Cruft’s Dog Show is on at the moment. It’s the most unintentionally funny programme on TV (hidden away on More 4 or somewhere) what with bouffant-ed poodles, eccentric owners and dancing dogs - seriously. I love dogs but, despite living in the country and needing the dog walking exercise, I'm not going to get one. Partly this is because dogs are hugely expensive: you’re going to shell out around £2,800 just for the food over a typical dog’s lifetime.
And the cost of veterinary treatment is eye-watering. I know someone with a beautiful though ancient Labrador – every time he goes to the vet (with increasing regularity) the bill is nudging three figures even if little is done bar the dispensing of a few pills.
Of course, there’s pet insurance – a market that Investors Chronicle says is worth £657 million a year even though only 25% of dogs and 15% of cats are covered. The average claim is apparently £720. I know of another dog owner who pays about £50 a month for cover for her pet which I have never seen leave her arms and has a pink, jewelled collar: she’s paying out for something she’s unlikely to claim on at least while the pooch is young.
I don’t have insurance for our three cats. They are all moggies, not pampered pedigrees which never go out. So our cats are at risk of injury when they venture out. But they are fine: having neutered cats helps, as does living on a quiet road. I don’t have them inoculated each year – it’s a risk, but not much of one, to go without. I don’t shell out for expensive flea treatments – Frontline costs about £20 to cover three cats for two months – I buy proprietary brands online and comb them a lot. The two cats who hunt are wormed regularly – again, I buy online.
The big expense is food: the fussy creatures will only eat top of the range grub but I watch out for supermarket offers and bulk buy. Even so, I reckon I spend £15-20 a week on food for them.
Pet insurance would cost me certainly more than £20 a month for the three of them – and probably much more, given that the oldest is now nearing her tenth birthday. I could look for cover on a comparison website but actually, what I do is self-insure: in other words, rather than shell out for cover I rely on my savings to cover me if there’s ever a big bill. And of course, if they stay healthy, I save money. Cheap and cute, who could ask for more?