and the significant monthly cost of livery yards.

Fish are the most cost-effective pet to own with annual expenditure of just £769 – including the tank, pumps and associated equipment, while a rabbit - hutch and all - will set someone back an average of £1,802, according to the survey.

Cost of a pet:

While the average amount spent on the animal itself comes to just £147, one in five (20%) pet owners spend more than £250. The poll shows horses (£2,322), dogs (£591), lizards (£324) and guinea pigs (£283) are the most expensive animals to purchase.

And as any pet owner will know, the impact on household finances continues once the animal becomes part of the family. The research shows Brits spend around £3,024 per year - £252 each month - on their ongoing care, including items such as food, vet bills, treats, toys and pet insurance.

When it comes to specific animals there is clearly a huge difference in associated costs. Horses are the biggest drain on the family finances, at £861 per month, while a dog will set owners back £350 each month. Fish are by far the cheapest, at an average of £588 a year (£49 per month).

Annual costs by pet type4

Cat Dog Fish Guinea Pig Hamster Horse Lizard Rabbit
Total £2,455 £4,791 £769 £3,715 £2,170 £12,654 £1,788 £1,802

Funding our furry friends:

More than half (54%) of UK pet owners admit they saved up to cover the initial cost of owning a pet, while nearly one in ten (8%) admit to using a credit card. When it comes to the most expensive pet – horses – nearly one in ten (8%) also say they take overtime at work to make sure they have the money they need.

More than a third (38%) of Brits fund the ongoing animal costs using their savings, although more than half (55%) use money from their current account and nearly one in ten (9%) use a credit card.

Insuring the home:

Despite the arrival of a new family member, around one in seven (15%) pet owners admit to having no accidental damage cover on their home insurance, with a further one in five (20%) saying they are unsure if their home insurance includes accidental damage cover. One in ten (10%) admit to having no home insurance policy at all.

Of the pet owners that have made a claim on their home insurance due to an accident caused by a pet, the following are the most common occurrences:

  • Damaged carpet: 7%
  • Replacing chewed wires: 5%
  • Damaged sofas and chairs: 5%
  • Scratched furnishing: 5%
  • TV broken: 5%

Animal love:

The British tradition of falling in love with pets is evidenced in the Nationwide poll, with one in eight admitting they love their pet more than their partner (12%) and a further 9% admitting the pet comes before the children. Outside of the family home, nearly a quarter of pet owners (24%) say they love their pet more than their best friend, while more than a half (53%) prefer their pet to their boss.

Rob Angus, Nationwide’s Head of General Insurance, comments: “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.

Owners already face significant costs getting and looking after the pet without factoring in any damage they may cause. That unexpected cost could be avoided by ensuring adequate level of home insurance cover. Our advice to anyone who has a pet or is looking to give a pet a home is to make sure they are covered, as not all policies include accidental pet damage.

Nationwide offers two different insurance options. The Home Insurance policy includes accidental damage, along with accidental pet damage and personal possessions cover both in and out of the home. The Home Insurance Essentials policy offers accidental damage (excluding accidental pet damage) and personal possessions cover as optional extras. Customers can also benefit from up to 35% no claim discount on contents, and up to 10% no claim discount on buildings insurance if they have been claim-free for up to five years.

Notes to Editors:

1 The poll of 2,300 UK pet owners was carried out by online market researchers,, and took place between 15 and 30 March 2017.

2 £251 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 + £434 (initial starting costs) = £3,446

3 Initial starting costs include: the pet, food, housing, bedding, toys, clothing, pet insurance, equipment and books for research.

4 Cat: £211 (initial starting costs) + £187 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £2,455
Dog: £591 (initial starting costs) + £350 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £4,791
Fish: £181 (initial starting costs) + £49 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £769
Guinea Pig: £283 (initial starting costs) + £286 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £3,715
Hamster: £190 (initial starting costs) + £165 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £2,170
Horse: £2,322 (initial starting costs) + £861 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £12,654
Lizard: £324 (initial starting costs) + £122 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £1,788
Rabbit: £242 (initial starting costs) + £130 (ongoing monthly costs) x 12 = £1,802

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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