Step one: Don't buy an expensive one. Purebred animals are costly and adopting an animal from a shelter is cheaper and probably saves a life. Even if your heart is set on a specific breed, you may be able to find one in a shelter. Many charities just request a donation when you agree to home an animal and some will even arrange subsidised vaccinations and neutering where necessary before you pick up your new friend. The National Pet Register - www.nationalpetregister.org - has a useful list of animal shelters.
Step two: Keep them healthy. Pet obesity can lead to health problems, such as bone and joint trouble. Don’t kill them with kindness and too much food. Feed the right amount for its breed, activity level and age. Exercise dogs regularly to avoid weight problems.
Step three: See your vet annually. Preventative measures are the best way to insure against high bills. But, be sensible and don’t seek expensive help at the first sign of a sniffle. Further research has revealed that unnecessary emergency vet appointments are costing UK pet owners £118m a year. Also, buy cheaper medication and flea sprays online. Shopping around can save more than 50% with sites such as www.bestpet.co.uk and www.petremedies.co.uk
Step four: Spay and neuter. Spaying and neutering dramatically reduces the risk of some cancers and other health and behaviour problems. Those on a low income might be able to get help looking after their pet from an animal charity. Cats Protection offers financial assistance with neutering to cat owners who are full-time students or on means-tested benefits, while Blue Cross offers subsidised treatment for pets whose owners are on benefits or a low income.
Step five: Get insured. Pet insurance is relatively inexpensive, but it can help you save money if an unexpected emergency should arise. Premiums are based on the type of pet, its age, where you live and other factors that will determine how likely it is to get lost or fall ill. Read the small print, as the cheapest policy may not offer the best deal. You may not be able to get any cover at all for an elderly animal.
Step six: Make them comfortable. Spoiling your dog or cat does not mean buying an expensive, bespoke bed. Why not make your own? While you are about it, groom your pet yourself. Basic grooming is pretty straightforward, even trimming nails and it is easy to do with practice. Ask your vet for advice on how to properly groom your pet.
Step seven: Share pet sitting. Don't shell out for pet sitters, which charge up to £15 a day to feed and spend ‘quality time’ with your pet when you go away. If you have a friend or neighbour with a pet, swap services when you go out of town.
* Teena's opinions are her own and for general information only. Always seek independent financial advice.