Pet Insurance

Pet costs: 9 ways to save money on your pet

Pet costs are rising so see our expert tips on saving money on your pet.

The cost of keeping a pet can become stressful as Britain struggles through the cost of living crisis. So we’ve spoken to experts to uncover a number of ways to save money on your pets while still giving them a healthy and happy life.

1. Look for freebies

Free pet food is available at Blue Cross pet food banks across the country. They can be found at some of the charity's animal hospitals and rehoming centres. No vouchers or proof of need is required. The animal charity supports dogs, cats, chinchillas, degus, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rabbits and rats. You might need to call ahead to check stock for less common animals. For more information visit their website.

The app Joii Pet Care offers a free smart symptom checker, free vet nurse video calls and vet calls for £24. This price can even be waived for certain pet insurance policy holders including Animal Friends, Asda and Purely Pets. It's a bit like calling 111 for animals. In response to the rise in pet owners using crowdfunding for vet costs since the cost of living crisis erupted, Joii Pet Care is also offering free vet consultations to people who are resorting to crowdfunding to pay for their vet bills. Email [email protected].

Cats Protection has a means-tested neutering scheme for those struggling for money. Neutering prevents unwanted kittens and reduces the chance of cats picking up illnesses. Call 03000 12 12 12.

2. Make homemade pet food and treats

Pets don't need expensive treats - they can make them fat and upset their stomach. You can always hold some of their daily food back for a treat.

Bone broth is a dirt cheap way to add nutrients to a dog's diet and mix in with bought food to make it go further. It can be frozen for up to six months, but it may be best to store it in ice cube trays so it can be defrosted as and when needed.

Devin Smith, of DogFoodSmart said: "The only thing you need to keep an eye on is making sure the ingredients you cook into the bone broth are pet-friendly. I would recommend sticking to the meat bones, apple cider vinegar, and some carrots or peas if you want to add some interesting textures."

Or if you still want to spoil your pet, see the bottom of this article for a homemade recipe.

3. Build your own games

Swerve the expensive shop-bought toys and get inventive at home.

Devin Smith, of DogFoodSmart said: "A current favourite of mine is grabbing a sock, laying a few biscuits/treats across the length of the sock, and then rolling it up until all of the treats are hidden. Secure this with string, and watch as your pet spends hours trying to find the hidden food." You can also do this for cats with a sock and some dried catnip tied up inside.

Devin added: "For smaller animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, you can recreate this in a cardboard box rather than a sock. Cut two holes into the sides of a box (with a lid), and fill the box with shredded paper/toilet roll tubes/whatever you have to hand. Drop a few treats in and let your pet explore."

Cats also love puzzle feeders made from old toilet rolls, or a rod to dangle made from a garden cane and some string.

4. DIY beds and scratching posts

A cardboard box with a blanket or old jumper or towel is often all that's needed for a pet.

Meanwhile a good scratching surface can be made with an old carpet sample, the Cats Protection says.

5. Get pet insurance and keep up to date with jabs

Vet fees can be one of the most significant and unexpected costs you face when owning a pet. Even with the most careful pet owners accidents happen and a furry family member can quickly become unwell. Having pet insurance is the best way to prepare for the worst and means you won't be worrying about money when going through the emotions of having a poorly pet.

Malcolm Morley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "If your pet appears to be healthy, it can be tempting to save money by cancelling policies. There are many different types of insurance policy, so it’s always worth thinking about alternative policies before cancelling over concerns about cost."

If you’re unsure which type of pet insurance is right for your animal, read our pet insurance guides.

Being proactive with your pet’s health will keep you one step ahead, so brush teeth, keep up with flea and worming treatments, don’t let them get overweight, take them out for regular exercise and stay up to date with vaccinations.

6. Earn rewards for taking care of your dog

The Biscuit reward app gives owners the chance to earn discounts at top retailers simply by keeping on top of their dog’s wellbeing. Key in your dog’s details then the app recommends the amount of activity the pet needs, and you collect biscuits every time you complete a task.

Biscuits can then be redeemed at retailers including Tesco and Amazon, as well as Nando's, or for things like online vet consultations, dog food, grooming and training. Rewards are capped at £25 for the first month and £23 after that.

7. Go second hand

Car boot sales are a great way to find cut-price cuddly toys, towels and blankets that will work for your pets, rather than buying new and expensive items. Alternatively, think before throwing one of your own items away.

Danny of Pet Lover Guy, said: "Your dog is unlikely to object to being dried down with a greying, fraying bath towel you no longer want hanging in your bathroom.”

8. Learn to groom!

Keeping your pet well-groomed helps keep them healthy and happy and doing it yourself will save a lot of money too. Regular brushing removes loose hair, drandruff and tangles, according to animal welfare organisation Four Paws.

The charity says: “There are lots of tutorials online which talk you through the best way to bathe your dog and even trim their claws. We advise people seek out advice from an expert beforehand in more complex cases or if they are new to trimming, to avoid potential harm to pets.”

9. Form a cat-sitting circle

Danny of Pet Lover Guy said: "The cost of getting someone in to feed your pet while you're away can be sky-high. Instead, find friends and neighbours who also have pets and help each other out. If you are going on a longer holiday, consider getting a housesitter. Using a professional service will probably only be cheaper than kennels if you have more than one animal, but they will make your home look lived-in and so less attractive to burglars."

If you still can't afford to keep your pet

Pet experts urge people not to buy or adopt a pet if they can't properly take care of it, including if they can't afford it. But circumstances can change and if you can no longer look after your pet, charities such as Cat's Protection, the RSPCA and the Dog's Trust can take in pets to find them new homes.

Dr Anna Foreman, Everypaw Pet Insurance, said: "Although this can be a heartbreaking decision, their needs must be put first - whatever is best for the animal must be done. These charities can also offer limited financial help in extenuating circumstances."

And if you're thinking of getting a pet, consider adopting through a rescue charity, which is often cheaper than buying one.

Dog treat recipe

The PDSA has kindly shared its recipe for dog-friendly gingerbread biscuits to treat your pooch. It recommends one 4cm x 5cm treat a day for small dogs and two for large dogs.

You will need:

  • 300g flour
  • 60g smooth dog-safe peanut butter. Be extra careful to make sure your peanut butter
  • doesn’t contain Xylitol (also called Birch sugar), as this is toxic to dogs. Check the
  • ingredients before you start – the higher percentage of peanuts, the better!
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated (or very finely chopped if you don’t have a grater.)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (black treacle)
  • 120ml water
  • 5cm x 4cm gingerbread template or cookie cutters


  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 4 or 180°C (160°C for a fan oven) and line a baking
  • tray with baking paper.
  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly. We recommend sifting the
  • flour for a smoother mixture, although this isn’t necessary.
  • Once your mixture has formed a dough, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about
  • ¼ inch thick.
  • Cut out your biscuits and place them on your lined baking tray.
  • Cook biscuits in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are golden.
  • Let the biscuits cool and voila – your pampered pooch’s treats are ready to enjoy!

Read more: RSPCA issues pet rabbit warning after three found dead and one severely injured

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.