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Man’s Most Expensive Friend? True Cost of Pets Revealed

November 13, 2017, 1:00 PM
Labradors, the UK's most common pet dog, cost an average of £30,000 over their lifetime. (Image: Ken Reid)

New research by LatestDeals.co.uk has found dogs cost almost £30,000 over their lifetime. Far from being man’s best friend, they may be man’s most expensive friend.

Using data from Stastica, reviews of existing studies, and surveying 45,000 members of the Latest Deals community, we’ve worked out the total cost of the top nine most popular pets in the UK.

Dogs were the most expensive at £28,950, 160 times more expensive than the cheapest: a humble hamster.

The cost of pets in the UK over their lifetime in GBP £

This comes after the RSPCA has warned “a dog is not just for Christmas” and reported over 600 pets were discarded last year after the festive period.

1. DOGS - £28,500

Sian Paine, a member of Latest Deals, has four dogs. Despite the high costs of owning them, she has no regrets.

Dogs cost an average of £28,500 over their lifetime.

There are 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK. The third most popular pet, with almost a quarter of all UK households having one.

Labradors are the most common breed.

Members of Latest Deals admitted to regretting the decision to buy a dog because of the cost and upkeep.

Carys Pugh said, “I hate to admit this, but I regret getting my dog. My job has changed and now I don’t have time to spend with her. I do still love her and enjoy the good days I have with her.”

Another owner, Jane Holliday, said “I have a dog and a cat, and I regret ever buying the dog, I just haven’t got the time. She’s 10 and I love her very much, but I wish I never had a dog.”

Dogs cost between £626 - £1,136 per year, depending on size, breed and health.

Despite the cost, millions continue to love dogs and are happy to have more than one.

Sian Paine said, “I have 4 dogs and I’ve never regretted it! I love them all! It can be challenging at times, but they give so much love and joy that it’s worth it.”

Another dog lover, Jessica Butler, said “I’ve never regretted getting dogs, although sometimes it’s hard when you want to go away suddenly. But my dogs are part of my family, and my children have grown up with them.”


  • A labrador costs between £650 - £850
  • Vaccination total cost is an average of £65
  • Microchipping is about £15
  • Neutering is about £180
  • Food costs vary. Average is £180 - £240 per year
  • Treats and toys cost more. Average spend is £200 - £500 per year
  • There’s also insurance, grooming and other costs involved
  • Labradors live an average of 12 - 14 years

2. RABBIT - £14,890

Rabbits are the second most expensive pets to own, after dogs. (Image: Waranya Mooldee)

Rabbits cost an average of £14,890 over their lifetime. This makes them the second most expensive pet after dogs.

800,000 domestic rabbits are owned in the UK. They are surprisingly expensive to keep. High food costs and hutches push the price up.

Rabbits cost £1,205 per year with expensive initial costs of up to £430. They live for up to 12 years.


  • Hutches vary between £150 - £300
  • Water bottles and other accessories are about £20
  • Microchipping can cost up to £120
  • Rabbits need yearly vaccinations which cost an average of £35
  • Wood shavings and litter for the hutch costs £15 - £30 per month
  • Rabbits eat grass, which unless you grow your own costs up to £40 per month
  • Rabbits live for an average of 8 - 12 years
  • There are other costs such as insurance too

3. CATS - £13,085

Clara Cooper, a member of Latest Deals, has adopted two cats.

Cats cost an average of £13,085 over their lifetime.

There are an estimated 8 million pet cats in the UK. They are cheaper than dogs, with an average cost of £781 per year.

Buying a cat has a huge variation in price. Adopting a cat from a shelter can be as little as £35, whereas buying a pedigree cat can be up to £2,000.

Cat owner and member of LatestDeals.co.uk, Clara Cooper, has both adopted and bought her own cats.

She said “Our eldest cat was a stray, but I bought the youngest. They have brought so much happiness and laughter to my wife and I.”

One member, Tracy Smith, loves cats so much she has 18. She said,

“I’ve got 18 cats in total, it's a war at feeding time! They’re all getting old now, and I’ve got no plans to get any more yet, 18 is enough for now.”

