Paying pets’ medical bills
How much of the week do you spend working for your pets?
It’s a fair question.
The last comprehensive report on the topic from the Animal Companion council found the average household with dogs spent $1200 a year on them. The average cat household spent $1005.
That report was from 2016, and costs may have changed a little since then, but then the answer was that a worker on the median wage spent about the first hour of their week working for the cat, and a bit longer for the dog.
Fine, for many working for their fur friend beats: a) working for their actual boss, b) working to pay the shareholders of the Australian bank they are mortgaged to, or c) to build their retirement nest egg. A dollar spent on a pet also gets repaid in purrs, licks and wagged tails.
In 2016, we spent roughly $1.6billion on pets, about a billion more than went into KiwiSaver.
Pets are big business,
❚ Humans before pets
❚ Self-insure pets vet costs ❚ Save an emergency fund
especially for vets, and more recently, insurers.
New online financial product comparison site Moneyhub estimates about 10,000 people have pet insurance.
That’s a tiny proportion of pet owners. It isn’t a ringing endorsement for the product.
I can easily understand why people buy pet insurance in an age when vets offer treatments to cats and dogs sick with ailments which 30 years ago would have meant they were put to sleep.
‘‘The reason we got pet insurance was because of the last cat,’’ said the policyholder. ‘‘It cost us over $3500 and nearly did us in financially.’’
You’ll have your own thoughts on whether it is reasonable to spend $3500 on treating a cat, but if you are the kind of person who would do it, pet insurance certainly makes it easier to spread the cost of doing so.
For me stumping up $3500 to treat a sick cat is spending choicebetter than spending it on cigarettes or more car than you need, and worse than saving $3500
‘‘In 2016, we spent roughly $1.6billion on pets, about a billion more than went into KiwiSaver.’’
to invest, to my thinking.
But the ‘‘nearly did us financially’’ is frightening, and ridiculous.
It’s a secret shame in our relatively wealthy society (thanks low wages, massive mortgages and high rents) that many people couldn’t pay a $3500 bill without going into debt, whether to treat the cat, or fix a leaking roof, or replace a burst boiler.
When insurer Cigna launched its mortgage and rent insurance in 2016, it said almost half of people couldn’t pay their bills for more than a month, if unable to work.
When choosing to spend on a luxury like a pet, make sure it isn’t at the expense of other more important things for you and your human loved ones, like financial stability, or the ability to cope with the costs of a human medical crisis.
Perhaps put off getting your next pet until you have saved $3000-5000 for furry medical emergencies.
For relatively small sums, selfinsurance is a real option.
And should your fur-friend have an experience like Basil’s, talk with your vet.
No family should be ‘‘nearly done financially’’ for a pussy cat, and the vet’s code recognises the need to balance treatment with ‘‘commercial considerations and the wishes of the owner’’.
Vets can provide amazing reatments, but some come at a price that’s beyond many pet owners’ financial means.