Many people dream of owning a pet. They are not just great companions, but can also reduce stress and anxiety, provide motivation to exercise and improve overall physical and mental well-being.

However, before anyone commits to getting a pet, they should consider the cost of owning a pet as it can surprise many new pet owners. It is not just the cost of pet food, but there is also insurance, vet bills, and equipment. While having a pet is great fun, it can also be costly.

Pet Spending Statistics for Canadians

  • 58% of Canadians own a pet.
  • Canada’s pet population was 27.9 million in 2020.
  • Alberta has the highest pet ownership ratio.
  • There are around 1.4 million wild animals kept as pets in Canada.
  • Ontario has the largest number of pet supply stores.
  • PetSmart is the largest pet supply retailer in Canada with 1,650 stores.
  • Canadians’ spending on pets increased by 17.1% from 2018 to 2021.
  • in 2019, Canadians spent $9 billion on their pets.
  • Veterinary bills take a significant part of the pet spending budget.
  • People who take a puppy or a pet face 30%-50% higher expenses in the first year.
  • In 2020, Canadians spent nearly $2 billion on dry dog food and $841 million on dry cat food.
  • Only 3% of Canadian pet owners have their pets insured.
  • Many pets are not getting the attention they need with pet owners more likely to watch TV or spend time on the internet than with their pets.

Over half of Canadians are pet owners

In Canada, 58% of the population owns a pet. This is very similar to the global figure of 57%. The pet population in Canada was 27.9 million in 2020. Cats are the most common pets, with about 38% of Canadian households having at least one cat. Dogs are the second most popular pets with 35% of households owing one. Globally, 33% are dog owners and 23% are cat owners.

In 2020, there were approximately 8.1 million cats and 7.7 million dogs in Canada. In the same year, there were around 963,500 horses in Canada, owned by approximately 855,000 people.

Some Canadians also like to own exotic pets. Birds are the most popular exotic pets, but people also own wild cats, turtles, snakes, wild dogs, arachnids, and amphibians. Some people even keep crocodiles and alligators.

Nova Scotia and Quebec have the highest ratio of dog owners. Residents in British Columbia and the prairie provinces are more likely to own cats. Alberta, with 63%, has the highest rate of pet ownership followed by Saskatchewan and British Columbia with 56% and 55% respectively.

People are increasingly seeing their pets as part of the family. For example, 54% of Millennials describe themselves as pet parents.

Exotic pet ownership in Canada

According to World Animal Protection Canada, there are around 1.4 million exotic pets in Canada. Most of these are birds at 478,648, but there are also over 186,000 wild cats and 164,000 snakes kept as pets. The World Animal Protection statistics also reveal that there are over 14,000 crocodiles and alligators owned in Canada.

The number of wild animal owners in a province or territory is linked to the number of residents. Ontario has the most with 588,652 followed by Quebec with 286,693 wild animals are kept as pets.

Buying an exotic pet can cost from $500 to $20,000. They can also be very expensive to keep, as they are likely to require specific habitats such as terrariums or enclosures, and specific goods.

Which province or territory has the most pet supply stores?

The number of pet supply stores is relative to the population of the province or territory and Ontario, with the largest population has the most pet supply stores. There were 758 stores in Ontario in 2020.

Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta come next on the list with 487, 352 and 269 pet supply stores, respectively. At the other end of the list is the Northwest Territories with only two pet supply stores.

There are many pet supply retailers in Canada, which include Pet Valu, PetSmart, Petland and PETCO. PetSmart has the most stores with 1,650 and PETCO is the second largest pet shop retailer with 1,559 stores.

While there are online pet stores, Canadians still prefer to get their pet supplies from bring-and-mortar stores. Online pet sales in 2020 only accounted for 21.7% of all sales.

Canadians are spending more on their pets

In 2018, Canadians spent $2,075 on average (without the cost of dog walkers, day care or holiday boarding/pet sitting costs) on their pets compared to $2,430 in 2021. This represents a growth of 17.1% in three years.

The spending depends on the type of the animal as well as the size of the animals. According to HelloSafe Canada, the estimated budgets for the three most popular pets in the country are $2,912 / year for a dog, $2,150 / year for a cat, and $995 / year for a rabbit.

In total, Canadians spent over $9 billion on pets in 2019, including pet food and veterinary care according to Statista. In comparison, the spending was only 7.2 billion in 2015.

Veterinary care is the most important expense for cat and dog owners

How the pet owners spent the budget depends on each individual owner. However, HelloSafe has found that veterinary bills take a significant part of the budget with the cost for dogs at $960 per year and for cats at $711 per year on average.

Food is the next biggest spending category. On average, Canadian dog owners spend $769 and cat owners $571 per year on food followed by insurance if taken. The average cost of insurance for dogs is $536 and $447 for cats per year.

Pet owners spent on average $357 and $406 on essential expenses for dogs and cats, respectively. Essential expenses include items such as bowl, collars and leashes, toys and litter and litter boxes.

Owners who take a take a puppy or a kitten can expect higher costs in the first year of their pet’s life because of additional expenses such vaccines and licenses. The first year’s expenses are estimated to be 30%-50% higher than for older pets. The expenses are higher for puppies at $4,327 per year compared to $2,767 for kittens.

The average cost of veterinary services, including vaccines for a puppy or a kitten is $1,458 and $1,340 respectively. Training, licences and insurance is much more expensive for puppies at $1,559 compared to $504 for kittens.

