Why we're spending more than ever on our pets

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While pets are considered part of the family by animal lovers of all ages, younger generations are willing to pay the most to support their wellbeing.

Keeping our-legged family members healthy and happy can be an expensive exercise but how much we're willing to spend varies between generations, according to new CommBank research.

Millennials spend the most on their pets (around $357 per month), followed by Gen X ($282), Gen Z ($257) and baby boomers ($173). Pet owners spend an average 10% of their income on their pets.

aussies are spending more on pets than ever

The RSPCA says pet food accounts for 30% of what we spend on our pets, followed by vet costs, healthcare products, accessories (beds, collars, outfits), grooming and pet insurance expenses. Dog owners spend twice as much as cat owners on pet-related items.

Pets are part of the family

CBA Insurance Partnerships general manager Vanessa Rowe says 90% of pet owners see their pets as fully-fledged family members, so it's not surprising they spend so much time and money on them.

The CommBank research also found that millennials and Gen Z take as least as many photos of their pets as they do of their human family members. The research was released alongside CommBank's announcement that it has partnered with PetSure to distribute pet insurance.

Currently, about 28% of pet owners have a pet insurance policy. People who've adopted a cat or dog within five years are more likely than longer term pet owners to have pet insurance (41% vs 22%).

Veterinarian Claire Jenkins, who is also the founder and CEO of vet telehealth service VetChat, says it isn't just in an emergency that pet insurance can be useful. Many pet health concerns can be better managed and identified sooner with regular vet care, she says.

"Similar to human health, regular check-ups and monitoring can save money down the line, and sometimes save your pet's life," Jenkins says. "Often problems start small - and are less costly to treat - but become expensive and potentially life-threatening when left undetected or untreated."

CBA/PetSure pet insurance policies include free access to VetChat, allowing pet owners to ask a vet for advice via video day or night.

Benefits of pet ownership

Meanwhile, the newly released For the Love of Pets Report 2024, commissioned by Australian Seniors, found the benefits of pet ownership extend beyond mere companionship.

The survey found nine in 10 pet owners aged over 50 believe their pets have given them a greater sense of purpose in life. Having a close relationship with a pet also had a positive impact on pet owners' mental health, the research found, with pets providing emotional support and stress relief.

Plus, pets were found to provide their owners with more opportunities to exercise and socialise. With all we get in return, paying whatever it takes to help our pets thrive seems entirely justified.

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Joanna Tovia is a senior journalist at Money magazine. She is the former personal finance editor of The Daily Telegraph and author of Eco-Wise & Wealthy, a book about saving money by going green at home. She has worked as a journalist in the US, UK and Australia writing about money, travel, design and wellbeing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.