The cost of pet ownership

There are more than 11 million dogs and cats across the country – Aussies clearly love their furry friends. Roughly one in five dogs and cats were brought home since the start of the pandemic in 2020, mostly for companionship and to improve mental health.

Pets are part of the family but for the new owner, the cost of owning a cat or a dog in Australia can come with some unexpected costs. And while a dog or cat owner will tell you it’s worth every cent, you need to go into pet ownership prepared for everything that can come your way.

One of the biggest barriers to pet ownership is the ongoing cost of care. So, what are the costs and what should you expect?

How much does it cost to own a dog or a cat on average in Australia?

According to the latest figures from the Pets and Pandemic study published by peak industry body Animal Medicines Australia in 2021 and Moneysmart, this is what it will cost to own a dog or a cat in Australia.

On average, pet owners are spending about $3,200 per dog and $2,100 per cat each year.

These don’t represent all costs involved with owning an animal but is a snapshot of what you could expect to pay when you bring your pet home:

Type of cost Average spend for a dog Average spend for a cat
Adoption $0 - $500 $0 - $500
Breeder $500+ $500+
Microchip, vaccination, and de-sexing Up to $1,000 Up to $1,000
Vet services (per year) $617 $717
Pet food (per year) $1,858 $1,493
Healthcare products such as medicine and flea treatments (per year) $411 $356
Accessories such as toys, carriers, and bowls (per year) $238 $224
Boarding (per year) $223 $138
Clipping and grooming (per year) $196 $133
Training/therapy (per year) $182 $59
Pet insurance (per year) $246 $116

Of course, at the end of the day, some of these costs listed above can vary slightly depending on the season and context.

To really understand the different costs that come with owning an animal, it’s a good start to look at the main areas where you will need to budget for.

Adopting or buying costs

The first big purchase for a pet is bringing it home. You need to decide whether you’d like to go through a breeder or if you’re happy to find your new mate at your local dog or cat shelter. If you're leaning towards adoption, you'll need to look into how much it will cost to adopt a pet. Some adoption shelters charge an adoption fee to get your new friend.

Dog adoption.png

There are pros and cons to both options. Paying extra to go through a breeder means you get to take home the breed that you want, particularly if you’ve done your research and are set on their characteristics, meanwhile adopting a dog or a cat is generally cheaper than buying from a breeder – plus you get those extra warm fuzzies by knowing you’ve helped an animal from a shelter. We’ve all seen the videos and we’d be lying if we say we didn’t shed a tear or two. Also, if you adopt, some costs may have already been taken care of like de-sexing.

If you decide to go through a breeder, you’ll need to keep in mind how much a dog costs per year compared to a cat as both have different needs.

Registering a pet

Depending on where you live, the costs to register your pet will be different. Some councils might require yearly payments while others may be a one-off fee.

It’s important to register your pet right away once you bring them home. In Australia, it’s compulsory to microchip your furry companion. This means if they go missing (touch wood they don’t), the registration system can easily track their whereabouts. If your pet is found and isn't registered, you could be fined.

By registering your pet and keeping their microchip details up to date means if the worst does happen, you can have peace of mind by knowing they will be returned safely back to you.

But registering your pet isn’t just about keeping them safe. It also means that the fee you pay to register goes towards staff members who make sure businesses like catteries, kennels, pet shops, and shelters are regularly audited to ensure there are safety practices in place. Not to mention the money can also be put towards animal education programs and the upkeep of local dog parks.

It’s a small cost to pay to avoid hefty fines and to help out your local community.

The first thing you need to do is find out which local shire or council you live in and get registering.

Vet costs and medications

One of the most common reasons that owners put off a visit to the vet is because of costs. In fact, one in five pet owners has put off a vet visit in the last two years because of typical vet costs in Australia being too high. According to Choice, Australians spend a whopping $13 billion on vet care every year.

Vet costs.png

Pet care isn’t like people care, so there’s no Medicare system that helps to make it cheaper. However, there are pet insurance providers that can cover some of your out-of-pocket expenses, but you will still be left with a gap payment.

The costs of pet care can add up when it comes to vaccinations, check-ups, de-sexing, and sudden illness or injury as well as medications.

However, don’t let this influence your decision of bringing a furry friend home. There are a few cash loan options that can help you, such as a small personal loan or other emergency loan options. Otherwise, you can sell an unused item of value for cash on the spot.

Pet essentials costs

A new member of the family needs some creature comforts to make your house feel like a home. You’ll need to fork out cash for bedding, food, feed bowls, collar, toys, treats, and a transport carrier for when they need to go for a ride with you.

Plus, depending on whether you settle on a dog or a cat, your pet will need extras like a scratching post or a harness and lead. Some items you'll need to get from a pet shop, but there are toys you can make yourself to save on costs.

You might also want to consider how your new pet will be able to go outside and if you will need a dog or cat door to allow them to go out when you’re not home.

Pet food costs

The size and breed of the dog or cat will determine how much food you’ll need to buy every week.

For example, a fully grown Golden Retriever will need more food than a Jack Russell. For cats, it depends on their level of activity, age, and weight – if they’re a large, active cat they’ll need more food than a sedentary small cat.

Training and exercise costs

For dog owners

Dog owners will stress the importance of training a dog, and they’re right. It’s incredibly important to train a dog, particularly if you’re bringing home a puppy. You can train a pup yourself or you can take them to puppy school. Both have their benefits, it just depends on how much time you can commit to training – and for those with limited time, you’ll need to think about enrolling them into puppy school.

Dog training.png

When it comes to exercise, if you haven’t got time for regular exercise and you’re bringing home an active breed, you may need to hire a dog walker for extra help so make sure you factor this in. We all know that a bored dog can cause headaches for a household and it’s not fair to keep an active dog cooped up.

For cat owners

Given they’re known for their independence, cats can generally be lower maintenance than a dog. You’ll still need to train them, but it should be okay to do this yourself at home.

To keep them entertained throughout the day you’ll need to consider scratching posts, a cat tower, or even an enclosure to keep them occupied.

Grooming costs

Whether you’re looking at a dog or a cat, your furry friend will need some grooming TLC.

Things like nail clippers, shampoo, brushes, and ear/eye cleaning tools should be on your shopping list regardless of whether you’d like to take them to a professional groomer, which is an added cost (but worth it). One hot tip is some vets will do nail clipping for free, you just need to find one close to you.


Boarding kennels and cattery costs

Just because you have a pet doesn’t mean you can’t have a holiday – you just need to plan for it. If you haven’t got family or friends who can house sit or look after your pet while you’re away, a boarding kennel or cattery is your only option. Of course, costs vary depending on where you go.

Pet insurance costs

This is something that you’ll need to research on your own to see what company is right for you, but it can be beneficial to pay for insurance so you have peace of mind when that expensive vet bill comes your way. Each policy is different, but basic pet insurance typically covers accidental injury and illness, and some will also cover general maintenance like dental cleaning and vaccinations.

It's good to know what you're getting yourself into, whether it's asking how much it costs to get your pet microchipped or just knowing overall the average cost of owning a dog in Australia. Team cat or team dog, it all depends on your personal preference and circumstances.

The information contained in this blog is general advice only and does not take your specific circumstance into consideration. You should assess your own financial position, objectives, and requirements before making any financial decisions.  

Australian Credit Licence 391436. Subject to lending criteria being assessed. Check our TMD.

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