Cutting the cost of pet ownership

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 3:26am

Keeping a pet in Hong Kong's cramped, overpriced apartments is tough enough, but the costs of food, medicine and the occasional vet visit can make it even harder to justify owning a four-legged friend. How do you keep your pet happy, while cutting costs?

The obvious first cost saver for aspiring owners is to adopt your animal for free from a reputable organisation, such Hong Kong Dog Rescue or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most of these animals will come with the necessary shots and will be desexed - all in, it is much cheaper and more charitable than buying from a pet shop.

The type of pet you get will affect your long-term costs. Dr Tony Matthews of the Acorn Veterinary Hospital in Sai Ying Pun, says: "Obviously a short-haired cat may require less grooming than a long-hair, whilst food bills for a large breed dog can escalate.

"Some breeds are unfortunately renowned for medical conditions, such as bulldogs, shar peis and chows, and you might opt for an animal less prone to congenital disease, such as a mongrel or standard moggie."

Preparation for your new pet is vital, and the first essential is food. Planning ahead can save you cash: the website offers free same-day shipping alongside discounts to owners buying in bulk. For example, a can of Whiskas costs HK$6.50 in supermarkets, but buying two cases (48 cans) from the site is just HK$280, or HK$5.83 per can.

However, do not buy prescription foods online, as the sale of such drugs without veterinary input and guidance is illegal.

If you prefer shopping in person, Cannon Street in Causeway Bay is also known as "pet street", and has great deals. They sell everything pet-related, and I recently saw a comfortable cat bed for just HK$150, a steal compared to the HK$400 to HK$500 beds seen at other stores. Many also have loyalty programmes, for which you get 5 to 10 per cent discount.

Vet bills rank high on pet costs, but Matthews says that as long as you are prepared, prevention will cut down on costs.

Vaccinations and desexing are obvious and mandatory, but with numerous infectious diseases in Hong Kong, regular anti-heartworm treatment, as well as flea and tick control, will save you from large bills.

Regular grooming also has health benefits: rather than using a fancy salon, you could save thousands by looking after your pet at home. Clippers, a metal comb and a shearing razor are all that is needed.

Finally, pet insurance should be considered for those fearful of massive bills. Vet bills can add up, and insurance allows money to play no part in the decision process in deciding what is best for your beloved pet, Matthews says.

Options include the Blue Cross's Pet Care and the SPCA's PetGuard. Yearly rates start as low as HK$988, and while that may seem hefty, it is meagre compared to what you might have to pay for life-saving surgery on your beloved pooch.