Two brown and white rabbits in a blue tunnel on a grassy garden

Caring for your small pets on a budget

As the cost of living rises, the ongoing expense of keeping rabbits and small pets can be a worry for owners.

Keeping small pets is more expensive than it seems – there are lots of ongoing costs involved and, with prices rising, it can be challenge to keep up. We've put together some changes that you can make to help cut costs on your beloved small pets' care, without compromising on their welfare or happiness.

Cutting costs of your small pets' food

A healthy diet plays a large role in the overall health of small pets. Think about what they actually need from their diet and focus your costs there – it will help you to avoid unnecessary vet bills in the future.

Pellets and nuggets

Small pets often only need a small portion of pellets each day so they don't put on unnecessary weight, or develop health conditions with their gut and teeth in the long run. Try weighing out the recommended amount of feed on the packet of your small pets' pellets – it may surprise you.

When shopping for dried food, remember:

  • the best pellets aren't always the most expensive ones – shop around and look for a brand that suits both your budget and your pets' needs
  • if you have the means to buy your pets’ pellets in bulk, it can work out as better value for money, but don’t forget to shop around for discounts, too – you may be able to find pellets at a cheaper price by shopping in places other than commercial pet shops
  • muesli and cereal based mixes may seem like a cheaper alternative for your rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus', but they are high in sugar and should be avoided. Cereal based mixes also allow selective feeding, which results in unbalanced diet. Pellets specific to their species are a much healthier option. 


Don't be tempted by commercial, shop bought treats – they are not necessary for your small pets' diet.

Changing your small pets' food

Sometimes, changing over to a cheaper brand of pellets can be helpful when trying to save money. This is something you can do, but you'll need to do it slowly and safely. Changing small pets' food too quickly can cause an upset tummy, so it's best transition over a few weeks. You can do this by mixing a small amount of new pellets with their old food, adding more new food and reducing the old each day until they are fully transitioned. Keep an eye on your small pets during the switch – if they seem unwell, speak to your vet for advice.


With the price of vegetables going up, it can be an expensive ongoing cost for small pet owners. While you shouldn't be tempted to cut vegetables out of your small pets' diet, you can try to cut costs by:

  • checking you're feeding the correct amount – fresh vegetables are often only a small part of most small pets' diet, so don't forget to double check how many veggies your pets need each day. If you find that you're overfeeding, you may be able to cut down.
  • shopping around – creating a list of safe vegetables for your small pets and taking it on your grocery shopping trips will allow you to shop around and pick vegetables based on supermarket deals. Don't forget to look out for 'wonky' vegetables too, as they're often cheaper.
  • growing your own herbs – herbs are often a firm favourite among small pets and they can be easy and quick to grow at home. You can also collect safe forage items from your garden.
  • planning their vegetables around your home meals – it might sound obvious, but feeding your small pets safe fresh veg that are already part of your weekly shop can reduce waste


Remember to take a look at the reduced vegetables in supermarkets – as long as they're fresh, you may be able to find something tasty for your small family members.


Hay is a crucial part of rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus' diets when they don't have free access to fresh grass, and they need a substantial amount each day to keep their gut healthy and their teeth short. It isn’t something you should be tempted to cut down on, even in the short term, as doing so will likely cause health complications and expensive vet bills later on. There are, however, ways of making the ongoing expense of hay more cost-effective.

Shop around for different types of hay

There are lots of different types of hay available, some more expensive than others. As long as your small pets have 24-hour access to plenty of good quality hay that is sweet smelling and dust free, it’s OK to opt for a cheaper variety.

Timothy hay in particular can get expensive, but you can make it last longer by mixing it with a cheaper hay. Your small pets will enjoy the foraging fun, too!

Try small hay bales

If you’re looking for hay that is cheap in price, purchasing small hay bales from a local farm or farm shop can be a good option. Bales of hay are often cheaper and they'll provide you with more hay for your money.

When looking for bales of hay, you will want to make sure that they’re sweet smelling, dust free and free from damp. Small bales can be stored in a secure outdoor container that is free from damp, or in a dry spot indoors contained in a large box or an old duvet cover. You could also consider sharing a bale of hay with friends or family who also own small pets.

Fresh grass and forage

While dried forage makes a tasty addition to your small pets' diet, it is expensive, and it isn't essential when you're on a tight budget. 

For those small pets that benefit from freshly picked greens, fresh grass and dandelion leaves from your garden are just as tasty, they’re beneficial for their health and they’re free! Make sure that you can identify any safe plants before feeding them, and introduce fresh foods slowly to avoid upsetting their tummy. Anything you pick should be free from weed killer, and freshly cut grass should be avoided altogether as it’s toxic for your small pets.

