Your First Number – You Have Pets

Your First Number, your Emergency Fund, is the most basic one for your financial success, for too many reasons to list here (though I will return to this subject several times in the future). Your First Number may be different from mine… just like mine is different from the baseline I described in the linked article.

So what if you have pets?

Here’s where we get into the reason why financial experts tend to talk in “specific generalities”: Everyone’s situation is different.

Ethically, when you took on a pet, you also took on the responsibility for that pet’s care and maintenance. You cannot slide on this responsibility simply because it has become inconvenient. We are talking about a life, here. You assumed the responsibility. So you ethically must include funds for your pet(s) in your Emergency Fund.

You have two options:

  1. Give up your pet for adoption by someone who can take care of it.
  2. Tough it out, and add the annual maintenance of your pet into your First Number.

I’m going to throw out some estimated numbers based on personal experience here:

Tiny pet (fish, gerbil, hamster, mouse): $250
Very small pet (ferret, guinea pig): $500
Small pet (cat, lapdog): $1200
Medium pet (medium dog): $2500
Large pet (retriever): $5000
Exotic pet (cougar): Don’t Even Think About It.

Yeah, those numbers are high. I tried to estimate the cost of two emergency vet visits in the year. You also need to include the financial consequences of having an indoor-only, outdoor-only, or indoor-outdoor pet. Pets that get exposed to the primordial scrub tend to have higher costs associated. They will simply get injured more often. You may even be able to defray some of the annual cost by slowly converting your pet’s diet to include some amount of table scraps, leftovers, or your own home-cooked pet food.

This one has recently hit us hard. Our youngest cat, Dora…

My poor daughter!

…has kidney failure. This led to expensive, draining, emergency vet care. As I am writing this (12/06/2009), Dora has recovered somewhat, but we still don’t know what caused it, or if she will make a full recovery (Translation: More vet bills). Or if she will survive.

Pookah’s purrer is worn out trying to make her human feel better. There are few things worse for a cat, especially Pookah, than having a strained purrer.

We had previously allocated a certain amount (not enough, as my research and first-hand experience is showing) for each cat for annual veterinary care. My numbers were waaaay off – originally $600/cat. I’ve now bumped that to $1200/cat (as noted above) – for a total of $3600. Since I’m a big believer in rounding up to the nearest easy-to-remember set of zeros: $4,000 added to my First Number, totaling $14000 as an Emergency Fund.


Makes you realize just how much of a commitment being a responsible pet owner is!

Pookah knows this well. Pookah has had as many as four humans at once. It was very traumatic keeping up with them! Two is much easier to handle!

Pookah is going to gargle with catnip now. Sore purrer.

The benefit of this is that this Emergency Fund is going to sit in a high-interest account, so it will grow slowly, over time. It also gives me the option of putting some more money into a 6-month to 5-year CD, and draw higher interest. As an example, %3 on that $14,000 is about $420/year – to my advantage (and your advantage, if your numbers are like mine).

Aye-yi-yi! It’s going to take longer to reach my First Number than I thought!

5 Responses to “Your First Number – You Have Pets”

  1. Fatma says:

    Hello, my name is Darby. I’m a 7 year old weimaraner. I’m using this new ctmeuopr for the first time today as my mom, Monica got a virus on the old pc. There has been a lot of fussing going on as she usually uses a pc and this is a mac. I hope she figures it out soon or this could be a very long semester. This is Monica’s third semester. She took time off during the summer to go visit family in the lower 48 and enjoy the Alaska summer. We hiked almost every weekend. I got good at chasing foxes, but would turn around as soon as they barked at me. Due to government cut backs, Monica lost her job this week. She is now determined more than ever to finish the medical/dental receptionist program then continue to medical coding and billing. Her final goal is to become a geriatric nurse. Monica has an eight year old daughter that snuggles up to read to me every night. Dad is in the Air Force so we move a lot! Mom was so excited to find the online program at UAF so she can finish a degree no matter where we live. Well, it’s past my bed time and I’m sure someone’s feet needs me to lay on them. Good luck this semester and enjoy all the exciting stuff you get learn!!

  2. PookahBoss says:


    Yes, those CC interest rates hurt. A lot.

    We’re feeling the pinch ourselves, with the hits on our E.F. from Dora’s illness. However, that pinch has made me look at a few things to hopefully optimize the care and feeding of our First Number. Specifically, I’m looking at money market accounts and CDs as a way to help the First Number keep up with inflation a little better. While the interest earned is only a few tenths better than what a good credit union or online bank account offers, it still adds up over time.

    In fact, I like the idea so much that I’m opening a money market account this coming week. I expect it’ll be easy, painless, and if the interest rate drops too low, I’ll just transfer all but the minimum amount back to the First Number account. The Intartubes and World Wide Web-Timesink make this possible, so that it consumes only a couple of hours each YEAR to maintain. We’ll see how it goes over time.

    — PookahBoss

  3. Bertha says:

    Yah, even though the Emergency Fund is sadly depleted, I remind myself it could be worse–before we had the E.F. we would have had to use the credit cards and go into debt to deal with the emergencies (adding interest payments to the cost of the emergencies).

    I’ll still feel a lot better when we’ve got it back up a little more though…

  4. PookahBoss says:


    That is exactly what the Emergency Fund is for. I hope all your Emergencies came out well, and that everyone recovered.

    As for myself, S.O., Pookah, Old Lady Cat, and Dora…

    Dora is recovering, but it is still too early to tell if the damage to her kidneys is permanent.

    — PookahBoss

  5. Bertha says:

    Tell me about it. We were making good progress on our Emergency Fund, until we had a series of Emergencies.

    We’re not quite back where we started, but the funds are much more depleted than we’d like…

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