When I was in college, living paycheck to paycheck, I owned a dog, Bronx, and two cats, Precious and Yin Yang. Although I loved my fur babies, I was unable to afford the quality of care they deserved. I’d neglected to set money aside in my savings account for emergencies and, unfortunately, both my pets and I suffered for it.
My ex-fiancé, Jeff, was chronically underemployed and this frequently put me in a bad position financially. Because I could barely afford groceries for the humans in the house, I didn’t buy my pets the best quality of pet food. I usually bought the cheapest option.
Unfortunately, buying low-quality dry cat food caused Yin Yang to have a serious urinary blockage, which resulted in an emergency vet trip. If I’d been feeding him better quality food, the vet informed me, this painful episode could have been avoided. Honestly, it made me feel like a bad pet parent.
A few years later, a car clipped my other cat, Precious, which broke her leg. The vet performed surgery and put a pin in Precious’ leg to repair it. But when the vet’s assistant called me three months later to schedule the surgery to have the pin removed, I didn’t have the money. Precious developed arthritis in her later years, likely due to the pin still being in her leg.
Jeff and I also neglected the routine preventative care of our pets. We’d put off vaccinations and annual checkups.
“We’ll take care of it later when money isn’t so tight,” we’d say.
Invariably, some health issue would come up for one of our pets, and we’d have an unplanned trip to the emergency vet, costing us more money than if we had kept up with our pets’ preventative care.
Now that my husband Nick and I have an emergency fund, and I’m no longer in the position of having more bills than money, we definitely take better care of our fur babies. Two years ago, our 13-year-old cat Peanut, developed age-related kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. This meant daily meds, special food and more frequent vet trips, which we easily worked into our monthly spending plan.
In July of this year, my husband and I were able to make the best end-of-life decisions for our sweet Peanut, based on the veterinarian’s recommendations, rather than just the money. Peanut’s spleen was inflamed and the vet said if he didn’t remove it, she might only survive another day or two. He deemed Peanut’s chances of making a recovery at 60 percent if he performed the surgery.
Because of our emergency fund, Nick and I were able to say without missing a beat, “Go ahead and do the procedure.”
Although Peanut went to kitty heaven two hours after the surgery, we felt good knowing that we did the absolute best for her, not just at the end of her life, but all throughout it. We plan on spoiling her sister Little Tiny, who recently turned 15, for the rest of her years with us.
More on Pet Expenses: The Crazy Costs of Cat vs. Dog Ownership
Pet ownership can be expensive, and it’s wise to do some research before you bring home your next furry family member. According to ASPCA.org, the first year of pet ownership is costly — a large dog can be over $2,000 and it’s almost $1,200 for a cat, and this excludes the price of the pet itself. People tend to underestimate the cost of owning a pet because they often overlook expenses like spaying or neutering, vaccinations and grooming. Some folks opt for pet insurance, but Consumer Reports says you might be better off if you take those premiums and deposit them into an emergency fund.
Having a nicely padded savings account gives me and my husband not just a financial cushion, but also an emotional cushion against life’s emergencies. It’s easy to get started if you don’t have an emergency fund, too. Just open a savings account with your current bank and set up a recurring automatic transfer to the account every time you’re paid, and you’ll be well on your way.
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