Monday, February 27, 2006

The only love money (lots and lots of it) can buy

Free Money Finance has been regularly blogging about the cost of having a pet, which he at one time calculated could run as high as $48,000 over a pet's lifetime. Unless you're housing a pet elephant, that number is absurd, but the idea of a cat or dog coming with a five-figure price tag isn't.

Our cats are young, healthy, and so far relatively inexpensive. We go through about $10 a week buying litter and dry kibbles. (Frugal cat that she is, River actively dislikes wet food. Kea loves it, but also loves even better whatever we have for dinner. The sneaky little thief gets so much in the way of table scraps, frequently stolen right off the plate of whoever let their guard down for a second, that I feel no obligation to buy much wet food for him.) It's about another $100-$150 each for annual vet checkups ... which puts our annual, routine pet expenses in the $800-$1,000 range.

But multiply that out across an average cat lifespan (say 15 years), and your per-cat cost can easily hit about $9,000 -- and that's before you run into the big expense, serious vet bills for aging pets. My dad fielded a $2,000 bill for surgery for my childhood kitty, Max, when he developed a hyperthyroid problem. I know of almost no pet owners that escape such giant medical bills as their pets grow into senior-citizen pets.

(Even small pets aren't immune to the giant-vet-bills risk. My sister and I once spent Christmas Eve at an emergency vet clinic with her hamster. The critter had somehow managed to put one of his teeth through his cheek. I think it cost around $100 in vet bills to fix up the $6 pet.)

We'll probably end up spending about $15,000 on our two kitties over the course of their lifetimes. Of course, I think they're worth the money. And hey -- cats or dogs are still a lot cheaper than kids!