Breakdown of veterinary costs

The proportion pet owners have to spend on veterinary bills obviously depends on the health of their pet. But if the pet needs to be taken to a vet, what can the owners expect to pay? The table below shows average expenses for some common treatments for cats and dogs.

Expense

Cat

Dog

Health Exam

$102

$102

Vaccines

$59

$115

Parasites prevention

$73

$178

Dentistry, including radiography

$702

$750

Prevention and screening

$221

$221

Statistics show dental problems are the most common health issue for pets in Canada. Despite dental problems being preventable with proper care, only 16% of Canadian pet owners are proactive looking after their pet’s teeth.

Cats and dogs should have a health check every year even if they seem perfectly healthy, as it can prevent illnesses that can be dangerous for the pet and expensive for the owner. Dog owners, at 77%, are more likely to see the veterinarian once a year compared to only 46% of cat owners.

The average costs for other common pets

While cats and dogs are the most common pets, many people also keep other small pets such as rabbits or fish. The average cost for rabbit owners is $3 per day after the initial set-up costs. The cost of fish depends on the type of fish and what kind of aquarium they need. As an example, a betta fish tank will cost around $200 to set up and then about $600 per year.

For gerbils and hamsters, the approximate cost is $180 for food, litter and bedding. A bird will cost around $220 per year. Keeping a snake will cost between 400 and $1,500 per year depending on the breed.

Dog and cat food sales

In 2020, wet dog food sales totalled $197 million and wet cat food $394 million. In the same year, the dry dog food sales were close to $2 billion and dry cat food sales were $841 million, showing that Canadians prefer to feed their cats and dogs dry food. Canadian pet owners are likely to buy foods based on their pet’s likes and dislikes with 60% of the owners saying they buy food they know their pet likes.

Canadians are more likely to give their dogs treats with $500 million spend on dog treats in 2020. The sales for cat treats in the same year were only $149 million. 28% of Canadian pet owners will buy their pets gifts during the holiday season. In 2018, owners would spend between $1 and $100 on their pets’ gifts.

While products labelled ”natural” are becoming more common, only 10.45% of Canadians choose organic food for their pets. 5% of pet owners say they are happy to pay more for healthier food for their pets.

If the current trends in pet ownership continue, Canada’s pet food market is expected to grow by 4.3% from 2020 to 2025.

Canadians are not likely to have a pet insurance

Only 3% of Canadian pet owners choose to have a pet insurance. This is very low compared to some other countries. For example, in the United Kingdom, between 25% and 30% of pet owners have an insurance. In Sweden, half of the pet owners insure their pets.

Despite the low figure, the Canadian pet insurance industry is worth about $595 million and the number of people taking insurance is growing around 15% each year.

Cost of the death of a pet

While no pet owner wants to think about their pet dying, it is still an important cost to consider.

A cremation of a pet can cost from $100 to $500 or from $40 to $250 if the owner opts for a communal cremation. The cost depends on the pet’s weight. Burials are more expensive than cremation and can cost up to $2,500.

The pet grooming and boarding industry is growing in Canada

The pet grooming and boarding industry saw 3.7% growth between 2015 and 2020. However, the industry was hit hard by the pandemic.

The cost of grooming depends on the breed and size of your pet and can cost between $50 and $250. Having nails trimmed will cost from $10 to $35. Of course, pet owners can save on these costs by doing the grooming and nail cutting themselves.

Cat owners don’t need to worry too much about leaving their pet home alone for the whole day while they are at work, but for dog owners, this can be another expense. If a dog owner needs a doggy walker, they can expect to pay around $25 per walk. A place at a doggy day care usually costs between $30 and $50 per day.

Pet owners also need to consider the cost of someone looking after their pets while they go on a holiday where pets are not allowed. Nightly boarding for cats will cost $20 to $45 per day and for dogs $30-50. Another, more costly option is to get a pet sitter and the prices for that service range from $20-$85 per night. The approximate cost for pet care during a two-week vacation is $400-$600 for boarding and $500-$750 for pet sitting.

Time spend on pets

Despite pets being seen as part of the family, Canadians are more likely to spend time on the internet or watching TV than playing with their pets. For example, only 55% of dogs get the amount of exercise they need to maintain good health.

Women are more likely to play with or exercise their pets during weekdays, spending 28 minutes on average per weekday on these activities. Men spend on average 19 minutes during weekdays exercising or playing with their pets.

Conclusions

Pet ownership in Canada is popular with 58% of the population owning a pet. Pet owners in Canada are most likely to have a cat, followed by a dog. As well as the more common pets, there are also 1.4 million exotic pets in Canada.

When considering getting a pet, the owners need to factor in costs for food, veterinary costs, as well as other essential costs. Owners of exotic pets also need to consider the specific requirements of their pets and dog owners the potential cost of dog walkers or doggy day care.

Frequently Asked Questions

58% of Canadians own a pet and Canada’s pet population was 27.9 million in 2020.

The biggest pet supply retailer in Canada is PetSmart with 1,650 stores across the country.

Canadians spent $9 billion on their pets in 2018, with veterinary bills and food taking significant part of the budget.

Yes, there are around 1.4 million wild animals kept as pets in Canada, which include animals such as wild cats, snakes and crocodiles.

In 2020, there were approximately 8.1 million cats and 7.7 million dogs in Canada.

Sources