SYDNEY woman Tess Salmon spent $17,000 on her six-year-old cat Miley after he was badly injured when he fell eight storeys from a balcony.
The ragdoll persian cross had broken his jaw in three places, fractured his cheekbones and nose, broken his back foot and shattered his pelvis.
“We rushed him to the vet hospital and they whisked him away and we didn’t hear anything for several hours — it was incredibly traumatic and gut-wrenching,” Ms Salmon told news.com.au about the 2015 incident.
“Finally the vet came and said they weren’t sure he would survive the night — he needed two blood transfusions straight away.
“We were told we were looking at about $5000 and asked if we wanted to proceed, and we immediately said ‘yes’.”
Miley survived the night and spent nine days in the vet hospital, at a total cost of $17,000.
“Financially it set us back a few years,” she said.
Sadly, this year Miley had to be put to sleep after battling stomach cancer.
“We spent several more thousand dollars on scans and medication to manage his condition,” Ms Salmon said.
“I have grieved for him the same way I have grieved for people I have lost.
“The love I have for my pets is no different to the love I have for my family and friends — it might sound strange but (I) love their personalities like you do with humans.
“If I had the money, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again — how can you put a price on a life, even if it’s the life of an animal?”
She’s not the only person who feels that way about a pet, and is prepared to spend a lot of money on it.
Joel Stillone and his wife Nicola paid almost $8000 for their king charles cavalier cross rox terrier, Bobby, to join them in London when they moved there in 2014, and bring her home when they moved back to Sydney last year.
“After a lot of research, we knew that it would be quite costly, but Bobby was a part of the family and being very attached to her we wanted her to enjoy the overseas adventure with us,” he said.
“I suppose it was important for us to do so as it was like having a close friend come along for the ride, as strange as that sounds.
“We figure that if we look after Bobby we’ll hopefully get close to 20 years with her, so it is an investment in friendship and it does cost money.”
One problem that plagues many pet owners in Australia are ticks. While there is medication to prevent tick bites, it’s not 100 per cent effective.
John Winstanley from the city’s northern beaches knows this all too well.
He has had four cats that have all been bitten by paralysis ticks. And of the four, two haven’t survived.
His latest cat, Pink Floyd, has been bitten at least six times. Each incident has cost John $2000-$13,000, totalling a whopping $25,000.
“Sometimes I find the paralysis tick in time and sometimes, it is too late,” he said.
In Australia, it is estimated around 10,000 cats and dogs are taken to the vet for tick treatment each year, with many animals dying.
Director of Sydney Animal Hospital Dr Ben Brown urged pet owners to prioritise tick prevention to avoid an expensive and sometimes heartbreaking trip to the vet.
“Tick paralysis is a common and devastating disease for cats that is entirely preventable,” Dr Brown said. “Because cats are often more sedentary animals compared to dogs, the early signs of tick paralysis are often missed by pet owners meaning that cats can become very sick before veterinary advice is sought.”
Despite treatment costing up to $3000 per tick, director and veterinary specialist at the Animal Emergency Service, Dr Rob Webster, said there was no excuse for Aussie cats to die from a preventable problem.
“The biggest hurdles that vets face this year is ensuring cat owners everywhere understand the severity and risk of tick paralysis and are aware of the effective preventive treatments available,” Dr Webster said.
“Pet owners also need to know how to thoroughly inspect their animals daily.”
Australia’s paralysis tick season runs from September to March and key indicators of paralysis ticks include weakness, agitation, unusual breathing patterns and grunts when exhaling.
Despite the high cost of pets, very few owners have pet insurance. Recent research from Roy Morgan shows that in the year to March, an estimated 609,000 pet owners had pet insurance. Considering 7.3 million Australians have a dog or cat, that means there are many out there without insurance.
Mr Stillone said they always prioritised insurance for Bobby, which had paid off.
“We have it and have always had it — we just thought for $25 a month it’s just peace of mind,” he said.
“We paid around $20 a month for pet insurance in the UK and at one stage Bobby needed a small procedure which cost $2400 and we got all the money back the following week, so it was well worth it.”
Ms Salmon didn’t have pet insurance, but would research it for future pets.
“Material possessions can be replaced, but once a life is gone, it’s gone,” she said.
“I know that now, better than anyone, and it has never left me.
“Pet insurance was forever on my to do list — I’m not sure if I would get it or maybe just set up an account and put money away if I ever need it for my pets.”