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Now here’s a startling fact: there are more pets than people in Australia.

But if you thinking of adding a furry friend to your life, you need to understand that animals are expensive companions.

Australians spent a whopping $6.02 billion on pets  – of which 60 per cent is spent on dogs, and 23 per cent on cats. That’s $3.6 billion on dogs.  That’s an awful lot of bones!

Some $1.8 million was spent on pet food and $2.2 billion on veterinary services. There are more than 23 million dogs and cats across the country.

But which pets are the most expensive?

Not surprisingly, horses come up tops – thanks to boarding fees, stable help, food, saddles, hoof care and vet visits.

For first-timers and new horse-owners, there will be a hefty initial fee of paying for the horse, and if you intend to make it a show horse, then there will be additional charges of training, entry fees, transportation and trailering costs.

Dogs are the most popular pets. But they are not cheap. Over the average lifespan of a dog, owners will spend an average of more than $25,000  according to the BankWest Family Pooch Index.

The bulk of spending will be on the dog’s food. Expect to spend at least $800 a year on premium canine cuisine.

Then there are visits to the vet.  It is estimated that an owner could spend around $450 on veterinary costs per year. Australians also spent $79 million a year on training and behaviour classes for dogs.

Then there are accessories like a collar, harness, leash, scratching posts, toilet mats which could cost up to $100 a year. So the average dog costs more than $2000 per year

But there are some breeds that are more expensive than others. Such as a Tibetan Mastiff, and English bulldog or a King Charles spaniel. This involves grooming requirements and common medical problems.

Buying a cat could cost between $200 and $3000 depending on the breed.

Cats cost slightly less but they live longer than dogs,  so they will set owners back by the same amount as dogs – $25,000 per animal.

Incidental costs including desexing –  which could cost between $100 and $200 – and  vaccinations can amount to $50 and $70 per shot.  Cat food amounts to about $10 a week, a cat litter will set you back by $8 a week and flea medication would cost about $8 a week.

On average, a cat costs an owner about $1722 per year.

If you do not like a four-legged animal, you might want to look for a cheaper option. Keeping fish or birds at home is getting more popular with birds costing $810 a year and fish $610.

Then there’s the option of keeping smaller, cuddly pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits as pets.

They are often the cheapest and easiest on the wallet because they don’t need vaccinations and their food is less expensive. They also require less work than other pets. They only need to be fed on a right diet and their surroundings kept clean.

So how much is a lick and a wagging tale worth?  If you are a pet lover, you know the answer.  Priceless, right?