Owning pets: Can you afford £200 a month?

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Owning pets: Can you afford £200 a month?
One in eight Brits own a cat*, making our feline friends worth over £9.6billion a year to the British economy, according to a 2018 study quoted by Payment Eye.

Just as the monthly cost of living will vary greatly from human-to-human, based on our health needs, our age, the food we consume (pass the chocolate biccies/caviar, someone!) to name a few variables, the cost of owning a cat can range from less than £40 to hundreds of pounds per month.

We speak with two cat-owners, Anne-Marie Brown and Roy Collins, who are each paying out very different amounts to keep their cats, Cookie and Alfie, happy and healthy.

Six-month old Cookie (credit: Anne-Marie Brown)

Mum, wife and busy medical professional Anne-Marie Brown recently extended her family to include Cookie, a six month-old bicolor, a breed also known as ‘cow cats’, due to the distinctive black patches on their white fur.

Having cared for cats and dogs ‘most of her life’ and well-aware of the costs involved, Anne-Marie had to put her pet ownership on hold for a few years before she was able to welcome Cookie into the home. She explained; “My son developed serious allergies, but he has grown out of them.”

Having an animal has “never had a negative effect” on Anne-Marie’s finances. She estimates the average monthly cost of having Cookie to be £44.

“We spend £8 for dry food, £10 for litter, £13 on vet fees and another £13 for pet insurance.”

When asked what budgeting advice she would you give to someone thinking about getting a pet, veteran animal lover Anne-Marie recommended the following:

“Check with your veterinarian to see if they have a payment plan for care, as it works out more cost-effective than paying for treatments or medication all at once, should the need arise. If you are planning on getting a kitten or puppy, you can also ask if the vet offers free wellbeing examinations.

“Be aware that biodegradable or odourless cat litter attracts a premium price, so shop around depending on your preferences.

“Cats can live up to 20 years. This is the time that you are committing to and this should be taken into account by anyone who is considering getting one.

“If you are someone who is out a lot, maybe you should think about waiting until you are around a bit more as pets are sociable and don’t do so well on their own for long periods of time. Going on holiday can incur costs, so before you book your own getaway, it is worth researching reputable cat hotels who can look after your pet whilst you’re away.” In contrast to the Brown family’s experience with Cookie, fellow cat owner Roy Collins and his wife Helen have an 11 year-old Maine Coon cat named Alfie, who costs their household over £200 per month.

Maine Coon cat, Alfie (credit: Helen Collins)

“Alfie’s an indoor cat, so we spend extra on various toys and things to keep him stimulated”, explains Roy.

When asked about how much the couple spend on Alfie, wife Helen says:   

“Well, it depends. For the last eight months he’s been diabetic, so the costs have gone up tremendously. The money we spend at the moment is £200 a month. That includes food, his vet visits and everything – diabetic food, cat litter, cat litter freshener, flea capsules, de-worming capsules, things that we need to comb him with, toys to play with…we ordered some bubbles, which he loves and a scratchboard. We get his toys from a local pet shop called Posh Pets.”

Despite the sharp and sudden increase in cost for Alfie, the Collins family wouldn’t consider giving up their cat and have even chosen to “working harder and do longer hours” in a bid to afford the care their pet requires.

“Thank God, Alfie’s vet visits are getting less frequent”, says Roy.   

In terms of preparing for the worst, he adds:

“You don’t really think about things like your cat getting seriously ill…It’s a struggle, but we’ve got no choice. He’s our pet. It’s like looking after a child isn’t it?”.

The emotional connection between owners and their animals can clearly be worth their weight in gold and a worthy investment for many families.

“I just saw Alfie and fell in love with him”, says Helen.

“He was only eight weeks old when we got him.”

The Collins family regret not preparing themselves for the worst-case scenario and admit that having a more suitable pet insurance policy or a rainy-day fund would have eased the pressure of Alfie’s illness. 

Helen advises would-be cat owners to ensure that their cover matches-up as their animal ages:

“Look into different types of insurance. You’ve got to be careful – get the right plan for you. Older cats will generally be more prone to ailments, which can cost a lot to treat. The pet insurance we used to have just got higher and higher and the final straw was when Alfie became diabetic. We could no longer comfortably afford it. He’s 11 now, so to insure him now would be extortionate, although we could still get insurance, it wouldn’t cover anything to do with diabetes so it’s not worth it.”

Paying out smaller amounts in order to prevent diseases forming can shield some owners from paying out large amounts of cash for their sick pet later down the line.

Helen continues: “Make sure you give your cat regular jabs, check-ups and de-fleaing courses, just to make sure they’re alright. It’s not easy when you’ve got a sick cat. The thing is, you’ve got to get on with it – you either cough-up the money for care, or the worst could happen.

“I wouldn’t be without my cat. I’d walk the moon for him.”  

As with any personal outgoing, pet care costs can fluctuate, of which owners like Roy and Helen are only too aware.

“Just as you would create a new monthly money forecast before planning for a new baby, we would recommend analysing what you can afford before you sign-up for a new pet; as lovely as they are,” says Anne-Marie.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.      

MyEva can help you to work out what your budgeting priorities should be and your next steps. Click here to find out more about MyEva and sign up for a free account!     

*This figure was calculated by dividing 66 million (UK population) by five million, the amount of pet cats in the UK.

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