Find out the common costs of acquiring a pet, and keeping them healthy in Budget Direct’s latest survey into Australian pet ownership.

3 November | See disclaimer

Quick facts

  • Over 5% of surveyed pet owners spend more money on grooming and clothing for their pets than food, vet bills, toys or medications
  • Surveyed dog owners were more likely to go via a breeder to acquire their pet, whereas cat owners were more likely to go via adoption
  • 49% of surveyed Australian pet owners would be willing to spend $10,000 out of pocket to save their oldest/only pet if it became ill or injured
  • Budget Direct’s Pet Insurance experts predict that snake attacks, tick paralyses and cancers can all easily cost more than $10,000 in vet expenses.

Fur families can be worth their weight in gold, for all the joy, companionship and laughter they bring. But from acquiring a pet to keeping it happy and healthy, how much do they really cost us?

We’ve surveyed 999 Australians through Pure Profile (weighted to represent all Australians who own cats and dogs), and collected data from Budget Direct’s Pet Insurance team to bring you:

  1. 1.0. Costs of acquiring a pet
  2. 2.0. Costs of common pet illnesses
  3. 3.0. Pet costs survey results
    1. 3.1. Do you have a cat or a dog?
    2. 3.2. How did you acquire your oldest/only pet?
    3. 3.3. What’s your oldest/only pet’s age?
    4. 3.4. What do you spend the most money on for your oldest/only pet?
    5. 3.5. What has been your highest vet bill to date? (excluding any pet insurance reimbursement)
    6. 3.6. How much were you able to claim for this vet bill?
    7. 3.7. Would you be prepared to spend $10,000 to keep your oldest/only pet alive if they became sick?
    8. 3.8. Why do you not have pet insurance?

1.0 Costs of acquiring a pet[1] [2]

Acquisition Method Approximate Costs
Adoption $0 to $500
Rescue shelter $0 to $500
Breeder $500 to $5,000

Data compiled from Pet Secure and Canstar show that adoption and rescue shelters are by far the cheaper ways to acquire a pet. However, depending on the breed, availability, demand and appearance, pets from breeders can cost anywhere from $500 to several thousand.

‘Adoption’ typically refers to going through bespoke adoption services and agencies, whereas separate shelters can allow visitors to come and adopt an animal. Both processes involve rescuing an animal, and are therefore quite similar.

2.0 Costs of common pet illnesses

Common illness Approximate Cost
Snake attack $1,000 - $23,000
Broken bone $3,000 - $4,000+
Cancer (lymphoma) $2,000 - $15,000
Infected cut/laceration $350 - $2,000
Tick paralysis $1,000 - $23,000
Heart disease $350 - $6,000
Skin allergy $1,000 - $7,000
Ear infection $180 - $900
Bladder stones $500 - $2,600
Seizures/epilepsy $350 - $6,000

Data compiled from the Pet Insurance team at Budget Direct show that seemingly common, everyday occurrences can incur major costs. With no public health systems in place for pet (like there is Medicare for humans in Australia), owners are faced with the choice of paying these fees out of pocket, or looking to recover costs from their private pet insurance policy.

3.0 Pet costs survey results

Throughout our survey results, options of viewing data by “age” or “gender” refer to the age and gender of the survey participant, not their particular pet/s.

3.1 Which of the following do you have?*

Type of licence
  Dog Cat
NSW 77.2% 49.1%
Vic 69.9% 51.6%
Qld 71.4% 52.3%
WA 71.4% 46.7%
SA 70.0% 61.4%
Tas 76.2% 61.9%
  Dog Cat
18-24 82.9% 43.9%
25-34 76.1% 45.2%
35-44 73.0% 51.9%
45-54 71.2% 50.7%
55-64 69.7% 59.5%
65+ 50.0% 75.0%
  Dog Cat
Female 73.4% 52.2%
Male 73.0% 49.6%
  Dog Cat
Dog owners 100.0% 33.1%
Cat owners 47.5% 100.0%

*Only dog and cat owners were surveyed in this study, therefore figures and percentages only represent Australian pet owners. Given users were able to select multiple options, values may not add to 100%.

73% of pet owners surveyed have dogs, whereas only 51% of pet owners indicated they have a cat. Interestingly, almost 50% of cat owners also have a dog, whereas only a third of cat owners also have a dog. This might suggest that those with cats will seek out dogs that are compatible, whereas some owners of dogs that aren’t compatible with cats simply can’t add them to their household.

While males and females responded as having the same rates of dog ownership, females were slightly more likely to own a cat.

