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Elizabeth Kerr asks whether women have less in their retirement funds because they own more cats than men. The numbers might surprise you

Personal Finance
Elizabeth Kerr asks whether women have less in their retirement funds because they own more cats than men. The numbers might surprise you

By Elizabeth Kerr

Did you know according to Roy Morgan research (2015) that more than half of us own a pet cat or a dog these days?

It’s an apparent $1.6 billion industry, and “apparently” those with a lower education are 64% more likely to own a pet than those who attended higher education.  

Regardless, the way I see it, the desire to pamper our precious pets is getting bigger and more expensive - proving to have quite the impact on  your money machine dreams, so, please don’t dismiss it entirely as being unworthy of your brief attention.

(Before you read on guess how much a pet will cost you over its lifetime and write that number down).

I recently had the pleasure of watching a young couple come into a pet store all sweet and doe-eyed at each other and pay $1600 for a puppy.

Surprisingly it was a simple as buying a Big Mac. There was no sitting down in a private room to discuss their new responsibility, the minimum care requirements or the ongoing costs.

At the very least, should someone have checked they could afford it – an income/ credit check maybe, or even a cooling off period before they picked said puppy up? 

Initial costs

You initial set-up costs will vary depending on whether you are rescuing a pet from the SPCA or buying one from a pet shop or breeder.

Using the shopping list supplied from a ‘nationwide pet retailer’ I have taken the average cost for each product and created a breakdown for you that can be viewed at the bottom of this story.

There may be some veterinary costs included in your purchase price, but for transparency I’ve split the details out for you.

(Don’t shoot the messenger – I know the costs vary among retailer and brands, I just took a random price from the middle of the range).

Some of these pet requirements have really come of age since I was a kid.

I’m positive we didn’t have to administer $80 of flea & worm treatments every three months to our family cats and I don’t remember kitty-litter being anything more than newspaper in the corner.

I certainly do not recall a scratching post or $35 toys being a ‘must have’ item.

I accept, however, that unwitting and enthusiastic owners nowadays may feel compelled to give their newest fur-baby everything the pet shop tells them they need, so, I’ve included all these things in the cost.

(I personally wouldn’t bother with some of the “must haves’ but not everyone thinks like me).

The costs keep coming

So for your initial investment you get a lifetime of pet ownership pleasure right?   Not quite, you need to add to that initial investment the continued costs of keeping the animal alive and healthy.

For a cat, these include but are not limited to the following every year:

Dry food $465.00
Wet food per day $130.00
Worming and fleas $195.00
Litter (for inside cats) $325.00
Insurance $216.00
Vet visits (allowing for 2 per year) $104.00
Rent* $520.00
Sub total: $1,955.00

The last line item (Rent) might appear puzzling but it assumes that if you are renting your place and have a pet that you will need a landlord who is sympathetic to pets on their property. Landlords allowing pets are few and far between and often charge a premium for doing so, therefore I’ve attributed an extra $10 to the pet here.

Ongoing costs for the cat alone now total $1955 per year for every year that your cat is alive.

A cat can live into its late teens early 20s apparently so for today I’m going to assume your loved moggy lives until 17 years old.

SO, we have an initial investment of $855.00 (assuming cat is free, add extra if you need to) plus an added sum of about $1955 per year over 17 years. The total cost of owning your cat is $34,090.

(This is a great example of how perceived small costs add up over time!)

Money Machine Magic

The key with this calculation is to understand BEFORE you purchase your pet what the ongoing costs are and then determine whether the impact to your money machine is something you are happy to absorb.

If instead of owning a cat you invested that money at a return of say 7% then (using the savings calculator) we can assume you would have $44,976 with $16,000 of that being interest after just 17 years. 

Crazy Cat Ladies?

Studies show that single women are more likely to be cat owners.

The Sunday Star-Times on Sunday published that women are “Likely to retire with $82,000 less than men, based on their current savings patterns”.  

Could the two be related?   No one knows for sure … Of course not that's a stupid idea



The initial purchase price of a kitten is about $300, while a purebred can cost $650 or more. The initial purchase price of a puppy is about $650+, while a pedigree puppy could be $2,000 or more.

  Kitten Puppy
  $ $
Dry food (15 kgs) 155.00 117.00
Wet food (10 small cans) 25.00 27.50
Measuring scoop/storage bin 25.00 5.00
Food / water bowls 10.00 20.00
Carry cage / crate 60.00 120.00
Toilet training equipment   18.50
Litter 40.00  
Litter tray 30.00  
Litter scoop 6.00  
Litter liners 10.50  
Enzyme-based stain remover 30.00 25.00
Intestinal wormer 15.00 13.90
Flea control 50.00 39.90
Scratching post 40.00  
Teething toys   14.00
Catnip 10.00  
Assorted toys 40.00  
Boredom busting toys 16.00 17.00
Chewing Preventative   14.90
Training treats 9.00 10.00
Shampoo and conditioner 25.00 18.00
Grooming brushes/combs 25.00 23.00
Eye and ear cleaners   13.00
Nail clippers 15.00 15.00
Oral care 30.00 39.90
Harness & lead 25.00 35.00
Coats and jumpers   90.00
Collar and name tag 25.00 33.00
Car restraint   33.00
Bedding 40.00 90.00
Cat door 99.00  
Kennel   150.00
------------------ --------- ---------
Subtotal 855.50 982.60
Other costs will include ...    
Vaccinations x3 53.00 64.00
Spey/castration 99.00 200.00
Vet visits   52.00
Microchip insert & registration   60.00
Puppy preschool   80.00


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And Lo, the bar for moronic sexism was raised again. Might have had a valid point with the way pet costs are rising, then ruin it with offensive stupidity. Or is that a feature of this column now? Two in a row offensively stupid isn't necessarily a trend, but come out with a third and I'll wonder.


