woman with brown long curly hair pats her new black and white dog on a gravel road, after researching the price of pets

The (Real) Price of New Pets in New Zealand


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We know pets are priceless. But how much does it cost to have a cat or dog? Could this be the million dollar question? First there’s the price of buying pets. Secondly, there’s feeding, training, travelling, toys, grooming and more. Thirdly are pet health care prices. While you only buy your pet once, many of the others are repeat costs.

Can you ever know the total upfront, even a rough estimate? It could surely help you be the better and more responsible pet parent you want to be. Not only for your pet but for your pocket too.

You may not be able to lock each cost down in concrete in advance. But having a realistic benchmark can make a world of difference. Pets are our babies, our besties and more. Knowing you’ve planned ahead and can give them the life they deserve is oh so important for them and you.

Without further ado, here’s some guidance on the real cost of owning a pet.

woman feeds her pet healthy snacks that come at a high price

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

Let’s also 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.

Be wary when reducing costs

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.

PD recently surveyed more than 1800 Kiwi pet owners For Love Your Pet Day. We discovered that 51% of pet owners have adopted their pet/s from a shelter and a further 82% intend to adopt future pets. 
Man walks his dog in the woods on the South Island and wonders whether you can ever put a price on the happiness pets bring

The price of pet food, toys, travel and more

In our survey we asked respondents how much they spend annually on pet-related costs aside from vet bills and medical care. This includes the cost of toys, equipment, food, grooming etc.

Here’s a breakdown of what they said:

  • 44% spend between $1,001 and $2,500 a year (up from 24% in our 2020 survey results)
  • 31% spend between $500 and $1,000 on other pet costs (given the above, understandably down on 34% in 2020)
  • 20% of pet owners spend up to $500 annually (also down, from 28% in 2020)
  • 4% spend somewhere between a whopping $5,001 and $10,000 (no changes here since 2020)
  • 1% spends more than $10,000 on other pet related costs each year! (no real change here either)

Let’s look closer at what some of these costs cover…

🐱 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.

🐶 Equipment

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.

🐱 Grooming

Again, this is something that not only helps you and fur baby stay close but it can keep them healthy, especially with dogs as they don’t groom themselves. Cutting a dog’s nails or cleaning their ears can help them avoid getting a broken dog dew claw and ear infections. The pet grooming products you spend $$ on can make grooming at home easier and more efficient.

🐶 Toys

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. Here’s a list of cat toys and another with gifts for dogs and cats.

🐱 Other

This list could also include training, pet behaviourists, puppy school and more. It might even include travelling with pets on holiday. A whopping 62% of survey respondents take their pets on holiday each year. 38% of these pet owners say they’ve also paid extra for the added value of pet-friendly accommodation.

Speaking of which… Read about travelling with your dog or cat and five pet friendly Airbnb options in NZ.

the price of pets includes healthcare, such as vet care this chihuahua in a vet's hand is experiencing at the clinic

Pet health care prices

Our recent survey results show that a third of pet owners spend between $501-$1,000 annually on health costs. Nearly half of pet owners (46%) only spend up to $500 while 14% spend between $1,001-$2,500 a year.

In a smaller bracket, 8% of pet owners incur pet medical costs of more than $2,500 annually while 3% spend over $5,000. Of the more than 1,800 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 1,500 of these had pet insurance to help foot the bills!

Saving on health costs – choosing 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 to ask. Rather, ask yourself how expensive it could be to not have pet insurance.

Saving on health costs – choosing 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. Here are 10 common breed health problems.

Why are there so many health costs?

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.

Watch this video with Dr Cath Watson to find out what’s behind veterinary pet care prices:

A pet cost with no set price tag

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. Read ‘Should I get a pet if I work fulltime?’ for more on that topic because for many of us it’s a key question.
  • 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. Here’s more on introducing your dog to a new baby.

Read more about managing the cost of owning a dog or cat in New Zealand.

The price of pets causing damage

What if an accident happens due to your pouncy or curious pet? 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.

There’s no way of knowing in advance what an accident or injury caused by your pet could cost you. If you’re wondering how much does it cost to have a cat or dog, consider this scenario.

Let’s say your furbaby goes on holiday with you… While your back is turned they suddenly get fixated on the smell inside the holiday lodging’s furniture and decide to claw or dig it out and suddenly the couch is destroyed. Hey presto, you’ve got some unforeseen pet costs. This can happen in so many different ways. A crystal vase falls, a scratch on a child gets infected, your dog suddenly dislikes (and bites) a passing jogger or their dog…

If the mishap hasn’t been invented you can bet your bottom drawer some pet will invent it. We might pause to add that we’re the biggest cheerleaders for pets – we love them wholeheartedly. But even the most darling dog and caring cat is still an animal and may do things differently from the way you or I would.

The main point is that these pet induced prices can be averted when you have pet insurance. That’s because all three of our cat and dog plans include third party liability pet insurance. This helps safeguard your pockets when pets damage others and their property.

the price of pets includes poroperty damage like what's happened with this tabby cat knocking a vase of flowers to the floor

Award winning pet insurance

Pet insurance takes the pressure off the price of pets by assisting with a lot of the ongoing costs of owning a pet. Take a look at our affordable pet insurance to see how you can protect your wallet and your fur baby against pet care prices associated with accidents, illnesses, injuries and more.

It’s a great way to safeguard your pocket and your cat or dog from unexpected pet health care costs.

Click below to get a quote today.

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