3.2 How did you acquire your oldest/only pet?

Dog/cat owners

By a cat’s whiskers, Australians responded as slightly preferring shelters as their means of getting a pet. However, dog owners tend to greatly prefer going through a breeder, with almost half of dog owners indicating their oldest pet came from a breeder. Almost 60% of cat owners, however, responded as acquiring their pet through either a shelter, or adoption program.

Younger Australians (44 and under) also prefer going through a breeder, whereas Australians aged 45 or over were more likely to respond as going through a shelter. Adoption was also most common among those aged above 65 years of age.

Females tend to be more likely to be gifted a pet than males, whereas males were more likely than females to get their pet from a breeder.

3.3 What’s your oldest/only pet’s current age?

Dog/cat owners

Over 70% of Australian respondents’ oldest/only pets are aged above 4, and over 28% were above 10. Those who went through a breeder, though were far less likely to respond as having an oldest/only pet above 10. This could be due to some breeder-acquired pets being bought young, but put up for adoption or sheltered before they reach 10 years of age. This would also give more opportunity for adoption/shelter-acquired pets to reach older ages.

There was no noticeable difference in ages between cat and dog owners. However, Australian respondents aged above 65 were far less more to have mature pets. Almost 94% of respondents over 65 had oldest/only pets aged above 4, compared to less than 70% of those aged 18-34.

3.4 What do you spend the most money on for your oldest/only pet?

Dog/cat owners

Surveyed Australian pet owners seem to spend more on food for their oldest/only pets than vet bills, medications, toys, or grooming. However, over 7% of pet owners that went via a breeder spend more on grooming or clothing than food, vet bills or medication for their oldest/only pet.

Almost 15% of respondents aged 18-24 also suggested they spend more on toys, grooming or clothing than they would food, vet bills or medications.

3.5 What has been your highest vet bill to date? (prior to any pet insurance reimbursement)

Dog/cat owners

Over 1 in 4 Australian pet owners surveyed have had a vet bill come to over $1,000 (not including pet insurance reimbursements), and nearly 4% have had bills over $5,000.

There was no noticeable difference in anticipated highest vet bills, depending on whether the participant went through a breeder, shelter, or adoption agency to acquire their pet. However, pets received as gifts tended to have far higher rates of having no vet bills, or lower rates of vet bills up to $15,000.

Dog owners and cat owners also surveyed as having similar rates on vet bills, with roughly 4% of each having experienced vet bills of over $5,000.

The figures shown do not include those who chose to not seek veterinary treatment for their pet.

3.6 How much were you able to claim for this vet bill?**

**Only participants who mentioned in question 3.5 that they had previously had a vet bill were asked this question.

For Australian pet owners we surveyed who had vet bills up to $10,000, nearly 60% didn’t have any pet insurance. But for those that did (the remaining 40.7%), around 73% of those insured got more than 50% back, up to 80%.

It’s important to note that these results come from surveyed Australians across a range of insurers. Different insurers have different exclusions, terms and limits on their Pet Insurance.

For example, most insurers completely omit any pre-existing conditions from their cover. However, if you can prove with the right documentation and veterinary notes that your pet’s pre-existing condition has been fully cured for 12 months, it may still be covered by Budget Direct Pet Insurance.

Of course, this is just a summary of the feature – for all the terms, conditions and details, please read the Product Disclosure Statement.

3.7 Would you be prepared to spend $10,000 to keep your oldest/only pet alive if they became sick?

Dog/cat owners

Around 50% of respondents suggested they would pay $10,000 to save their oldest/only pet, with 50% suggesting they wouldn’t.

There is a clear correlation with age, however, with younger Australian pet owners indicating they would be willing to part with the money. As respondents get older, their odds are greater of suggesting they wouldn’t part with the $10,000.

Females were also more likely to respond as willing to part with the money, whereas male participants were more likely to not pay the $10,000.

Owners of pets from breeders were also surveyed as more willing to part with $10,000 than lose their only/oldest pet. However, owners of pets from shelters, adoption agencies or a gift were more likely to not pay $10,000.

3.8 Why do you not have pet insurance?***

Dog/cat owners

***Only respondents who answered in question 3.6 that they don’t have Pet Insurance were asked this question.

Most Australians who responded as having pets, but not having pet insurance cited their main reason as being the price – with 66% of those surveyed feeling it’s too expensive. Coincidentally, the younger the respondent, the more likely they seemed to be to feel pet insurance was too expensive. This seems to vary significantly from the results of 3.8, where younger Australian respondents suggested they’d be more willing to pay $10,000 to save their pet.


Disclaimer: This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in October 2021. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 999, weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+) with cats and dogs. All other data on this page is the latest available from the named sources in the references above, and was obtained in October 2021. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.