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8 Tips to Care for Your Cats in Times of Financial Crisis

You might have to reassess how you provide for your cat's health care. Our tips can help.

Catherine Holm  |  Nov 7th 2014


We’ve all been there — an unexpected expense crops up or a life crisis puts our finances into a tailspin. Meanwhile, the cats need to be fed.

Many cats are surrendered because their owners can no longer afford to care for them. Can you imagine how heartbreaking that would be? Granted, this is an extreme scenario, but many of us experience times when things become more difficult than they used to be. Here are tips on what to do to prepare for and to deal with times when money is tight and you need to care for your cats:

1. Have an emergency fund

Sometimes I’ve been good about this, and sometimes it just hasn’t been possible. But think of the stress it could alleviate if an unexpected or emergency vet bill came up. Financial gurus say to have six months to a year’s worth of anticipated expenses (including cat care, in our cases) socked away in a liquid account. If you can’t do that, don’t beat yourself up — just make progress toward it as you can.

2. Stretch out how long litter lasts

You can do this and still keep clean litter boxes. The trick is to keep up on the cleaning — do it once or twice a day. If you use non-clumping litter, you can carefully scoop out the urine-soaked areas with a garden trowel (don’t use that trowel for gardening!). This really does make the litter go a long way.

3. Barter with friends if you cannot afford a pet sitter

Since I’ve often lived in areas where no pet sitters are nearby, I’ve done plenty of this. Ideally, this is a trusted friend who understands cats, loves animals, and who you don’t mind being in your living space. You, in turn, can do the same thing for them. I love doing this.

4. Reassess what you can afford to feed your cat

This has been tough for me. I want to feed the best that’s out there. Sometimes, the best is beyond my budget. So I compromise a little. If I want my cat to have canned food and I need to switch to a cheaper brand, is there something out there that’s pretty good? There are so many options in the marketplace now.

5. Cut back luxuries in your own life to better provide for the cats

A Catster commenter recently pointed out that for the price of a fancy cup of coffee, you could buy cat food for a day (or possibly more). Are there things that we’re mindlessly spending money on that really don’t give us much of a return, other than instant gratification? These things are fun when we’re flush, but if not, they can be dropped.

6. Don’t skimp on basic vet care

Skimping on basic vet care can cost more money down the road in potential health care costs. Prevention makes sense. At the very least, try to budget for an annual wellness exam, spay/neuter (of course), and vaccinations. If you run into something more serious, a good vet will give you several options on ways to proceed.

I had an amazing vet in Minnesota who really looked out for the animals and the people. He would point out if a particular procedure didn’t necessarily make sense because it wouldn’t give me any conclusive information. This saved me money. This is a great kind of vet to have — one who is looking out for the animal’s quality of life and who is honest enough to completely discuss possible options with you.

7. Fundraise

I’ve never done this personally, but I have contributed to fundraisers for cats in need. A recent one popped up online — a friend of a friend had rescued a cat and didn’t have the funds to get her to the vet. The animal was in serious trouble. Funds were raised. Obviously, use your judgment if you are giving.

8. Get creative

Tough times really bring out the creativity in us. Can you barter? Make payments? Is there a less expensive way to proceed with whatever situation you’re in? Think outside the box. Things will eventually get better!

What are some of the things you have done when money is tight to care for your cats? Share your thoughts in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), 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.