If you are looking to get a pet as a surprise for your family this festive season, you should not let the excitement overwhelm you.

As the old expression goes, "a dog is for life, not just for Christmas", and this applies not just to dogs but to all pets as well, as every pet is a considerable investment over the long term.

So before you make your decision read this guide for help preparing for the financial commitment a pet brings...

How much does buying a pet cost?

The first of many expenses you will have to fork out for is actually buying your new member of the family in the first place!

On top of that every pet has unique needs so doing your research beforehand is essential and can help keep the costs down.

How long your pet might live is also worth considering, as every pet must be approached as a long term financial commitment. Here are some example prices for each pet:





Guinea Pig


Cost To Buy

Avg. Lifespan (Years)








12 - 75

8 - 200

28 - 699

65 - 180

45 - 180

45 - 330


1 - 43

<3 - 88

<1 - 56

<2 - 20

<2 - 18

<2 - 40


1 - 120

<1 - 40

2 - 300

1 - 30

1 - 15


- Cats and dogs tend to cost the most, but not all breeds will cost you an arm and a leg. Pedigree animals will have you stretching further into your wallet, but you can still find non-pedigree puppies and kittens for just a few hundred pounds.

- The cost of a bird can be almost as big as cats and dogs, an African Grey, the example used above, can set you back as much as 2,000 but many common household birds can be purchased for under 100, depending on the breed.

- Guinea pigs and rabbits will cost you up to a couple of hundred pounds, but can be bought relatively cheaply if you source a few locations to buy them.

- Fish are incredibly cheap, especially the type that you can store in your home. With prices from as little as 1 you can allow yourself to spend a little more on the relevant accessories.

Don't just choose the cheapest pet

It is important to be vigilant when buying any pet. Buying animals from an unreliable source such as through classified ads can leave you vulnerable to false information. If you are after a particular breed you could be misled into buying a pet for a reduced price only to find you have bought the wrong animal.

The biggest financial danger lies in buying an animal that has an existing illness or medical issue, as you will be left to foot the bill of any medical or vet fees after buying the pet.

If you find that you have paid for a pet that is ill, without it being made known to you at point of sale, then you have the right to return the animal for a refund. You can visit the Pet Advertising Advisory Group website for more information.

What are the ongoing costs of being a pet owner?

Having bought the initial equipment and food for your pet you then need to think about the maintenance and cleaning associated with having a pet in your home. You also have a responsibility to keep your pet fit and healthy, and the costs can build up over your pet's lifetime.

Pet food: Food costs can vary substantially from one brand to another. Think about whether getting cheaper pet food in a larger quantity will save you money in the long run?

Vets treatments: Vet treatments can be different for all varieties of pets, but the basics include neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. More details and costs can be found on the RSCPA website.

Pet insurance: All pets come with different medical requirements, even more so as they get older. However, just assuming that they're indestructible until later into their lives could cost you dearly. You can reduce the costs of an unexpected accident by having pet insurance. You can compare pet insurance policies on our comparison table.

Exercise: It is unlikely you will take your fish for a swim, but pets such as dogs need a lot of attention, training and exercise, so you will need to commit time and energy.

If you do not always have the time to exercise your pet, you can try using a pet sitter. You can use sites such as AnimalAngels.co.uk to find someone who will come to your home to look after your pet while you are away for a fee. For further information, read our guide 6 Guilt-Free & Affordable Ways to Get Your Pet Cared For While You Are on Holiday.

Hoover: For pets that shed hair you should invest in a hoover that will not clog up and pack in when congested with thousands of hairs... on a daily basis! The cost of a hoover can set you back a few hundred pounds, but buying quality over quantity on this occasion can save you much more in the long run. Find out more about dealing with pet hair on the Hoover website.

Sometimes a hoover will not do the job all year round. If you invest in a home carpet cleaning kit it can help keep your home smelling great and looking clean, even with your furry friend running around.

Scented carpet shampoo: Most domestic pets can leave an odour in your home, and odours cling onto fabrics. Although it may seem acceptable to leave a window open to avoid this problem, your pet's natural scent will still transfer itself onto your carpet. You can find scented carpet shampoo at the majority of retailers on the high street and online, with prices starting from as little as a few quid.

However, always be sure to check that the products you are using are safe to use with animals. If you are concerned about the effects of carpet shampoo on your animal and really cannot stand the smell, you may want to consider investing in laminate or wood flooring where you can use a steam cleaner instead of a chemical based product.

Financially preparing for your pet

If you are unsure whether you can afford to take on a pet in your household then take a moment and think of the long term. If you feel you would struggle at first then it may cause even greater financial issues for you in the future. You can prepare for the addition of a pet by planning in advance:

Start a savings account: Setting up a savings account allows you to regularly save over a time that suits you until you can afford your pet. Once you have your chosen pet, you can use the regular amount you were saving to go towards its monthly expenses. Try our savings account comparison table to help you find the right account for you.

Buy one at a time: If you buy the equipment for your pet one item at a time then you could save money.

You can use free ads featured in your local newspapers or sites such as Gumtree to take your time and buy what you need when they become available at an affordable price. By buying items gradually you are reducing the financial impact of preparing for your new pet.

Do you have the room for a pet?

All pets needs room, whether it is space for a dog to run around the back garden, a bird cage in the corner of the kitchen or a fish tank taking up one side of your lounge. You need to think of the practicality of having pet toys scattered around your home too, and the accidents that can be caused if you trip over them.

Another concern you must understand is that your home insurance policy and price may be affected by having particular types of pets. Find out if you have sufficient cover for your property based on pet damage, and if you do not have enough cover you can use our comparison table to find a home insurance policy that caters for pet owners.

Please remember that getting a pet is a long term commitment, and a costly one. Christmas can be a great opportunity to make room for a new addition in your home, but make sure it does not lead you into financial difficulties.