Are you thinking of getting a pet for Christmas this year?

We all know that a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. But that doesn’t rule out getting a pet for Christmas. It just means that you have to weigh things up very carefully. A new pet can be a major life change in many ways. So in this article we take a look at:

  • Three of the main responsibilities of being a pet owner.
  • Three of the main expenses of being a pet owner.

We will focus particularly on dogs and cats, as they are the most common pets in the UK.

Three of the main responsibilities of being a pet owner

When you become a pet owner, you also become responsible for the pet in your care. This is a 24/7 responsibility, in many ways not dissimilar from having a child.

Here are three of the most important responsibilities to take into consideration:

  • Duty of care

You need to be confident that a pet will fit into your lifestyle, particularly if you plan to get a dog or a cat. Two particular considerations are firstly whether there is someone at home during the day to look after the pet, and secondly what you will do with your pet when you go away.

Dogs are more needy than cats in terms of needing your presence. So if you want a dog, it’s best if there is usually someone at home most of the time. If your home is regularly unattended – for example if everyone is out at work or school during weekdays – you may need to consider arranging for a friend, neighbour or dog sitter to drop in during the day.

You also have legal responsibilities for the welfare of your pet. The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 makes it a legal duty for pet owners to provide their pet with:

  • A safe and suitable place to live;
  • A healthy diet and fresh water;
  • The opportunity to express normal animal behaviour;
  • Protection from illness, pain and suffering. This includes regular vet check ups, vaccinations and flea/worm treatments,
  • Identification

Dogs and cats must now legally be able to be identified. The two main methods of this are microchips and collars.

  • Microchips

Dogs and cats must all now legally be microchipped: dogs by the time they are 8 weeks old and cats by 20 weeks. When your pet is microchipped, your contact details will be stored in a pet microchipping database so that if your pet is found you can be contacted.

  • Collars

As well as being microchipped, dogs must also wear collars with identity tags when out in public. The identity tag on the collar should include your name, address, and a telephone number so that you can be contacted immediately if your dog is found by someone.

  • Preventing harm to your pet and others

There are three aspects of ensuring that you prevent harm to your pet or others:

  • Travelling by car

When travelling by car with your pet, Rule 57 of the Highway Code requires you to “make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so that they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly”. This means that you need to use either a seat belt harness, pet carrier, cage or dog guard if your pet is in the car with you.

  • Leads and muzzles

If you are out with your dog, it is your responsibility to keep it under control. This usually means keeping it on the lead in a public place if there are likely to be problems with your dog chasing or jumping at people, or possibly fighting other dogs. If your dog turns out to be naturally aggressive or hard to control you may also want to consider a muzzle. 

  • Poo bags

Another legal obligation when walking your dog in public spaces such as parks, playgrounds, pavements and other footpaths is to clear up any dog mess. So it’s important to carry poo bags with you, and put bagged waste into a bin – not on the ground or hung from a tree. Failure to do so could result in a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £100, or even being taken to court and fined up to £1,000..

Three of the main expenses of being a pet owner

Unfortunately, pets don’t come cheap! The initial cost of your pet is only the beginning. There will then be ongoing costs to factor in too. The PDSA estimates the typical monthly cost of keeping a dog is £50-£80 and a cat around £70.

Three of these ongoing costs are:

  • Food

Pets always seem to eat more than you think they will, and their food can be expensive. It can also take a while to find out the food that your pet likes and is good for them. Once you are in a routine, you can find ways to minimise the costs, for example buying in bulk if you have the storage space. But it will still be a significant cost to take into account.

  • Health and social care

Even healthy pets need ongoing health care. For a new pet, there are the costs of vaccinations, microchipping and – should you decide – spaying or neutering. There will then be ongoing flea and worm treatments, annual booster vaccinations, and possibly grooming costs depending on the type of pet you have. Also factor in any pet sitting costs for when you are working or away on holiday.

  • Pet insurance

Another decision to make as a new pet owner is whether to take out pet insurance. It can be expensive and many owners are unsure whether it is worth the money. But a good pet insurance policy will cover you and your pet for a wide variety of expenses, including illnesses, emergencies and dental treatment. 

Some insurers also provide a 24 hour pet helpline providing advice if you are worried about your pet. This could save a trip to the vet, but if your pet does need vet treatment, many insurers will pay the vet directly, so there is no need for you to find the money upfront to pay for your pet’s treatment.

So if you are thinking of getting a pet for Christmas, we hope that this article helps you to understand more about the responsibilities and costs of pet ownership.

If you do need a financial boost to get your pet owner journey started, remember that Munzee offers online loans that may be able to help.

Good luck in making your decision! And do check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Munzee Loans.