From adoption fees and preventative vaccines to well-formulated foods and training, just trying to give your pet the best chance to live a happy and healthy life can be expensive in itself. When you add medical emergencies to the mix, your costs will only increase.
In a survey of 760 pet owners during the first three days of July 2019, we discovered how the average pet owner fares with financial surprises and how they typically pay for these unexpected expenses for their pets.
- More than 6 in 10 pet owners said their pet has had an emergency medical expense, and most said it’s happened more than once.
- About 42% of millennial pet owners have been in pet-related debt, and nearly 1 in 10 are currently paying it off. Across all age groups, more than one-third (36%) have been in debt for a pet.
- Nearly 1 in 5 pet owners spend more than $1,000 annually on their pet, though it’s worth noting that 24% spend about $300 to $499.
- Of those surveyed, 62% factored their pet into a monthly budget, while 26% did not. And 13% of respondents said they don’t have a monthly budget at all.
- About 59% of pet owners worry about animal-related expenses, and cat owners (66%) are slightly more likely to stress than dog owners (60%).
- Approximately 41% of people surveyed paid for emergency expenses with a credit card. Other payment methods include cash (39%), savings (11%), pet insurance (6%) and personal loans (1%).
- If a $1,000 pet-related emergency expense were to come up tomorrow, 37% would turn to a credit card, while 28% would use cash, 18% would pay with savings and 13% would take out a personal loan.
- Three-quarters of pet owners lack pet insurance — and 39% have regretted not having a policy for their furry friend. As a group, millennials are more likely to have pet insurance: 34% of millennials have it, versus 18% of Gen Xers and 9% of baby boomers.
- Despite the financial strain — and the fact that 36% of pet owners regret paying for the expense that caused their debt — 77% of those who have had pet debt would still consider getting another animal.
More than 1 in 3 pet owners would turn to high-interest debt in a pet emergency
The best way to combat financial worry is to have a plan to pay for emergency expenses. Of those surveyed, the majority said they’d have to turn to a credit card — a potentially expensive option for most people — to afford a $1,000 pet emergency.
However, it’s also worth noting that the next most popular options (which amount to almost half of responses) were cash and savings. These are the most affordable payment options since both rely on existing funds rather than debt.
How to afford an emergency pet expense
As mentioned earlier, one way to avoid the stress that comes with an emergency pet expense is to have a solid plan in place for dealing with it, should the situation arise. The first step is knowing what your options are, and then you’ll be able to compare those options and select the one that works best for you and your finances.
Creating and funding a savings account specifically for those expenses is, of course, the best way to go since it would not involve taking on any debt. But that’s not always realistic, and if something were to come up before you’d saved enough to cover the expense, you’d still have to find alternative options.
Options you can consider include:
- Personal loans, which let you pay for pretty much anything and typically come with interest rates lower than credit cards. While they’re easy to get, personal loans may charge origination fees, which can range from 1% to 4% of your loan amount and increase overall costs.
- Credit cards are typically the most expensive debt option. A 0% APR balance transfer credit card can help with pet-related expenses and keep your payments low while you work on paying off the debt during the introductory zero-interest period.
- Secured loans rely on collateral and include a range of financial options, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOC), secured cards and auto loans. Because they’re backed by collateral, secured loans can have lower interest rates and fees than unsecured loans, which means that they can be less expensive options for the right borrowers. Secured loans, however, are notorious for having exorbitant APRs, even ranging as high as triple digits.
Ultimately, your pet’s health should be a high priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to — or should — risk your long-term financial welfare to pay for emergency expenses. In reality, having a pet-emergency plan of action is a vital part of being a responsible pet owner, and doing so ensures not only that you’ll worry less about those potential costs, but also that your pet will be able to get the medical treatment they need, when they need it.