Everybody everywhere is by now well versed in the cost of living crisis, affecting all parts of our lives from travel expenses to heating bills and - yes, even pet food.
The RSPCA reported in August that the average cost of pet food has increased by 15% this year so far. In some regions, animal charities and food banks are seeing demand double from 2021, as pet owners struggle to cover the costs of pricey kibble, meat and food pouches.
We'll look at which pet food brands have bumped costs up the most and at some practical, real-world ways to keep your furry friends healthy, happy and fed without breaking the bank.
Head to your local supermarket and check out some of the pet food prices, and if you check them against your receipts from a few months ago, you'll see a surprisingly hefty jump:
· Whiskas Complete Biscuits have risen by 3%
· Pedigree Pouches have gone up 10%
· Whiskas Adult Pouches are 31.1% more expensive
· Own label dry dog kibble is 9.3% higher
· Bakers Complete has risen by 8.6%
· Own label cat food has gone up by 15.4%
There is little doubt that the cost of filling up a little bowl every day has risen, but the positive is that there are many ways to manage your pet's diet and control your costs.
One of the hugely distressing situations we hear about is that pet owners are having to decide whether to surrender their beloved companion for adoption. Still, there ARE places to go for help before taking such a heartbreaking step!
· The RSPCA is partnering with food banks around the UK, so you can pick up free pet food whether or not you need support with your own groceries.
· Charities such as The Trussell Trust and Salvation Army are supporting low-income people with pets and donated around 5,300 kg of pet food last month.
· Pets At Home has given £150,000 to support the RSPCA food bank projects, and regional centres such as the Pet Foodbank Services serve South Wales.
The PDSA provides financial assistance for pet owners who need veterinary treatment or medication and treat patients at their Pet Hospitals at free or low-cost prices.
Local vets can also help, you can ask for a prescription to buy medication online, usually at a far lower cost than in surgery, and many have options to split payments into instalments.
We'd urge you to seek help if you're worried about feeding your pet or managing their welfare, as there are multiple local charities, community groups and advice centres that can provide guidance or financial assistance.
Pet food delivery services have long been popular because they are convenient and often provide valuable advice. For example, you enter a few details about your pet, their name, dietary requirements, health, age, size and weight, and you'll get complete food or separated pouches with a scoop.
Let’s look at some of the accessible options to keep your pet food budget under control.
One of the biggest cost drivers in pet ownership is that we tend to overfeed (and, we know, it's a sign of love, but not the best for their health!).
However, by properly measuring meals, you'll find that your pet has improved heart health and energy, as well as meaning you need to replace that giant 15 kg sack of kibble every six weeks instead of every four.
A medium-sized dog only needs about two cups of food daily - that's just under 260 grams. One small 3 kg bag of complete food should last around 11 days (at £0.34 a day based on average prices), and so on if you have a larger bag or a differently sized dog.
Overfeeding one dog by just 50 grams a day won't look much different, but it increases your cost by a whopping 20%!
The same goes for cats, bunnies, hamsters and every other pet; check what they need, and adjust accordingly.
Bulk buying is an easy way to save money if you have the upfront budget and the freezer or cupboard space. For example, using Tesco's own brand as an example:
· One 12 kg sack of complete dry adult dog food costs £10
· The same food in a 3 kg bag costs £3.75
· You pay £1.25 per kg for a smaller bag of dog food, compared to £0.83 a kg for the larger size.
It's a small saving but can quickly add up, particularly if you claim Clubcard discounts!
Pet food delivery services offer excellent value for money, and many have introductory offers and discounts that can be a lifesaver during tighter months.
· Butternut Box offers 25% off your first box.
· Monster Pet Supplies gives a 35% discount on every Bumper Box you buy.
· BoxDog gives you a free box of treats with the code FREEBOX.
· James Wellbeloved offers free delivery for orders over £25.
These are just a few quick examples, but if you shop around (and visit our Pet Food Delivery rankings!), you can find many really good offers. You can also refer friends and receive further discounts, or look out for seasonal offers and discount codes circulated via email.
For example, you can refer a friend and they get a £10 voucher, and you get a free bag of food, or a percentage off your next order.
It's also worth comparing prices of budget pet food delivery services to supermarket own brands - because a pet food supplier specialises in bulk production, they're often a little more cost-effective!
Brands such as Pedigree Chum and Bakers are great but are also among the most expensive.
You can pick up own-brand treats, flea treatments, dry food, wormer, dental chews and everything else from a pet food delivery provider at a far lower price than you'd pay in a store.
If you're picking up pet food in a supermarket, keep an eye out for loyalty card discounts, or save Nectar / Clubcard points for the next time you stock up on a month's worth of pet food!
Always check the price per kilo, gram or portion because sometimes packaging can be deceiving, and you'll often find that the best value doesn't necessarily look like the biggest pack.
On average, a pet shop or own brand delivered pet food costs around £29 compared to £47.99 as a retail price for a very large bag of dry food - although both cost the same to manufacture!
Discerning pets often prefer soft food in jelly, gravy or terrine, but you can make each pouch or tin go further by combining wet and dry food, rather than feeding one or the other.
We often perceive that complete dry food is less tasty because it looks less familiar than the human food we're used to, but it's healthier for dogs and cats!
Dry food has a range of health benefits:
· Removes dental plaque
· Minimises risk of bacteria
· Improves gum health
· Resolves some digestive issues
Remember, if your dog or cat turns their nose up at dry food, you don’t necessarily need to buy premium tins of fresh meat!
Instead, mix a little meat with the kibble, or even add a little gently warmed water if you have a slightly older pet - this helps to soften the biscuits, so they still taste yummy but aren't difficult to chew.
Now let's throw some creative ideas out there!
The typical advice is to buy the top-quality pet food you can afford, but most of the influences that make us buy expensive pet food involve human marketing and packaging, not our pets' actual needs.
Making your own pet food isn't generally cheaper because prime cuts of meat aren't a cost-saver, but you can make big batches (again, freezer space dependent) and use grains, protein and veggies to create balanced food.
One of the best options is to swap shop-bought treats for homemade ones. Sweet potato bites cost next to nothing, and you can save your offcuts from dinner - simply cut the potato into thin strips or small cubes and bake them gently for about three hours.
Dehydrated sweet potato strips taste like a chewy jerky - a great alternative to teeth chews - or smaller cubes are better for little dogs.
Remember, processed human food isn't great for pets as it's packed with additives, preservatives and salt, but you can repurpose raw veggies and leftovers to save money and avoid food waste.
You can also free source a fair bit of food for pets like guinea pigs - they love dandelions, grass, cleavers, chickweed and clover - all things that grow everywhere in parks, woods and hedgerows.
It's easy to talk about being creative, but sometimes less easy when the costs of everything are rising - but we hope these ideas help you find some budget-friendly ways to reduce the costs of feeding your furries and keeping them healthy while you're at it.