Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. I know my two cats are part of the family. I’ve always considered our furry and feathered friends to be simply little people. So when I am faced with an expensive trip to the vet I border on insane when some uncaring colleague who “doesn’t get it” says something truly uncaring like “it’s JUST a cat”. Sorry Charlie, but for many of us our pets have earned a seat at the table (metaphorically speaking) in our families. A recent unexpected late night trip to the animal hospital reminded me once again just how expensive it can get to care for our loved ones.
Even if you acquire your furry friend for free from a rescue or friend, the cost of their regular, ongoing care is something you need to factor into your budget. According to the ASPCA, pet care costs for the first year of ownership can range from $800-$1600 for a dog (depending on size) and just over $700 for a cat. These figures include basic necessities for care and not any additional medical care your new baby might need.
Where the big bucks really show up is in the unexpected medical care or diagnostic services that tend to creep up as your pet ages. Since most people do not purchase any sort of pet insurance for their animals, an unexpected trip to the vet can be as shocking as if you headed out for medical care yourself without any medical insurance. It is best to be sitting down when you get the bill.
That being said, veterinarians are medical professionals and spend many years and reams of money to be licensed and properly educated to care for your loved ones. They have large overhead costs associated with facilities and equipment to provide you with a standard of excellent care. And, they have a business to run which needs to make a profit just like all other healthcare professionals. So, all things considered they provide a lot of service for a fraction of what it costs to do the same procedures on people.
One way you can manage your out of pocket expenditures caring for your pet is by purchasing pet insurance. Insurance is offered by private companies like VPI Pet Insurance, the ASPCA, and PetCare. As you might expect, you pay a monthly fee and then when you take your cat or dog to the vet, you pay the vet, submit a claim form and the insurance company pays the standard allowance for the services performed (to you directly). Each plan differs in its cost to you and what it reimburses so you need to be a savvy shopper and compare plans. Pet Insurance Review is one website that will allow you to do that. Some plans offer coverage for routine care, others only provide reimbursement for illness or injury. As with anything insurance related, there are exclusions and limitations on who is insurable and what is covered.
I personally haven’t chosen to go the pet insurance route (at least not yet). Luckily for me I’ve never had a bill over $1,000 and I’ve just sucked it up and considered part of life’s little unexpected expenses. I love my cats and wouldn’t trade them for the world so I don’t think twice about truly required care and ongoing preventative care. Although I’m not sure I would spend thousands on my pet if it wasn’t likely to extend their life in a quality way. Without a quality of life, what’s the point?? I believe that to be true for humans too.
So, next time you ask the question “How much is that doggy/kitty in the window/shelter/breeder/rescue?” remember to factor in the total cost of caring for your companion. With a lot of love and regular care, pets will enrich your life far in excess of any money outlays you may need to make.