The cost of keeping a pet

Can you afford the cost of keeping a pet in terms of the time, effort, space and money that may be needed? Here are some important things to carefully consider:

Time and effort

The time and effort required on a daily basis for tasks such as feeding, cleaning, carrying out basic health checks, interacting with and exercising your pet can be a major commitment. When animals are sick or exhibiting behavioural problems, then these demands will increase.

For long-lived animals such as parrots and tortoises, the long-term commitment needed may exceed your own lifespan - thus it is important therefore that you plan for this eventuality.


Whereas cats and dogs have the free run of your home, animals that are confined in enclosures (cages, aquariums or vivariums) often require much more space than you think, and even be naturally far more active than a dog or cat. 

‘Off the shelf’ vivariums, hutches and aviaries etc are typically insufficient for permanent housing, as all animals need enough room to exercise and often these enclosures do not account for normal behaviour or even allow for the size of the animal when it reaches adulthood. If species are from other climate zones then the use of your garden for outside enclosures may be limited.

A useful starting point is to establish how large an area the animal would cover in its natural state, i.e. if it was living wild. It is unlikely that you will be able to match this spatial territory in your home, but you will need to provide as much space as possible.

You will also need to consider issues such as permission from a landlord to keep the animal. 


The initial set up and ongoing costs of keeping a pet can be significant. These expenses could include:

  • The adoption fee/price of the animal
  • Housing and equipment costs
  • Food
  • Electricity costs (for heating and lighting etc), especially when keeping exotic pets 
  • Pet insurance
  • Routine veterinary bills (e.g. annual health checks, neutering, microchipping, vaccinations and ongoing consultations relating to husbandry issues such as housing or nutrition, as well as preventative work e.g. dentistry)
  • Unexpected veterinary bills, such as for injuries or long-term illness e.g. arthritis, cancer or diabetes. Bear in mind that many insurers impose a limit on what you can claim for a particular illness. Exotic pets may need to be treated by specialist vets who may be much more expensive
  • Behaviourist’s fees if your pet is displaying stress-related or abnormal behaviour; this can also be more costly for exotic pets
  • Toys and enrichment items
  • Costs of boarding your animal or pet-sitting fees while you are away

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

Be careful not to over commit or stretch your resources too far. Ask yourself if your personal situation is likely to change in future. Are you planning to start a family? Is your current job safe, and what happens if you struggle to make ends meet? Of course, no one can foresee what is around the corner, but you need to be as confident as possible that you will be able to meet your pet care responsibilities or have contingencies in mind.