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Survey Provides Insight Into Pet Owners And Cost-of-living Struggles

While they give us endless love and satisfaction, there’s no denying that our pets add to the bills with financial implications weighing down on otherwise enthusiastic pet parents.

Recent research conducted by pet insurance specialist PD Insurance confirms that Kiwis are feeling the pinch – but also offers some hints, tips, and good ideas which can reduce the financial sting, leaving more room for pet joy.

PD Insurance’s Pet Parent Survey, conducted in May 2024, provides insight into the issues, challenges, and experiences of enthusiastic dog and cat owners across New Zealand. “With Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor survey showing that the cost of living is the number one issue facing the country, we wanted to know what the experiences are for our pet parents,” comments Michelle Le Long, PD Insurance COO.

“People are under pressure. Owning cats and or dogs comes at a cost – but there are ways and means to manage costs more effectively, and crucially, without impacting your pet’s health or wellbeing.”

What the stats say

After surveying more than 2,400 pet parents, PD Insurance’s research shows that nearly one quarter (23%) are finding the costs a challenge. A further 39% said the bills are ‘sometimes’ hard to bear.

“That doesn’t mean anyone is abandoning their animals,” stresses Le Long, noting that pets enrich our lives and make the tough times better.

When asked the estimated annual spend on training, grooming, food, toys, etc. (excluding vet bills), majority of respondents (39.7%) said between $1000 and $2000 and 17% said $3000+ per annum.

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When it comes to nutrition, majority (42%) spend between $100 and $250 a month on pet food. 36.9% said they spend between $50 and $100 a month and 12% spend $250 to $500. Le Long notes, “some pets may require premium special diets due to reasons such as allergies, chronic diseases, and digestive health.”

Those on a budget are inclined to make every dollar stretch a little further. Asked ‘If you’re managing your pet/s on a budget, how?’, good advice quickly emerged. Some 40% said they take charge of grooming, while 53% said buying food and other supplies in bulk helps reduce costs. “Additional ideas include making toys for the pets rather than buying them (8.5%), while bargain hunting for sales, or using coupons, is the go for 36% of our respondents.”

What pet parents say

Le Long says providing an option for pet parents to comment has delivered multiple pieces of advice which could be useful to others looking to manage their pet expenses.

One respondent said ‘expense smoothing’ helps. “We buy food with an automated ‘regular’ order, significantly reducing the price compared with intermittent, one-off purchases.”

Another is leveraging the power of YouTube and other online resources for training and behavioural management. “We’re looking at reliable online sources to manage challenging behaviour at home as best we can before taking her in for professional training/assistance.”

Cutting the luxuries

Nobody likes taking out the nice-to-haves, but sometimes recognising these as such is necessary and reduces overheads. Le Long notes that dogs (especially, and some cats) are not unlike children: they want exercise and love, and given enough of both, will be easier to manage.

“Doggy day-care is perhaps one of those nice-to-haves. It is a useful service, but obviously comes at a cost. Some of our respondents have confirmed exactly that, suggesting early morning and evening runs and working more from home as an alternative.”

With a well-exercised pooch, the potential for mischief while you’re at work is reduced, says Le Long. “This may not work for everyone, but it is a potentially good tactic for many,” she adds.

Some pet parents are also cutting personal expenses to make more space for the furbabies. “Some of our pet parents have noted that they are prioritising their pets over their own wants and needs. This is admirable and reflects the level of responsibility people feel towards their pets, who are part of the family.”

The rainy day fund

When money is tight, ‘shock’ expenses like a medical event, accident or other issue involving a vet’s visit is one of the biggest worries for every pet parent. Multiple respondents to PD Insurance’s survey indicated putting a few dollars aside every month or week as a ‘rainy day’ fund for their pet, while others indicated that pet insurance serves the same purpose. ‘Having pet insurance for my dog has been the best budgeting decision ever’, said one respondent.

“Either option is a good idea,” says Le Long. “Budget shocks can put you in the unpleasant position of having to decide or compromise on your pet’s health, something no pet parent wants.”

While money is tight, she says PD Insurance is working to keep premiums as low as possible, making pet insurance accessible to every New Zealander. “We believe insurance is a valuable service which can make pet parenting easier and more rewarding,” she concludes.

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