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4 Tips to Financially Survive a Cat Health-Care Crisis

There are many things you can do, including using Care Credit and raising funds online.

Catherine Holm  |  Sep 14th 2015


Those of us who worry about money dread the thought of not being able to pay for unforeseen veterinary expenses. Honestly, even when things are going well, health-wise, for my cats, I probably spend more per year on the cats’ health care than on my own. Being caught in a crunch and not being able to provide care for your cat could be devastating.

It’s always good to have money set aside for such expenses. If that’s not possible, though, you may have to think outside the box. Here are some possibilities that may help if you’re pinched for cash and faced with sudden veterinary expenses.

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Cat in spring sun by Shutterstock.com

1. Care Credit and similar offerings

I had never heard of Care Credit until someone mentioned it in a Facebook discussion on pet care. I’ve never used it, but have since researched it quite a bit; the Veterinary FAQs are helpful. If you’re interested in exploring this option, it would be wise to apply early, so that if you qualify you’d have card and credit in hand already should an emergency occur.

According to the website, it sounds as if there’s no interest if charges are paid during a certain qualifying period, but read the details carefully. I’ve also heard mention that lower credit scores might not qualify, but it sounds as if this is determined on a case-by-case basis, like any credit application. Make sure that your veterinarian actually accepts Credit Care; some don’t. The website has a locator tool to see if your vet accepts this form of payment. Care Credit can also be used for some human medical care transactions, depending upon the procedure and the provider.

This article from the Humane Society of the United States also lists IMOM and RedRover, which are organizations that help with pet care. Again, read the websites carefully for any qualifying conditions.

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Cat with vet by Shutterstock.com

2. Raise funds yourself

I’ve never done this (I have a hard time asking for help), but I have been inspired to donate on several occasions. I have seen people raise money quickly and effectively for pet care, or crisis care, if their case is presented compellingly. If you’re online a lot, you’ve probably seen some of this, too. Petcaring.com is one such service, targeted specifically to pet owners and animal welfare organizations. According to its website, it charges no fees for its fundraising service.

Again, this might take some pre-planning, but you can raise funds in a hurry if you post strikes a chord in people. (I’ve seen funds raised in an amazing hurry — there are a lot of people out there that care about animals.)

3. Pet insurance

Catster writer JaneA Kelley wrote about the ins and outs of pet insurance in 2004. Among her suggestions: Get the insurance before the pet is actually sick. Read coverage carefully and go into the agreement understanding what is and what is not covered.

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Veterinarian with cat by Shutterstock.com

4. Think outside the box

Sometimes, given the situation, there is room for options. If you have a smart, compassionate, and open-minded vet, he should be able to help you consider these options, or think of something that you might not know about. Obviously, this is going to depend on the situation. In an emergency, there may be only one route to take regarding treatment, and it may or may not be affordable to you. But there are cases where, if a vet is willing and able, some alternative might be available for treatment that could hurt less, financially.

For example, some of you who follow my articles know that I have a cat with recurring sarcomas. These are low grade and likely to metastasize. Throughout this journey, which has taken place over many years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pay for infrequent surgeries to remove the lumps. I am also supporting Rama’s immune system with various supplements, and I think this may be part of the reason he is doing so well. My vets have been wonderful about suggesting things I can do, because they know I’m open to learning and doing what I can. None of the supplements are particularly expensive. At many junctures on this journey with Rama, I’ve had to stop and consider what we could or could not afford. I have not pursued more drastic and expensive treatments in this case, because my vet and I don’t think that they make any sense at this point.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what the options are. We had a dog with osteosarcoma (bone cancer), which was diagnosed last June (we helped her over the Bridge that September). Initially, we began to explore options for treatment (chemo, radiation, amputation) but they were way beyond our budget. This particular practice, a specialized referral clinic that offers some services that typical veterinary practices don’t offer, didn’t make us aware of other palliative treatments beyond pain meds (which we gave). My husband did research on his own and supported her system with supplements. When we made the decision to put our dog down, she was still eating, drinking, and mobile, but the pain had suddenly and noticeably increased.

Any kind of veterinary crisis can crop up — and if you can’t pay, it’s doubly a crisis.

Have you ever cat care crisis and had to figure out how to pay for it? Tell us your experience in the comments.

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author ofThe Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.