Saving on your small pets' bedding

Keeping your small pets’ home clean is a crucial part of their care, but keeping up with the expense of their bedding can be a challenge. Here’s our tips:

  • Look for value for money – you may be able to buy your pets' dust free bedding in bulk. Some farms or farm shops supply big bags of bedding and they're often cheaper than buying smaller bags.
  • Add cardboard tunnels – for those small pets that love to dig, adding cardboard boxes or empty toilet roll tubes can be a great way of reducing the cost of your supplies, while providing them with lots of enrichment
  • Reduce waste – make use of your cheaper hay to fill up litter trays or bedding areas that you need to empty regularly, and place feeding hay in hay feeders
  • Shop second hand – using fleece items as part of your rabbits' or guinea pigs’ bedding can be an expensive up front cost, but it can be a good way of saving on the ongoing cost of dust-free bedding for rabbits or guinea pigs living indoors. Keep an eye out online for pet owners who may be selling their supplies second hand or think about reusing old fleece blankets that you no longer need.
  • Keep on top of your cleaning routine – an unclean home can cause health problems for your small pets, so keeping them clean and removing wet bedding daily can help prevent an unplanned vet visit. This is especially important in the summer months when small pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits are at risk of fly strike.

Cheap toys for your small pets

Keeping your small pets busy with enrichment and toys is great way to prevent boredom and stress, but doing so doesn't have to be expensive. A cardboard tunnel is just as fun for your small pets as a store bought toy. Take a look at some of our small pet enrichment ideas to get some inspiration.


Small pets are prone to stress related illnesses. Environment is a big factor in this, so doing your research and making sure you’re meeting your small pets’ welfare needs can help you to avoid expensive health conditions.

Vet bills

We all know that vet bills can be expensive and it's no exception with your small pets and rabbits. Small pets are notoriously good at hiding their illnesses, meaning vet bills can often creep up out of the blue. 

If you find yourself without pet insurance and with no means of paying for your small pet's treatment, our low cost vet care is available to pets whose owners are on certain means-tested benefits. If you fall into this category, you will need to check to see if you are in the catchment area for one of our hospitals or clinics, or look at other charities that offer reduced vet treatment.

Rabbit vaccinations

Rabbit vaccinations will protect your rabbits against potentially fatal diseases, such as myxomatosis and rabbit or viral haemorrhagic disease (RHD or VHD). Vaccinations are not something that should be compromised and skipped. 

If you're worried about the costs of your rabbit's vaccines, you may find a pet health plan useful. This will involve paying a small, monthly fee to cover your rabbit's vaccinations, but it can also include discounts on other treatments. Speak to your vet practice to see what they offer.

Pet insurance

Getting pet insurance for your small pets is the best way to cover them for any unexpected vet bills. If pet insurance isn't an option, putting some money aside for vet bills will provide you with something to fall back on if your small pets become unwell.

Speak with your vet

Small pets can become poorly quickly, so if they become unwell it's important to see your vet as soon as you can. Getting treatment early can help to save money long term. If you're worried about costs, speak with your vet – they may be able to suggest different treatment options to suit your budget.

If you find yourself needing to pay for emergency treatment without the means to do so up front, it's worth talking to your vet practice about a payment plan. While not all practices do, some can offer a credit-based plan to pay off your vet bill over a set amount of time.


Finding a vet that is knowledgeable about your species of small pet can help to save costs on treatment in the long run. Many small pets are classed as exotic, so it's a good idea to do your research and speak with different vet practices to find a vet that is right for you.

At home health checks

Learning how to give your small pets a health check at home can help you pick up on potential problems early, so you can see a vet before the illness becomes costly. Learn how to perform a health check on your small pets by following the links below:

Remember, at home health checks should not replace vet checks. If you're worried about your small pet, speak to your vet as soon as possible.

What if I’m struggling to keep up with the ongoing costs of my small pets?

If you’re struggling with your small pets’ expenses, please do not hesitate to reach out – charities, friends and family can all help to offer advice.

Sometimes the only option may be to rehome your small pets. Speak to charities to see what your options are and what is best for your small pets. We will always do our best to help.

Take a look at our rehoming advice.

Page details


• 31 January 2023

Next review

• 31 January 2026

Claire crouching next to her white staffie dog
Approved by
Claire Stallard

Animal Behaviourist ABTC-CAB

Approved by
Katy Alexander

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS