The Cost of a Pet

My good friend Okturn Delmoniq lost his long time friend the cat, Mr. Orange, not too long ago.

And I stayed up with him talking most of the night until the vet called/he called the vet – and the whole ordeal really had made me think about the cost of a pet and pet insurance.

I have three pets: My two cats: Tofu and Chai. And of course my puppy: Jack. My cats are both 5 years old and Jack will be turning 1 year on the 15th of July. Hard to believe he is getting so old. =)

To insure all three animals with pet insurance, it would cost me $75/month. That is a pretty hefty chunk of change. It is also unlikely (though not un-imaginable) that any of my animals will have any drastically bad things happen to them in the next 5 years. By drastic, I mean things that would cost MORE than my emergency fund. So, if I didn’t put that money into pet insurance, and instead put it into a savings account just for my pets – in 5 years I would have $4,500 in it. That should be enough for one pet (maybe two) to have a major emergency, but still not enough to cover anything drastic like hip replacements or kidney replacements – which could raise the total to $7-10,000.

Logically, in my mind where I don’t think about my animals personally, I have to think that about $2,000 is the limit that I’d pay to keep my pets happy and healthy and for a treatment if I thought it would do them some good. However, I know that in the heat of the moment I would probably spend much, much more than this.

I keep going back in forth in my mind about what is better: Pet insurance or a savings account.

Consumer reports says that pet insurance typically just isn’t worth it. Of course, there assumption is also that people save $25-50/month since the first month they get their pet. I have most assuredly not done this for my cats. Which makes me think that perhaps for them getting insurance would be a better option. However, since Jack is a puppy, maybe I’ll be able to save enough for him such that I wouldn’t need to take out insurance.

One thing to also keep in mind is that pet insurance is reimbursement. So I would STILL have to pay for everything up front. In other words, while I would get a check back for appropriate expenses, I would also have to have that much money available in the first place. Which, currently, I do not.

Various SPCA groups have put out nice lists of what a pet costs per year and in the first year of its life, but what they don’t cover is how much a pet costs if they get sick. And perhaps this is because there are plenty of dogs and cats who you won’t spend more than $1,000 over their lives in emergency vet bills and also quite a bit that will need reoccurring medical insurance for chronic problems. So it is nearly impossible to guess how much these costs will be. Also, none of these lists take into account “End of Life” procedures which will cost at least $500 up to $2,000 – or more depending on the scenario.

I think the main thing that I need to consider is that my emergency fund, when it is full funded, should be able to pay for not only these expenses – but also the other emergencies I have in life. And when I think about this, my “ultimate goal” of having a $10,000 emergency fund seems so small – especially when I consider how long it will take me to get to this goal. I also am starting to realize that building up this emergency fund, in the long run, is more important and vital than paying down my student loan debt. Keeping myself out of an emergency is more important than paying down a loan at 3% interest. Based on the fantastic calculators at CNN.com, if I were to switch from paying down my debt to putting money into my emergency fund (at $400/month, which is less than what I’ll be paying on the debt in August) – I’ll have $10,000 in that emergency fund in 2 years – assuming a rate of 2% return on my savings account – which seems like a fairly conservative assumption.

Anyway… back to the cost of the pets…

While looking up information on this post, I found some really good articles that talk about how to reduce the cost of having a pet:

From MSN.com and CNN.com. Some of their tips are opposing and some seem like “common sense”.

Some tips from me:
*Get medicine elsewhere – it never occurred to me that Pet Meds could be gotten at a regular pharmacy, that is AWESOME!

*Utilize the low cost spay and neuter centers, they also typically do low cost vaccinations. There is absolutely no reason to spend $200 on your dog getting his balls cut off when you can spend only $50. There is also no reason to spend $35 on a shot that you can get for $12. Find the lost cost clinic in your town (there is one for sure if you’re in any substantially sized place, my town of 50,000 people has one and there is another an hour away) and USE THEM. I also get heartworm prevention, flea and tick meds and all the routine stuff from the low cost place and save myself quite a bit of money. You still NEED a vet. Just don’t have the vet do your pets vaccinations. You still NEED an annual exam, to listen to the heart, take a stool sample, check our their teeth. Don’t think because you’re getting their vaccinations done elsewhere that you don’t need to go to the vet. That is just PREPOSTEROUS!

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