• Henry Naylor


Updated: Jun 21, 2019

Mans best friend, companion for life, the best decision you ever made — however we like to describe our relationship with our favourite pet one thing is clear: we consider them part of the family.

Whether you buy a puppy or a kitten or free a rescued animal from a shelter, you embark on a journey where you'll enjoy friendship and laughs for years.

Of course, there are fretful times when your rumbunctious puppy ignores your worn out slippers and chews your favourite pair of shoes to bits — or when your innocent little kitten claws its way up the drapes leaving a trail of snags and holes. Yet none of this seems too severe when we weigh up the joy pets bring into our lives.

Protect your beloved cat or dog with low-cost pet insurance.

Where does our love for cats and dogs originate from?

According to a study by Clive Wynne, director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, our relationship with cats and dogs can be traced back more than 10,000 years.

Wynne claims it's likely that dogs started out as wolves that scavenged from human garbage pits. Over time, wolves and humans became more comfortable in the presence of each other — enough so that we took them into our homes and started to train them to work on hunts.

Humans and dogs hunting together aren't as strange as it seems — after all, humans might have evolved to purchase most of what we need to survive, but in the modern day, field-sportsmen still use gun dogs to flush and recover game on a shoot.

Cats though came along to be farmers pets. DNA evidence suggests that cats were first tamed by the Natuvians — hunter-gatherers who lived in the Eastern Mediterranean around 9500-10,000 BC. It is believed that cats were domesticated to provide protection against rodents damaging grain and wheat stores.

The health benefits of owning a pet

Nowadays, of course, the vast majority of pets are bought to provide companionship.

And despite the odd furry misdemeanour, our relationship with cats and dogs has significant health benefits.

Owning a dog gives us the opportunity to get out in the fresh air, exercise and socialise. Even a brisk walk once a day is proven to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Even playing with cats indoors triggers an elevated heart rate, which in turn releases feel-good endorphins.

And the sense of loyalty that comes from the bond between pets and their owners is a powerful weapon against the debilitating effects of loneliness and depression.

The importance of choosing the right pet

Cats are solitary animals, often loyal to those who feed them. They are mostly self-sufficient and get their exercise during playtime in the house or venturing outdoors.

Dogs, on the other hand, are less self-sufficient and need daily exercise. Even when they get old.

It's wise to choose the best breed to suit your lifestyle and circumstances.

Cat breeds like the Persian, Burmese, Exotic Shorthair and Ragdoll are incredibly relaxed and affectionate — ideal for quieter households and for people who want the maximum snuggle factor. Whereas breeds like the Egyptian Mau, Bengal and the Ocicat are much more active with strong personalities and prefer interaction with other cats.

Personalities differ significantly in the dog world as well, but the primary consideration here is the need for exercise. While the majority of small breeds can be happy with a short walk around the block a couple of times a day, Jack Russell Terriers and Boston Terriers have a ton of energy that needs releasing if you want to avoid destruction in the house.

So whether you are looking to buy a dog or a cat, it's essential to choose wisely.

How much does it cost to keep a dog or cat?

To a degree, this depends on the breed, especially when it comes to owning a dog. You can expect your beloved pooch to cost an average of £21,000 over their lifetime, or as much as £33,000 for some pedigree or large breeds.

A cat will cost a minimum of £12,000 for basic welfare needs, or as much as £24,000 if they live longer than average.

While these figures include rudimentary vet treatments such as yearly vaccinations and preventative measures such as flea treatments, it's easy for the costs to double or treble in cases of accident or illness.

Do I need pet insurance

Picture of a dog breed susceptible to hip dysplasia
Breeds that suffer from hip dysplasia can incur significant vets bills over their lifetime

According to research released by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in May 2018, it is estimated that 67% of dogs and 84% of cats in the UK are uninsured.

With an average claim of £757 and a whopping £775 million paid out by insurers, around 12.4 million pet owners are risking walking into hefty bills for vet treatment, including

  • £500 to treat hip dysplasia on some favourite large dogs,

  • £1,200 to treat accidental poisoning,

  • £1,500 to repair a broken limb, and

  • as much as £5,000 for extreme treatments such as chemotherapy

It's easy to see how a single accident or illness incident could be financially crippling. In a study reported on in The Daily Telegraph, 85% of vets claimed they had felt threatened by clients who were angry at the cost of vet treatment.

One of the pet owners interviewed for the study stated, "Having spent over 2 grand on a rabbit that cost 10 quid last year, I can see why people get angry."

Protect against expensive vets bills with low-cost pet insurance

How to keep your pet out of harm's way

There are lots of measures you can take to help keep your pet safe from accident or illness. Taking out pet insurance is still strongly recommended but follow these rules to help reduce the number of times you might need the help of a vet over your pets lifetime.

#01 The puppy and kitten years

Just like babies, pets are at most risk when they are young. Puppies and kittens are naturally inquisitive, and in addition to chewing everything they can get their paws and claws on to help relieve teething pains, puppies, in particular, learn about the world around them by using their mouths.

Do your best to

keep small objects out of harm's way and make sure kitchen and bathroom cupboards are secure to prevent access to harmful chemicals;

keep an eye on puppies chewing furniture, skirting boards and door cills as splinters can easily lodge in their throat; and

be very careful what you allow your pet to eat: liver and brain damage, kidney failure, seizures, chronic diarrhoea and pancreatitis can be caused by consuming alcohol, chocolate, cheese and milk, coffee and tea, fat trimmings, raw eggs, raw fish, grapes and raisins.

#02 Reckless adolescence

Most dogs don't stop growing until they reach two years of age. Cats can keep growing until they are 18 months old. During this time, your pet will have boundless amounts of energy.

It's sad to note that according to statistics provided by Pet Plan, around 230,000 cats die as a result of collisions with vehicles in the UK every year. So keeping cats inside during daylight hours can reduce the likelihood of an accident.

Dogs may be less prone to suffering an expensive accident than cats, but it pays to be vigilant:

Always keep garden gates and fences secure.

Never walk your dog near a road unless on a lead. (Regardless of how well behaved they seem.

Train your dog to sit and pause before you cross a road.

If you drive to a favourite walk, always check to see your dog isn't excited by something they've seen through the window and make sure you've clipped a lead on before you open the car door.

#03 Old age

As cats and dogs enter old age, illness becomes more prevalent than an accident. The immune system weakens, and animals become more susceptible to disease.

To help ensure your beloved pet lives well into their golden years, follow these simple tips:

Ensure your pet is correctly inoculated as a kitten or puppy.

Make sure you don't miss out on annual boosters.

Depending on the breed, ensure your pet remains active and receives plenty of exercise.

Do use cat and dog toothcare products from an early age because dental issues are surprisingly common in older pets. Cats and dogs need sedating to receive treatment by a vet, often at a cost of around £1000.

Do feed your cat or dog with high-quality pet food and avoid giving your beloved moggy or fido human food.

Fleas and ticks are an inevitable threat. Use prescribed flea treatments regularly and choose a product that also protects against other dangers such as lungworm.

Enjoy a wonderful relationship with your pet for many years

Follow these simple tips, give your pet all the attention and affection they desire, and you'll be rewarded with all the fun, and companionship cats and dogs provide.

Always understand the financial costs of owning a pet before you take the plunge and don't ignore your pet insurance. Accident or illness are largely inevitable at some point in your pets life, regardless of how much care you take.

And remember, if your pet is treated by a vet and you don’t have the money to pay for the treatment, vets are legally allowed to retain your pet at the practice until you’ve settled the bill in full.

Don’t risk losing your beloved pet to accident or illness —

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