Is your pet priceless? How much money do you spend on your pet? How much would you be willing to spend?


Pet spending

Most pet owners don’t tally up what we spend on our pets, which is probably a good thing, as we might get a shock at our food, vet and pet care bills. Our pet populations may be staying static and in some cases going slightly downward but our spending is only going one way – up!

Table 1: Dog and cat ownership & pet expenditure (2013)*

Country USA UK Australia
Animals Dogs Cats Dogs Cats Dogs Cats
Total no. (M) 83.3 95.6 8.5 8.5 4.2 3.3
Households with pets % 68 45 63
Annual pet expenditure B$ $53.5 £14.9 A$8

*Sources (APPA 2013; AHA 2013; PFMA 2013)


Why we spend on our pets: our pet bond

There are all sorts of theories of why we spend on our pets and why that spending is increasing but I believe it is due to our bond with our pets. Our bond is stronger than ever with our furry, finned and feathered friends. Why has this changed?

The need to nurture

Well we now have smaller families. We may delay having children, choose not to have a family or even choose to live alone. Yet, as a human, we still feel a need to nurture. And so we nurture pets. When we have a downturn in economy, we may save our hard-to-come-by cash by spending less on ourselves but we still spend on those we care about – our pets.

Healthcare advances 

Mew is Dr Jo's early morning wake up call
Mew is Dr Jo’s early morning wake up call

Advances in healthcare and veterinary medicine has enabled out pets to live much longer than they used to. More bonding time.
Also, we have all but banished annoying pet parasites. Effective flea medications have meant that we allow our pets into our homes, onto our sofas, onto our laps and even in our beds. When a furry face greets you in the morning, it is difficult not to love that creature.

All this time we spend together, all the more time for bonding. All that emotional investment means we are willing to indulge in monetary investment too. Plus aren’t those pet products cute too?!

Product advances

More and more pet products are available on the marketplace. It’s no longer simply the bed, the food bowl and the collar. Now we have a whole host of luxury goods and services available to pets. And we have an enormous pet industry willing to provide them. Everything form large pet food companies to tiny, one-man (or woman, in my case) niche businesses. All exist because people love their pets.

 So just what are you willing to spend?

My bank balance was recently tested when my cat Leo was diagnosed with diabetes. Not that insulin, needles and glucose testing  – which we now carry out on a very regular basis – cost that much but the initial phase of stabilising Leo within a veterinary hospital was rather expensive. I hate to add it up but with 4 veterinary stays in hospital and 24-hour monitoring, several ultrasounds and x-rays and various medications – our total expenditure was around $14 – $15,000 dollars. Can I recommend pet insurance?!

Pet insurance or not?
Leo in hospital with diabetis

 Justifying pet expense

I have a great empathy for pet owners who love their pets but cannot afford this type of expense. Who can?! And what must be the agony of telling your children that their pet cannot be saved!

The way I justify the expense to myself (and to my accountant husband!) is that Leo gives us so much joy. Pets give us unconditional acceptance of who we are. That is priceless. Yes, we will have one less trip to Europe. But we will have Leo for, hopefully, many more years. Priceless pet years.


More reading

American Pet Products Association (APPA) (2013). Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics

Animal Health Alliance (2013). Pet ownership in Australia.

Pet Food Manufacturers Association (2013). Pet Population 2013



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