The cost of ‘owning’ a pet

I have decided Soxx and Boz will be my last two pets, unless there is a miracle, like me winning the lottery.

While browsing in my local vet supplies shop the other day I noticed that 10kg of the pellets I feed my cats is now R750.

I didn’t need to stock up but I will soon and it made me think. About pets. About why we keep them, and what will become of them if costs keep going up.

My cats always get the dry food recommended by vets because I once had a cat go through feline urinary syndrome (FUS) and we both suffered mightily. No, shame, Humphrey suffered more. A scary new tom must have come into the neighbourhood because, unbeknown to me, Humphrey stopped going outside to urinate. He incubated a large ball of crystallised urine in his bladder and by the time I discovered it, he must have been in agony.

He had to have a catheter inserted and spent days at the vet and every time I went to visit him, sitting miserable and uncomprehending in the corner of his cage, I wept. But he recovered and gave me another 10 years of love and laughs, and never had FUS again.

This is partly because the vet said he must never have supermarket pellets and I started buying the expensive stuff. It’s what I now give my two hooligans, Boz and Soxx, both rescues.

On the whole they are healthy.

But R750 a month, plus some tinned food, is a lot to pay. It is almost unaffordable, and so are vets’ bills.

When Soxx, an incurable roamer, came home the other day with some wire tied tight around his stomach, he had to be sedated to have it removed. (Yes, there are some nasty people around). He needed vaccinating and deworming too, so, R1 700 later… And now Boz needs dental treatment – R3 000-R4 000.

I can’t afford much of this much longer. So, I have decided Soxx and Boz will be my last two pets, unless there is a miracle, like I win the lottery. But it’s also because I’ve started to really think about the principle of pet ownership.

We consider it normal, but is it always the best thing for the animals? And where is its place in our busy lifestyles, where most of us live in smaller units and go out a lot? Maybe pet ownership is from the days when people had big homes and lots of kids and staff to feed them.

And big budgets.

Owning a pedigree animal is a status symbol and I see that trend rising, but I am not sure what will become of the many ordinary house cats and mongrels that are around.

Facebook knows I am a sucker for animals so I get lots of notifications from animal charities. The NSPCA and charities have lots of dogs and cats up for adoption; my impression is the shelters are full.

When I was a child growing up in Zambia, lots of people kept monkeys chained up. Luckily that trend has for the most died out.

Similarly, I see a time when we will look back at pet “ownership” as some quaint institution – a luxury for the haves, like big houses and cars.

The best we can do now is to donate to charities that sterilise pets so that there aren’t a lot of hungry animals being put up for adoption and when they are rejected, having to be put down.

Yvonne Fontyn.

Yvonne Fontyn.

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