Tracy Smith, a member of Latest Deals, has 18 cats.

Ann Kiesler said, “I have two cats and I love them to bits; I’ve never once regretted it. I had said never again, but then I saw them up for adoption and fell in love. They are both healthy and full of life.”


  • Bedding and accessories cost an average of £200
  • Micropping and neutering cost about £70
  • Worming, flea treatment and insurance costs up to £300 per year
  • Food, litter and toys cost an average of £860 per year
  • Cats live an average of 15 years

4. INDOOR BIRDS - Up To £11,939

Indoor birds are the fourth most expensive pet to own. (Image: Hermes Rivera)

Indoor birds can cost up to £11,939 over their lifetime.

There are about 700,000 parrots, cockatoos, and budgies pets in the UK. 700,000 owned in the UK, the most common of these being a budgie.

The age of one of these domestic birds hugely vary, with some species living up to an impressive 75 years of age. In general, the bigger the bird, the longer they will live for, as smaller birds, like budgies, live between 5-18 years. The cost of a domestic bird can also hugely vary, with some parrots being a massive £1,200 just to buy.

The cost of a domestic bird varies per year, but roughly a budgie will cost around £660 a year, plus the initial costs of the bird.

Budgie owner, Kelly-Ellen Hirst, said “I’ve got a budgie, it’s a really amazing pet. I’m not normally an animal person, but budgies make great companions.”

For feed, most budgies can eat fruit, vegetables, and seeds. A bag of bird food only costs £3.29, and will last the bird for around 2 months. However, food costs of a budgie are pushed up by supplements, such as mineral blocks, fruit, and vegetables, which cost around £94 for the two months.


  • Bird cages cost an average of £59
  • Bedding costs about £6, but many use newspaper for free
  • Shell sand at the bottom of the cage needs to be changed often, £8 per month
  • Average life spans vary between 5 - 18 years
  • Average total cost of a budgie: £3,359 - £11,939

5. GUINEA PIGS - £3,204

Guinea pigs cost an average of £3,204 over their lifetime, or slightly more, if you knit them pineapple hats like Abi Cheales.

Guinea pigs cost an average of £3,204 over their lifetime.

Around half a million guinea pigs are kept as pets in the UK, making them the most popular rodents to own.

Unlike dogs and rabbits, the yearly cost of a guinea pig is quite low, costing on average £484 a year.

However that doesn’t mean guinea pigs are easy pets to have.

One owner, Stuart Clark, said, “I’ve had loads of pets and my guinea pigs were the most hassle out of them all. They need a lot of attention and care, but I’m happy to have them.”

The initial cost of owning a guinea pig is very high. A guinea pig is between £20 - £40 to buy, but they can also be adopted for much cheaper. An outdoor cages averages at £122, but indoor cages are much cheaper, costing around £77.

Food for a guinea pig costs about £7 per week.


  • Guinea pigs live for about 5 - 7 years
  • Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs do not need to be vaccinated
  • Sawdust costs about £10 per month
  • There are extra costs such as a water bottle, bed, blanket and food bowl.

6. SNAKES - £1,140

Corn snakes are the UK's most common reptile pet. (Image: David Clode)

Corn snakes, the UK’s most common pet reptile, cost an average of £1,440 in total.

There are an estimated 700,000 pet reptiles in the UK. The most common is a corn snake. These are one of the easiest reptiles to handle and are recommended for first time reptile owners, but they can still grow up to 6ft long.

The average cost of keeping a corn snake a year is fairly low, only £44, as snakes have very little needs other than food.

A corn snake is also one of the cheapest reptiles to buy, with the snakes costing around £40 from a pet store, but you can also adopt one for cheaper.

Corn snakes are often recommended to get for first time reptile owners. Snake owner, Carolann Waugh, said, “for children, a corn snake is by far the easiest pet to keep. Apart from their set up they are also pretty cheap, so they make a great first pet.”

Carolann Waugh, member of Latest Deals, said her snake has been a great first pet.

Like many other pets, a snake, or any reptile in general, will have a high initial cost. This is due to the price of a vivarium, where they live.

