Christmas is about peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind – but let’s not forget about our furry friends too. Nearly half of British homes (40%) have a pet; and dogs and cats are the most popular four-legged variety with a population of 8.5 million dogs and 7.5 million cats in the UK. And life for many loved pets couldn’t be any more purr-fect, with the RSPCA estimating that the 90% of owners who bestow gifts on their pets spent a grand total of £250 million on presents last year. 69% of owners even sign Christmas cards from their pets and more than half (54%) of pets have their own Christmas stocking – what was that about a dog’s life?

But it’s not all dog biscuits and cat nip, a survey by the Dogs Trust found that more than 100,000 dogs were abandoned last year in council pounds and nearly half of them (47,000) were never claimed. And just a few years ago, the RSPCA was at crisis point as the number of neglected cats reached record numbers with 31,556 rescued by the charity alone.

So if you were already planning on picking up a pet this Christmas, then why not consider rescuing a cat or a dog and providing them with a loving home? There are lots of benefits to adopting a ‘pre-loved’ pet – the main advantage is that you and the needs of your family can often be matched with a suitable animal – a bit like a dating site with fur balls.

Plus, charities such as Battersea Dogs and Cats home will fully examine your pet before they come to live with you, they’ll also be vaccinated, neutered and chipped (which will save you a small fortune). And another huge benefit? Chances are, your rescue pet will already be house trained so no puppy pads or litter trays for you – bonus.

Of course, bringing home your furry feline or handsome hound is just the start of a lifetime together and it’s a big commitment – cuddles and walkies don’t just happen by magic. First up, you’ll need to ensure the long term health of your pet and to do that, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got appropriate pet insurance and with rising vet’s bills, it could save you from having to raid your savings.

One concern lots of pet owners have is about the cost of insurance and whether it’s really worth it, so you might be pleasantly surprised to know that insurance doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg (not even a little finger). The average total cost to insure your Labrador (the most popular enquiry for insurance) is just £57.46 a year**. And for those of you who are after a posh pooch and worry about pedigree pricing, then don’t – even fancy breeds like Chihuahua’s start at an average cost of under £50**.

So, if you are planning a furry new addition to your family this Christmas, then give a rescue pet a home – you’ll be rewarded with endless wet kisses long after the mistletoe has gone.

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