The poor thing. Our beloved border collie Holly – a.k.a. Jazzdog or Fluffbomb – was in serious difficulty. It was something with her right ear – she was rubbing it over and over with her paw, shaking her head violently, but with no luck.

Wouldn’t you know it, a grass seed, like a grain of wheat, had found its way into her ear during a bush walk. Now those of you who know border collies – or other similar skittish breeds – will know that there is absolutely no way that even a vet can hold them still to fish something out of their ear! She had to be put under.

Why is it that these things tend to happen after hours or on a weekend? It always seems to be outside of normal vet schedules, that’s for sure. After an overnight at the emergency centre – and after hundreds of dollars had landed on my credit card – I slowly walked her home. Still groggy, she staggered in to the house and stood for a while with her forehead against my shin, as if to say, “What just happened?”

I felt the same way. This was sort of a wake-up call for me moneywise, since Holly had been a gift to the family and I had not had dogs or cats growing up. (‘Too expensive,’ was the answer we got. I now understand why.)

This was going to take money, and a lot of it.

Pet heaven

According to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, 68% of New Zealand households own a pet. Kiwis are world leaders when it comes to moggies, with 28% of households owning one cat and 20% a second one or more. And 29% have a dog. Pet day at my kids’ school is fantastic, with ponies, calves, lambs and bunnies joining the bunch of dogs and cats on parade.

They bring us a lot of joy, that’s for sure. They also relieve our stress, fulfil our need to nurture, and give us a chance to connect. (One of my favourite things was seeing how many people and dogs I met and got to talk to just because I started walking the dog.)

I’m sure you’ve also noticed how we are no longer pet ‘owners’ anymore – that’s so last century! We’re ‘parents’ now, and our furry adoptees are part of the family, playing a bigger role than ever. All this means that we’re more willing than ever to spend money on our pets – like we would on our kids.

Each year, even during what have been tough economic times, Kiwis spend $1,583.8 million on their pets. That whopping figure includes $766 million on food, and $358 million on vet costs. If you have a cat, chances are you’ll spend on average $466 each year; for a dog that figure climbs to $1,047. But of course, those are averages, so your bill could be much higher.

It’s important to know what you’re getting into. Beyond the initial costs to buy a pet or the initial vet treatments, just the cost of bowls and beds can quickly climb to $180 for a kitten, $290 for a puppy. How do you plan for that?

Pet accessories

The thing is, these days there is so much more stuff out there to buy for pets. Overseas, much has been made of how pet spending in the U.S. – where epic animal love is on display – passed the $50 billion mark in recent years. But do they really need to spend close to $370 million just on Halloween costumes for pets?

While we may have dodged the Halloween bullet here in New Zealand for now, we’ve got just as many pet accessories to choose from (and I’m sure many more to come). Puffer jackets, deer antler treats and hot oil treatments are all out there, not to mention all that grooming that goes on: hair sculpting, ear and teeth cleaning, even gum massage. If you’re carrying your toy dog around in a handbag, just think of how many handbags there’ll soon be to choose from…

Pet planning

Here at Sorted, we’re not really out to say what you should or shouldn’t spend on your pet. What’s important is that you know where your money is going and make sure it’s going where you want it to. As you make a plan for your money using the Sorted budgeting tool, try to include everything it will take for your furry family to be a happy one.

When you enter in your incomings and outgoings, make a conscious decision as you estimate how much you’ll be spending on your pets: food, vet expenses, registration. These days pet insurance is also widely available, so you can factor that in if you plan to buy some cover. Alternatively, you could save up a pet emergency fund for all those unexpected trips to the vet.

So we’re not here to ask if you really need your cat’s hair sculpted so it has a lion’s mane of its own. We’d just like to make sure it’s what you really want, and that it’s all part of the plan. 

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