The Real Cost of a New Pet

We all know pets are priceless, but how much do they really cost to raise? While you only buy your pet once, there’s plenty of repeat costs as they grow.

Pet purchase prices: buying and adopting

The cost of buying or adopting a pet can vary greatly. Adoption from a shelter is likely to be under the $200 mark while purchasing a pet can go from the hundreds into the thousands.

Why the latter? It’s key to remember that, unlike handbags and shoes, cats and dogs have to grow in their mum’s belly and this takes time. It’s not always possible to get a purebred Russian Blue just because you’re ready. You may have to join a waiting list to buy a Border Collie, for example. This reality can affect the price of pets.

The influence of breed

Consider the vast amount of health testing and high quality pet health care breeders do for their breeding parents and litters.

Whether you’re buying a purebred or pedigree pet can also make a difference. While purebred dogs and cats have all the breed traits, they don’t necessarily HAVE to genetically be 100% the breed you think they are. On the other hand, pedigreed pets have their lineage documented over many generations by breeders. That means they come with a greater price tag and papers to prove their provenance.

Having said that, hybrid dog breeds (also known as designer dog breeds) are some of the costliest breeds out there. This can be the case for designer cat breeds too.

How can I save on buying a pet?

So, if you’re keen to reduce the upfront costs, you could adopt a cat or dog instead. The adoption fees help cover some of the costs you would need to anyway, such as microchipping and desexing. Just be aware that you likely won’t have a full idea of its breed and it may have a sad past, which can initially affect its behaviour (though this is a really good reason to give it a loving, attentive home!).

Whatever you do, don’t stoop to mail ordering a puppy or kitten. If you’re buying a pet, make sure you only buy from an ethical breeder so you don’t uphold cat farms and puppy mills in New Zealand. You also don’t want to unknowingly be scammed and end up with no new pet at all.

Treats, toys and travel

Pet food

Quality pet food is something you shouldn’t skimp on. Without it your pet could develop debilitating and lifelong health issues. The medical costs of treatment for your cat or dog can far outweigh any savings you may have had. A great way to select a balanced and nutritious diet is choosing one that follows guidelines from the European Pet Food Industry Federation or The Association of American Feed Control Officials.


Whether we’re talking pet care prices for a cat litterbox, dog leashes and leads, cat collars, a crate/pet carrier/bed or food and water bowls, there’s a bunch of essentials pets will need. You might outlay these costs every few years and it can be tricky to quantify. When you’re working out how much it cost to have a dog or cat upfront, make a list of supplies you’ll want for your pet along with the prices. Add it up and onto your other pet costs.


Again, this is something that not only helps you and your pet stay close, but it can keep them healthy, especially with dogs as they don’t groom themselves. Clipping a dog’s nails or cleaning their ears can help them avoid walking pain and ear infections. Buying high quality pet grooming tools can make grooming at home easier and more efficient.


You can never underestimate the power of playtime for cats and dogs. For pets, playing with puzzle toys, chew toys and other toys provides mental and physical stimulation. Keeping your pets active means they’re less likely to misbehave and destroy furniture.


This list could also include training, pet behaviourists, puppy school and more. It might even include travelling with pets on holiday.

Pet healthcare prices

A recent survey by PD Insurance showed that a third of pet owners spend between $501-$1000 annually on health costs. Nearly half of pet owners (46%) only spend up to $500 while 14% spend between $1001-$2500 a year.

In a smaller bracket, 8% of pet owners incur pet medical costs of more than $2500 annually while 3% spend over $5000. Of the more than 1800 respondents to the survey, 12 pet owners say they spend over $10,000 a year on pet health care prices. Having said that, a good 1500 of these had pet insurance to help foot the bills!

How can I save on pet costs?

Choose the right breeder

Purebred cats and dogs have a list of common health conditions they’re prone to because hereditary conditions can be passed from parent to pup. One way to reduce the probability of experiencing this is by purchasing a dog or cat from a reputable breeder. That means a breeder who conducts health screening on breeding dogs and doesn’t breed if they carry those health conditions.

Pet insurance

When it comes to pet insurance vs savings it’s good to know that pet insurance costs for your cat or dog can be nominal. And if you happen to be hit with a big vet bill the financial security gained can be priceless.

Asking how expensive is pet insurance might not be the question. Rather, ask yourself how expensive it could be to not have pet insurance.

What other costs are there?

Genetic or hereditary conditions aren’t the only health risks pets face. Accidents, illnesses, infections and allergies are also on the list of our most common claims for pet insurance, escalating the price of pets. Not to mention dental treatment, medications and more needed throughout a pet’s lifetime.

Picking the right pet for you

There’s also a seemingly invisible cost to owning a cat or dog. The price of pets extends to your time and energy. Granted, you get it back in unconditional love. Nevertheless, it’s important to pick the right pet for your lifestyle and schedule.

For example:

  • Some dog breeds need more quality time (Maltese) whereas others need more running time (German Shepherd). Consider which type fits into your lifestyle best (and be honest!) before choosing the breed you go with.
  • Nervous or traumatised rescues often need more training and comforting, so make sure you have the time to give them what they need. Consider having a pet behaviourist help your dog or cat build coping mechanisms against past pain.
  • Got a big garden, a big heart and work from home – why not adopt a couple of medium-sized pets? If you have the means and lifestyle to support multiple pets, give this serious thought.
  • If you’re having a (human) baby soon, a more emotionally independent pet with an even temperament might be better for you and your family.

The cost of damage

What if your pet causes an accident? They do happen and it’s important to not just consider injuries to your pet, but also the injuries they can cause to others and to other people’s property. Some pets have calm characters, others are intrepid, and their adventures could result in unforeseen (and unexpectedly high) medical bills or land you with liability debt.

The total cost

Consider all of these potential costs before purchasing or adopting a pet. Many people get a pet without considering the long term costs of raising and caring for them. Choosing a pet that suits your lifestyle and financial means will help you and your pet get the most out of each other.

About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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