Depending on the size of the reptile, they can cost up to a huge £430, which will house a large reptile. Smaller vivariums that are suitable for corn snakes retail at an average of £80, as they are not highly active so do not need a big enclosure.

A lot of vivariums will also include other necessities for a corn snake, such as bedding, thermometer, heat mat, water dish, and accessories for the enclosure. Buying them in a bundle like this will save on money than buying them individually.

The main yearly expense of keeping a snake is the food. Snake eat frozen mice, and depending on the size of the snake, they will need to eat more or less mice. Adult corn snakes will eat a mouse every 7-14 days. This costs about £60 per year.

Corn snakes, and reptiles in general have a very long life expectancy. A corn snake can live in excess of 30 years, however they are still one of the cheapest pets to own, with the total cost on average only being £1,440.

7. CHICKENS - £375

Chickens are a surprisingly common UK pet. (Image: Ashes Sitoula)

Pet chickens cost an average of £375.

They are a surprisingly common UK pet. Plus, they require minimum upkeep and can produce up to 330 eggs in their first year of laying. The average cost of one bird per year can be as little as £27, making them one of the UK’s cheapest pets.

Start up costs for the birds are quite high as they will need a hutch, which costs around £225 for a small run, however you’ll also need plenty of garden space for the birds. The birds themselves are cheap to buy; a chicken at the point of lay is about £15 for one bird.

Chickens are cheap to keep and maintain once you’ve got the birds and the hutch. Feed is between £8 - 9 for 20kg, which can last for four months.

Although chickens aren’t expensive, they can be hard to maintain.

Tracie Hilton, a member of Latest Deals said, “out of all my pets, including dogs and cats, the chickens are the hardest to look after, but I don’t regret getting them.”

The average lifespan for a laying chicken is 4 - 5 years, although more expensive breeds can live up to 10 years, which makes the total cost of a laying chicken an average of only £375.

8. GOLDFISH - £223

Goldfish cost an average of £223 over their lifetime. (Image: Claudio Guglieri)

Goldfish, the most common pet fish, have an average total cost of just £223.

Indoor fish are the most common pets in the UK, with an estimated 20 million owned as pets.

Goldfish are one of the cheapest pets to buy, with an average cost of between £1 - £15, depending on the species and retailer.

Aquariums for the fish are the most expensive part of owning one, but these are still fairly inexpensive. They can have a huge variation in price, some are a massive £600 for an extravagant LED lit aquarium. However most bowls which can house a couple of goldfish are around £50, which includes stones for the bottom.

In terms of yearly costs for a fish, there is very little that they need. Goldfish food starts from £3, and this should last the year, if not longer.

Water conditioner for the tank averages at £13, and this will make the water more suitable for the fish to live in and prolong its’ life. There are virtually no veterinary costs for a fish; medicine can be bought for a fish that can be used if it is looking unwell, and this is roughly £5.

The average age of a goldfish is between 5-10 years, however one fish did live to an impressive 43 years of age.

9. HAMSTERS - £180

Hamsters are the cheapest pet to own, in part thanks to their short lifespan. (Image: Unsplash)

Hamsters are the cheapest of the most popular UK pets, at just £180 over their lifetime.

The initial price of buying a hamster and accessories is the main expense, although this is still low in comparison to other pets. A hamster will cost £10 from a pet store, but can be free if one is adopted.

The cage is the biggest expense, averaging £43, but large ones can be up to £75. Unlike other rodent cages, most will come with accessories such as a water bottle, wheel, and food bowl.

As well as being cheap, the are also easy to look after.

Jane Keeling said, “My hamster is so sociable, he’ll always sit and watch TV with us. He’s meant to be my daughter’s pet, but I love spoiling him! If anything happens to him I’ll definitely get another one.”

Hamsters are also easy to look after as they don’t have many health care costs. They do not need to be vaccinated or neutered, which cuts veterinary bills. Food costs about £16 per year.

On average, hamsters live for up to two and half years. This shorter life expectancy is a large reason why their total cost can be less than a fish.



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