Pet Insurance - are cats better than dogs?

Friday, 28 October 2016
Are cats better than dogs?

This is an age-old question, stemming from ancient times, when wolves first became domesticated, and cats first allowed themselves to be petted by humans. It’s impossible to answer – or is it?

When it comes to pet insurance, cats and dogs are usually found together, representing the dominant category of pets, while every other pet could be considered ‘exotic’. But this does not mean that they will cost their owners equally as much in care and medical costs over their lifetimes.

Lifetime cost of owning a cat compared with a dog

With cats being more self-reliant, one would think they’d be cheaper to take care of than dogs, just as they’re easier to keep without the requirement of daily walkies. However, you may be surprised: research from Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance found that the estimated average lifetime cost of owning a dog stands at around £16,900, while the cost for a cat stands at £17,200!

Looking at Sainsbury’s figures more closely, though, reveals that the annual cost of owning a cat currently stands lower than that of a dog, at £1,028 compared with £1,183. The difference flips the other way when life expectancy is taken into account, with cats outliving dogs by two years on average (15 versus 13 years). The annual cost of looking after a cat is also expected to rise slightly more sharply than that of a dog (at 23.5% versus 20% over the pets’ lifetimes), adding to the differences in costs.

Medical costs of a cat versus dog

There are certain things you can plan and budget for – the cost of food and toys for whatever pet you’re planning to get, for instance – while other things may be completely up to chance. The medical costs of owning a pet are probably the biggest unexpected costs you will have to take into account when considering getting one, with this cost rising substantially as the pet gets older.

Sainsbury’s research showed that vet fees and medical treatments add up to an average of £177 for dogs and £133 for cats each year, at 15% and 13% of the annual animal budget, respectively. However, vet fees are set to rise by 15% a year, which would dramatically increase their cost, and makes it all the more important for any responsible pet owner to take out pet insurance, for the sake of their wallet as much as their animal friend.

Additional research from Co-op shows exactly how important this can be, with the top reason cats require medical attention being gastro-intestinal/digestive system disorders, treatment of which costs an average of £379.92. Dogs, meanwhile, are sent to the vet most often for joint disorders, with an associated cost of £425.19 per treatment.

The number two and three top ailments for dogs are digestive system disorders (£416.25) and skin disorders (£243.82), while cats typically face tumours, abscesses and similar growths (£212.03) and bladder problems (£327.44) to round off their top three. This makes dogs more than £100 more expensive in terms of medical costs for the top three conditions alone, which is also why they often have higher insurance premiums than cats.

A healthy pet is a happy pet

There are some things that owners can do to minimise the risk of their animal ending up requiring medical treatment. Keeping a close eye on their diet and the amount of exercise they’re getting is top of the list – and equally valid advice for any human trying to stay healthy – with owners needing to remember to adjust their pets’ diets according to their age, and especially making sure never to give them human food.

No matter how careful you may be, though, or how closely you follow the health advice from your vet or scientific studies, it is still possible for your pet to get into an accident or develop an illness, just as humans are never immune to risk. For peace of mind should the worst happen, it’s important to add pet insurance to your animal budget – and don’t forget that dogs will cost more!

National cat day

This Saturday (29 October) may see national cat day, but dogs have not been left behind with their own day on 26 August. In the end, we must accept that some people are cat people, others are dog people, and some others are bird people, for example. Regardless, each of these precious animals that we invite into our homes deserves to be insured against harm and illness.