Yes, I agree, this article is unecessarily biased, and trying to be 'funny' about the - quite sobering - fact that women end up with a lot less money at the end of their working lives than men.
It ignores the gender pay gap
It ignores the fact that women are still seen as the primary caretaker, and thus end up sacrificing quite a few good earning years during their career
It ignores the fact that women still work a lot more unpaid hours in te home, which leaves them less available to focus on their career, if they wanted to do so.
And a raft of other issues.
Pensionable women living in penury because .. cats.


Between the two of you you have demonstrated, quite clearly, the fine art of taking offence where none was offered by misrepresenting the context. It would seem that everything would be perfect if only everyone thought the same as you and, by golly, they should be admonished for seeing humour where you do not and compelled to comply.

As for the income thing, try this, because this is how it work in practice rather than statistics.
A couple form a family and 1 partner earns while the other provides care for the offspring and earns less or not at all. As a team, they are equally responsible for raising the family and income from all sources is pooled and shared, assets are deemed to be owned 50/50. For the true effect you would have to consider that all earnings may be attributed 50/50 between the partners despite records which may show one earns more than the other. I'm sure you will find this doesn't suit your ends and dismiss it, but one can only hope.....


Well, write something that idiotic in an article and it's only fair to be called on it. Is this about pet costs or shortfalls in women's retirement savings? If it's pet costs, then why crap it up with irrelevant bullshit for the sake of a cheap joke whilst completely neglecting factors like which pet costs are essential, which are rip-offs, and which can be avoided altogether?

If it's about women's retirement savings, then instead of this dumbarsery about cats, how about a look at real reasons?


Why would I find this doesn't suit my ends? it is only a solution which would work in an ideal world, though, and I'm sorry to have to point out that nobody lives in an ideal world.
1) Not many families these days can afford to live on the income of just 1 salary. And if they do, there's not much left to put away in a pension savings scheme.
2) Especially if we're talking about a role reversal, where the husband is the primary caregiver and the wife is the bread winner (or, in today's world, where the couple are both women).
Women's earning capacity is still undermined due to bias (whether conscious or unconscious), and a woman will end up having earned a lot less over her lifetime than a man in a comparable job.
3) Quite a few countries who provide state pensions, base this pension on the amount f years worked (less, thus, for caregivers) and on a percentage of the salary at time of retirement (less, again, for women in general).
4) Luckily for New Zealanders, the Superannuation is flat across the board, and only changes whether you are single or a couple. But even so, it's not enough to live on. Pension saving is strongly recommended, and this saving has to come from surplus money. Seeing as women earn less, they have less surplus, and thus less savings at the end of their careers.
5) What happens to the primary caregiver if the couple decides to divorce? She/he gets 50% of the assets as they are, but that person's earning capacity has been greatly diminished by not having been active in the workforce for x number years. How will this person make up for the missing years?
6) None of this should even be debated to begin with, because the fact that women end up with less at the end of their careers has more to do with what they earn, and not with what they spend (and even the spending is rigged, 'female' items are priced higher than 'male' items - especially toiletries, but even necessary items like clothes and shoes are more expensive for women than they are or men.).
I'm afraid your solutuion as presented, is not very practical.
As far as offence goes, I wasn't offended at all. I thought it was disappointing that an opportunity was missed to address a serious issue, and instead was presented as a fluffy, light-on-substance opinion piece.
Women's issues do not need added ridicule. They get enough of that as it is.


If you think going to the dentist is expensive try this. Just as an aside we were given a rabbit and due to teeth problems later in life I was spending $300~400 every 6 weeks for a teeth regrind, plus various other operations and drugs. So a free rabbit ($35 in the shops) cost something like $3.5k plus over 18months. Then when it passed away on the operating table my wife was distraught for weeks, never again.


All logic, reasoning and rationale goes out the window when faced with a cute little fur bundle, especially when you have kids leaping around for joy! Even men are not impervious to their charms...


Agreed entirely !!


I recall when working with a supermarket group in Europe that was also in the credit card business, that one snippet of information they had worked out was that any male regularly buying dog food on a weekday during regular working hours, was almost certainly a bad credit risk.
They did have an override for particular circumstances, but it always struck me as an interesting red flag. Notably it wasn't a pet hating person who had come up with the info. Rather they had backtested terabytes of data and looked for correlations on bad credit. This one popped up.


That really is interesting. :)


Are there any more snippets like this out there?
Actually, I buy dog food during work hours.....
Now, BNZ, can I have a $1m mortgage please.


A lot of personal finance disaster stories come up where people didn't budget costs for pets and they often consume a lot of their net pay. Pets and horses come up a lot where people have financial problems.

It seems to be a lifestyle inflation/consumerism problem.


Is the salient variable in that anecdote 'dog food' or 'during regular working hours', I wonder. What about dudes buying other stuff? What about men buying baby stuff during regular working hours? That would fit the 'unemployed, with pre-existing commitments and dependents' scenario.


We foster felines for the SPCA. "Cats as a service"; no capital outlay, no ongoing food or vet bills. No needing someone to look after pets when you are away from home.


I taught my cat to poo in the neighbour's garden which saves a fortune on cat litter :)

Even with vet and insurance included, my yearly cat bill is no more than $750/year


My cat has trained me in many ways but I don't think I've actually taught him anything.


Train your howitzer here, quickly!!!!


The way I see it, our cat adds to our money machine, since my partner and I opted to have a pet, rather than a child!


You won't have to buy the moggo shoes or an iPad.