Pets and Emergency Funds

Pets and Emergency Funds

Wellllp. Before talking about pets and emergency funds, I’ll briefly address the insurrection attempt that occurred on January 6th. This is exactly what I was saying we need to reject in my end of year post last week. On Wednesday we saw exactly where the past few years of lying and violent rhetoric were always going to lead. The people in Congress who have enabled this behavior are also culpable for the insurrection attempt and the resulting deaths. They refused to hold Trump accountable for his behavior for years, enabling and encouraging him to reject a fair and free election and each one of them should be held accountable. If you have a Congressperson representing you who doesn’t believe in democracy and voted to object to the election results, especially after a violent coup attempt, it’s time to vote them out. Alright, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

I have previously written about some keys to financial health and freedom. I have also brought up the fact that if you have debt you have an emergency. That post was pretty clear, but some real world events occurred for our family over the past month that have brought this back to the forefront. In the original debt emergency post, I mentioned that while I was paying off my student loans, “I didn’t get a pet and I did my best to not have a child (GASP!).” Ignoring the child part of that statement, I want to revisit the fact that I didn’t get a pet.

At the time, I didn’t include any explanation as to why getting a pet while I had debt was a no no. It’s time to lay it out now. Pets cost money. I know, crazy right. The obvious ones are food and accessories. Depending on who you are and what pet you have, those two things can be a very large expense. There are dogs out there that can easily eat someone out of house and home. And who doesn’t want to buy their pets all of the best toys? I’ve also worked at a pet store and know how expensive things like reptiles and rodents can get when you start buying all their accessories like cages, heat lamps, fake rocks, bedding, etc. No matter what pet you get, if you have debt and get a pet, you’re adding an extra, unnecessary expense when you owe someone else money!

This long and in depth article about pet ownership statistics shows that probably around 50% of households own pets. And this report says that the average American has $38k of debt outside of a mortgage. These numbers make no sense! It may sound cruel, but no one should be taking on the responsibility of a pet while having debt.

But Tyler, I only have a cat and I don’t buy them toys, so they are super cheap to take care of! Well, let me tell you a story. We have a cat named Tuxedo. He is extremely cute, loves to cuddle, and occasionally annoying, like all cats are. He is also only 5.5 years old. We’ve had very few issues with Tuxedo over the past 4.5 years that we’ve had him. The normal costs of food and regular shots weren’t too bad, with a couple of vet visits for UTIs costing us a couple of hundred dollars each. That all changed over the past month.

I won’t go into too many details, but Tuxedo got pretty sick recently. It started with an abscess on his head that made him lethargic. We got that drained and treated ($500). While at that appointment the vet noticed he needs dental work. So we have that scheduled for the end of January ($1200). Unfortunately, Tuxedo was still lethargic after treating the abscess and we took him back to the vet. Over the next week he started having neurological problems, including going blind and having to pace non-stop. We were close to putting him down, but luckily our last hail mary treatment seems to be working and he’s currently sleeping on my chest while I write this. All of those tests and treatments were about $1900. So by the end of this month, we will have spent about $3600 in a month and a half for Tuxedo.

Tuxedo and his favorite activity. Sleeping on me while I try to get work done.

We love our cat, he’s like family, and we are so happy that he’s feeling better. That’s how most people view pets, which is why we’re typically willing to spend so much to keep them healthy. But we need to recognize what that means. We just spent multiple mortgage payments on Tuxedo. Or, when I had student loans, that $3600 would be equivalent to around 6 monthly payments! It cannot be ignored that if we were in debt, without a comfortable emergency fund, this cost would be crushing. The point is, that if you’re like a lot of America and you have debt, or you would struggle to pay for a $1k emergency, pets need to be put on hold until that changes.

I know that pets are important to many people, they certainly are to us, but it is important to understand the true cost of pets before taking on that responsibility. It cannot be taken lightly, and it should not happen while you still owe other people money (mortgage aside). This is all without taking into account the sort of crisis that has been created by the pandemic and lack of support from our Government. My hope is that everyone can add pets and emergency funds to their family one day. I just want them to experience that joy while staying financially secure.

Tuxedo after abscess draining with his bald spot. Note the contempt in his look.

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