Woman's spending limit for sick cat sparks heartfelt discussion on social media

The cat was rescued from a rubbish dump and has become a loved pet - but her owner says she simply can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on vet bills.
The cat was rescued from a rubbish dump and has become a loved pet - but her owner says she simply can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on vet bills. Photo credit: Supplied/Getty Images.

A woman with a sick cat and a limited budget is questioning how much other pet owners would be willing to stump up for vet bills, including any treatment.

Pets are often considered part of the family, but when faced with unexpected costs, it can be difficult for pet owners to decide where to draw the line.  

On Monday, ahead of an appointment at a local veterinary clinic, a Gisborne woman took to social media to ask that very question. Her post has racked up over 100 responses from pet owners, many saying what they'd spent ran into thousands of dollars. 

Talking to Newshub, the woman, who asked only to be referred to as Tracy, explained her cat, now seven, was rescued as a kitten from a rubbish dump.

She's been fixed, microchipped, had all her immunisations and is treated for fleas and worms regularly, Tracy said. The last four years have been vet-free - but that's about to change, as her cat is unwell and unable to keep food down. 

Since adopting her cat, Tracy says her circumstances have changed, and she's simply unable to spend "thousands of dollars" on treatment.

"We are happy to pay the initial consult[ation] fees of the vet, but after that we will have to get quotes before doing any investigations... I'm thinking $200 to $300 but that depends on the diagnosis," Tracy says.

Out of love for her cat, she realises she may extend this limit, but is unsure by how much.

"I know that cats are peoples' 'children' but unfortunately, we will have to draw the line somewhere," she adds.

Comments on social media show that for many owners, money comes second-place to the love they feel for their pets, and that beyond an intial consultation, $200 doesn't go far.

Many had spent in the range of $1500 to $3500 within a short timeframe, including in cases where cats got into fights, had injuries and/or needed emergency care.

One person said they'd be prepared to remortgage the house if it were to give them more time with their pet. Another spent a couple of thousand on bringing their cats home from overseas.

In a response to questions about the costs of pet ownership, SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughan said as every animal has different needs, those costs are difficult to estimate.

If pets do become sick or injured, the bills can quickly mount up, putting even the most dedicated owners in a difficult situation.

"This is why it’s important to have regular health checks to catch issues early and pet insurance to help pay for vet bills," Vaughan said.

Although many vet clinics offer payment plans and/or deferred payments, another option for budget-conscious pet owners is to include unexpected vet bills as part of the money saved and put aside for emergencies.

As veterinary clinics set their own prices, it's also helpful to get quotes from different clinics and areas before committing to spend more.

One pet insurer, Southern Cross, confirms under its PetCare Bronze Ribbon policy ($2500 yearly limit), depending on whether the owner chooses to pay a portion of the cost, cover for a one-year-old cat starts from $237.96 per year.