Dan O'Sullivan

Quality Checked

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When it comes to the cost of owning a pet, most Australians tend to think of the initial expenses. From adoption fees to vet visits, and spoiling them with toys, it’s easy to see that buying a pet isn’t always cheap. But buying a pet is a commitment, and with that comes ongoing expenses.

The average cost of owning a pet

According to a survey conducted by Animal Medicines Australia in 2019, there are an estimated 29 million pets in the country. Dogs are the most popular pet, with 40% of Australian households owning at least one. Cats are the second most popular at 27%. Following this is fish at 11%, birds at 9%, small mammals at 2%, and reptiles at 2%.

With dogs and cats as the most popular pets in the country, Animal Medicines Australia have broken down the average cost of owning a pet each year. Dogs often cost between $548 to $627 a year. Cats are a tad cheaper, averaging between $274 and $308 a year.

How much does it cost to own a pet?

There are several upfront costs to consider when acquiring a pet:

  • Adoption fees
  • Vet bills
  • Registration
  • Accessories

And ongoing costs that first time pet owners will often forget:

  • Ongoing vet expenses
  • Food
  • Grooming
  • Insurance

Adoption fees

Depending on the age, breed, and condition of the pet, adoption fees can range anywhere from free and more than $5,000. Unless your pet has been given to you for free, the cheapest method of acquiring a pet is adopting from a shelter.

Adopting a pet through an RSPCA shelter will usually cost under $500, and also includes some benefits that can help you save on upcoming vet bills.

With purebreds and designer puppies, it’s often a case of the more unique the breed is, the more expensive. Selective breeding processes and the rareness of breeders can increase the price, sometimes costing thousands of dollars.

Vet bills

After acquiring your furry friend, you can expect to spend a bit of money on their vet bills. This includes desexing, microchipping, and vaccinations for puppies and kittens. These are all optional, but highly recommended.

Depending on which procedures you opt for, initial vet expenses can cost over $1,000. If your pet is adopted from a shelter, the RSPCA might have already covered most of these procedures. If your pet is acquired from a specified breeder, then you will have to pay for these yourself.

In the following years, you will still have to pay regular visits to the vet to ensure your pet stays healthy. These additional expenses can vary depending on the breed. Some purebreds, such as pugs, are more genetically predisposed to ongoing health issues, which can make treatment cost more over time.


Most councils in Australia will require you to register your dog with them. A desexed, regular breed of dog will cost around $50. If your dog is a breed that your council deems aggressive or restricted, it can cost over $500 to register them. The Brisbane City Council breaks down dog registration costs as follows:

Registration Type Initial Fee Subsequent Years
Non-Desexed Dog $109.15 $145.55
Desexed Dog $38.10 $50.75
Dangerous Dog $571.25 $189.70
Non-Desexed Menacing Dog $571.25 $189.70
Desexed Menacing Dog $571.25 $120.25

Not all states require you to register your cat. Depending on where you live, cats may need to be registered once they reach three months old. Before buying any pet, you can check with your local council to determine registration costs.

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According to Animal Medicine Australia, Australians now spend over $1.2 billion each year on pet accessories. More than half of that was spent by dog owners alone. The cost of accessories can vary depending on how much you want to spoil your pet. Some items are necessary, including beds, collars, and toys. To cover these you can expect to spend around $500.

Again, this cost is purely subjective and is based on several factors. For example, if you have a breed of dog that has destructive tendencies, you will go through toys much faster than a docile cat owner. This can also lead to accessories becoming an ongoing expenditure.


Perhaps the most expensive part of pet ownership annually is the cost of food. In 2019, Australians spent close to $3.9 billion nationwide on pet food. Animal Medicines Australia’s survey showed that the annual average household spend on pet food in 2019 was $586 for dogs and $491 for cats.

Despite dogs costing more annually, they also have a shorter lifespan at an average of 14 years. This equates to $8,204 over the course of ownership. Cats on average live for 17 years, which equates to $8,347 a lifetime. Food expenses can easily pile up as well depending on the breed, as bigger dogs will eat more than smaller dogs. Some owners might also want to spend more money on treats and specialty diets for their pets.


Grooming expenses for your pet are also a subjective cost. Cats require little to no extra grooming costs, despite the occasional nail trim. Dogs with longer hair will need more frequent grooming to prevent further health complications. Grooming expenses also depend on your lifestyle choices. For example, some owners of designer breeds like to keep a consistent style for their dog, which can lead to greater yearly expenses. On average, you can expect to spend roughly $50 to $150 on grooming a year.


The cost of pet insurance varies depending on what type of cover you want for your pet. Accident-only insurance covers vet bills if your pet is in an accident. This may not be necessary for you if your pet is kept secured most of the time. Accident and illness insurance also covers costs if your pet gets sick, but may not cover if your pet’s illness stems from a pre-existing condition. Some home and contents policies will provide a form of general insurance to cover your pet, however it may not cover everything. If you want greater peace of mind for your pet’s wellbeing, it’s best to opt for comprehensive cover. This covers accidents, illness, preventative care, and vaccinations.

Pet insurance will often cost between $20 and $60 a month. Make sure to read through the product disclosure statement (PDS) before deciding which policy is best for you and your pet.

How to save money if you have a pet

Since the costs of owning a dog or cat can quickly add up, there are a few things you can do to save money. When acquiring a pet, consider adopting from a shelter to save on adoption fees and initial vet expenses.

With ongoing expenses, try to keep your pet in good health by exercising regularly and maintaining a balanced diet. This will reduce visits to the vet and save you more. Insurance costs might also be expensive up front, but can save you a lot in the long run.

If you have to leave your pet alone, hiring a friend or neighbour to pet sit for you can be much cheaper than sending your pet to a kennel or cattery. You can save money on grooming and training by doing it at home yourself. Some breeds may require more extensive grooming routines, so a trim every now and then can be necessary.

Written by: Dan O'Sullivan