I spent much of yesterday at the veterinarian's office, dealing with my suddenly sick and very frail cat. She'd been delighted to see us over the weekend on our return from a four-day trip. She was her usual perky, social, affectionate, and vocal self. Tuesday morning she was walking shakily with her head held low, had watery eyes, and wasn't eating.
At the vet she was found to be dehydrated, and to have an elevated temperature. And she gave an unsolicited stool sample on the exam table. What can I say? Shit literally happens at a vet's office. The doctor was game enough to declare the offering useful for diagnostic tests. The good news is that most of the potential problems have been ruled out (feline leukemia, feline AIDS, kidney and liver failure), one problem has been diagnosed (roundworms), her dehydration was treated with subcutaneous fluids, and the remaining likely condition (thyroid) is treatable. She also ate some food overnight, used the litter box, and looks much better this morning, though she's still slower and more subdued than usual. She's now complaining about not being allowed outdoors.
The bad news is that the examination, treatment, blood work, and other tests cost me almost $350. My cat is going to be fourteen years old this summer, and while she's had her share of injuries from tussling with other animals, she's never before needed treatment for any kind of illness. In other words, we've been very lucky with her, given that she's an indoor-outdoor cat. But still, $350 is a lot of money. I can't say I'm thrilled about carving that extra amount out of our budget this month. Yes, we have a $25 line item for pet expenses each month that we have been routinely underspending. But we're not so disciplined as to keep that unspent money in a sub-account in some bank account. Fortunately, paying off the credit card isn't going to be a big problem for us, but it still more than doubles our average yearly expense for having a beloved feline companion in our lives.
I don't begrudge the cost. Having a pet is a serious commitment and responsibility, no less than having a child. Before I get jumped for that statement, I recognize that the responsibility for raising a child is much, much larger, more complicated, and legally enforceable. Nonetheless, both are cases of taking responsibility for the care and well being of another living creature. Getting a pet - or a farm animal - medical treatment when they need it is a moral imperative, in my opinion.
So I'm just going to wind up the post with a plea to potential pet owners, or pet owners who haven't yet experienced any costs beyond shots, spaying, and feed. Please remember that sooner or later your pet is likely to need treatment that will cost a significant chunk of change. Budget for it now, before it's needed. It's a terrible feeling to see your pet in pain or weak with illness. It was bad enough worrying about my cat's health. At least I didn't have the additional worry about where the money for her treatment would come from. Please, please, please don't let poor planning put you in the position of being unable to care for an animal that you have chosen to make dependent upon you. Over a pet's lifetime, you're likely to need upwards of $1500 for their food and medical costs. Plan for unexpected expenses. They'll happen sooner or later.
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.