How Much is Your Pet Worth?

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A few years ago, one of our cats had a urinary tract blockage.   When that happened, the cat’s bladder became almost rock-hard.  He was in pain.

Naturally, this came to our attention late on a Saturday evening.  Our choices were to leave the cat in pain or head to the emergency vet.   One x-ray, one emergency catheter, and 2 nights in the vet’s office later, we charged the $750 bill and brought the cat home.   He lived about two more years and had to be on a special UT-friendly diet.  He spent the next two years with poor bladder control and very little energy.

About the same time, I had a coworker with a cancer-ridden cat.   Until that time, I had no idea that you could get chemotherapy for a cat.    Between the chemo and the regular surgeries to remove tumors, they were dropping a few thousand dollars every few months.

Recently, a friend’s cat ate a ball of twine and narrowly avoided intestinal surgery that would have cost $2500.    He was willing to pay instead of seeing his 8 year old cry.  I figured a new kitten would soothe her hurt.

How much is too much to spend on an animal?

When our cat needed a trip to the fuzzy emergency room, we had no savings.   I’m not sure how we were keeping our bills paid.   $750 was a lot of money, but we didn’t hesitate.   Afterward, we discussed it and decided that it wouldn’t happen again.    When a pet needed that much care, it would be time to put it down.

We’ve currently got a 17 year old arthritic cat.   I tried discussing its end-of-life options, but my wife looked at me like I was asking her to punt bunnies into a lake.   I fear we’re going to be paying a lot to stretch out the end of the cat’s life.

Now, before anyone tells me that I hate animals, we have 5 cats, 3 kids, 2 gerbils, 2 pythons, and a dog.   We are an animal-friendly house.  Or we keep spares.

That said, it’s the natural order of things.   People outlive their pets.  When you buy a pet–with the exception of giant tortoises and some birds–some part of you knows you are going to outlive it.   What’s the right amount to spend, trying to stretch out the most uncomfortable years of a pet?   When does the financial burden outweigh the companionship?   When do I go from cold-hearted jerk to financially-responsible pet-owner?

For the pet owners out there, how have you dealt with this?  How much would you spend to keep your pets kicking?

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  • 21 comments

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    1. I have two cats, both old and on medication and special diets, which make their monthly upkeep costs pretty high. Those costs are manageable but I think if there were to be a large cost, you might have to consider whether to go through with that or not especially with the age of the animals.

    2. I have always grown up with pets and to me they are part of the family- like a sibling and therefore should be treated like one. However, just like people, there comes a time when you need to discuss quality of life and a plan. I just recently lost my 15 year old dog and best friend in May. We had some tough decisions to make but we wanted him to be happy and comfortable.

      • Our old cat is my favorite of the 5. I’d rather not put her down, but I don’t want her in pain, either. We waited too long with the last cat.

        • Well it is never an easy decision and it never gets easier either. I say follow your heart and your gut. It may sound funny but sometimes when you look at your pet in the eyes and talk to them, you can hear their answer as to what to do.

    3. This is something that I usually try not to think about, but I know it’s the case. I know now that people offer pet insurance (a job offer I got even included it!) Unfortunately, people typically prolong the life of animals for selfish reasons, leaving the dog in pain for far too long.

    4. We don’t have any pets, but my husband’s company offers pet insurance. From you numbers it looks like the pet insurance is a good idea (the premium was like 25$ a month).

      • Pet insurance math hasn’t worked out for us, yet. The one time it would have, was an emergency that we couldn’t have foreseen.

    5. For me its about quality of life. I had two pups live to be 19 and another just under them and though we had to make the decision to put two of them to sleep, they had great lives until the very end. Once their lives went downhill and they were misirible, I knew it was time. My Selena was doing bellyflops off our back deck until she was 17.

    6. Many people see their pets as an extention of their family so I’m not surprised that you guys shelled out the dough for your cat. I don’t have a pet yet, but I know how easy it is to get attached.

    7. Tin Foil Hat says:

      We went through a very painful (for us and the cat) process a few years ago trying to prolong our pet’s life. Afterward we both agreed we would never do that again. It wasn’t a money issue – we couldn’t afford the surgery that might have kept her alive even longer – but we just wouldn’t let a beloved pet suffer like that again for our own selfish need to keep her alive.
      In addition to the two cats we have now, we also have four chickens. While they are pets and not for the pot, I made it clear from the beginning that I would not take a chicken to the vet under any circumstances. We have been able to take care of their minor ailments ourselves, but if one of them got really sick or injured, I would do what had to be done to put her out of her misery. At least I hope I could.

    8. It’s a very tough issue. For me, I don’t want our cat to live in pain. Chemo therapy is definitely out of the question.

    9. If it comes down to an argument with the wife, I’d argue more in the light of “quality of life” for the cat, rather than against the cost of an expensive treatment. Then again, I say now that I would never put my dog through chemo, but if she gets cancer now (she’s 3) vs when she’s older, I might change my tune, because it seems like she could have so many years left if the treatment was successful.

      • We’re in tentative agreement that our oldest cat needs to be put down relatively soon. I’m guessing it will happen this winter, but I thought that last winter, too.

    10. I don’t have pet, and will never have it as my wife has allergy. We live in south Florida and very close to Everglades, we have a python menace. And it was created by pet pythons, may I ask how would you plan to treat the python when it grows big?

      • Technically, they pythons belong to my roommate, so it will be his problem. They are ball pythons, which max out at 6 feet long. 4 feet is still the high side of average and the aquarium they are in is big enough to hold them both comfortably at that size.

    11. Jason I completely understand where you’re coming from. We had a Rotweiler and German Shepard who both had health issues that came with hefty vet bills. We decided to put them both down. We had the German Shepard for 11 years and the Rot for 10 so they both lived long lives in dog years. It’s just not financially feasible. Now that my husband and I have our first puppy together, I’ve considered the same thing. We don’t have the savings for operations and things of that nature. I will definitely look into pet insurance, but if we were hit with a heavy bill before then, we just couldn’t manage. You don’t hate animals; you just love your finances more.

    12. Well if things get expensive you could leave the gerbils in the snake tank.

      Seriously, I don’t know where my line is, but chemo to an animal that doesn’t understand you are trying to help it seems cruel.

    Trackbacks

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