Pet Ownership Requires Planning

Pet ownership requires planning.

We have had several new-pet-owner scenarios recently in which some advance planning would have helped both the new pet and the new owner.

One was a new kitty who came from our regional shelter, the Humane Society of South Mississippi (HSSM). A family adopted a young-adult cat, then stopped in to have her examined. The husband was eager to be on his way to work, but he had failed to make an appointment to reserve time just for him and his kitty. Having arrived on a busy day at the busiest time of our day, he had to wait.

Some advance planning to make an appointment time would have prevented his frustration.

In that situation we can often offer to keep the pet for a few hours or the end of the workday while we provide the care that is needed. This particular kitty was ill, however, with a condition that could have been airborne-transmitted to boarders, so we were unable to offer that option.

Weeks later this same pet owner discovered that the kitty had a serious clawing problem. Time and work constraints prevented him from training the kitty to a scratching post.

Advance planning to understand the cost of caring for a new pet, information obtained prior to adopting the pet, would have prevented a surprise.

Another case was a young woman who purchased an expensive, purebred kitten from out-of-state. She paid a lot of money for the Siamese kitten, paid for the kitten to be shipped to her, then expressed surprise to learn the cost of Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus testing, kitten vaccinations, preanesthesia laboratory testing and neuter surgery.

With advance planning she might have delayed the purchase of the kitten until she had saved enough to care for a kitten without putting herself in a financial bind.

I am reminded of my own situation when I was 14 years old. In my native Texas I could legally operate a motorcycle at that age. One was available for purchase from a private owner right up the street from me. I could afford the bike because I had money saved.

However, my father reminded me that there was the cost of fuel, a license tag, an operator’s license and insurance. Much to my surprise, those items added up to a lot more than the purchase of the used Honda. I had three options:

  1. buy the bike and store it in the garage until I could afford everything.
  2. buy the bike and operate a paper route with it to pay for the shortfall.
  3. delay purchasing the bike until I had all of the money in place.

Teenagers have not changed much from the 1960s until now. Then, as now, I had a tremendous shortage of patience and no shortage of energy, so I took on a paper route while I also mowed lawns to pay for my shiny red Honda. My father’s intervention taught me a valuable lesson about advance planning.

Today we saw a kitty with a cat bite abscess on its tail. Like the first kitty, this one also came from HSSM. Like the first kitty the owners failed to plan ahead to make an appointment and, on a Monday morning (during a full moon, no less!), had a bit of a wait while we worked them in among preexisting appointments.

Unlike the first kitty, this one had no medical care in the two years the family had owned it.

No vaccinations.

No heartworm preventive.

And she spends 25% of her time outdoors.

Thus the cat bite abscess.

The abscess required surgical treatment under general anesthesia and she went home later in the day. His parting comment was, “Today’s fees came as a shock to me. I guess that’s just what it costs to own a pet these days. You do what you gotta do, right?”

A little advance planning would help with this kitty, too. Some advice we offered:

  • Like children, spouses, cars and motorcycles, pets need regular checkups and preventive maintenance. You simply can’t have a pet for two years without expecting the pet to suffer consequences.
  • Allowing cats to be outdoors is begging for trouble. The entirety of today’s $331.20 wound treatment could have been spent of much-needed preventive care simply by planning to keep the kitty indoors.
  • Indeed, today’s charges would have covered both the first and second vaccination visits and the FeLV and FIV tests and still had money left over for three months of Revolution heartworm preventive.
  • PetFirst Pet Health Insurance can easily pay for itself when injuries and illnesses occur.

Questions about planning for pet care are answered by well-trained veterinarians’ staff members all day long. Staff members look forward to these calls, because they know the value of advance planning.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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