When I adopted a new kitten last year, I knew she would be expensive, and I budgeted accordingly. High-quality cat food, kitten shots, adoption fee … it all adds up. But I wasn’t expecting Effie’s vet bills to exceed $6,000 in six months. As a broke twentysomething with exactly $5.08 in my savings account, my only plan was to apply for more credit cards and spend less money on going out.
When I posted about Effie’s medical problems on an Internet forum I had been part of for years, people I only knew online asked me how they could help. At first I didn’t want to solicit donations to help with vet bills, because I believed my kitten was my responsibility, but I also felt like I was drowning in debt and had just been turned down for a credit-line increase. When multiple people told me they wanted to give me money, I made a ChipIn page.
There are other ways to raise money online; Fundly, Go Fund Me, and GiveForward are a few options. Once you have a page set up, it’s easy to promote. I personally felt uncomfortable promoting my ChipIn page much and only provided the link when people requested it, which was surprisingly frequently. You can, however, share the link through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, your blog, and whereever you spend time on the internet.
Over a span of a few months, I made $605 through my ChipIn page, mostly from people I barely knew, with a few gifts from close friends. This is one of the few things that actually made me cry with happiness as my kitten’s health declined. The money itself was, of course, incredibly useful. There was a point where I was spending the same amount of money on medications for Effie as I was on my rent. But on a purely emotional level, it was amazing to know how much people cared about my sick cat and what we were going through.
I also raised a few hundred dollars through a benefit dinner I organized with my best friend. Some of the money went toward Effie’s vet bills, and some went to Portland Animal Welfare Team to help other people’s pets receive necessary medical care. Of course, I still paid for the vast majority of Effie’s vet bills with credit cards, but in spite of the generosity of friends and near-strangers, I could barely keep up with the minimum payments.
I struggled with asking for money for Effie’s vet bills because I was afraid it was selfish, and I should just be encouraging people to donate to legitimate charities. I believed that Effie should really just be my responsibility, no matter what expensive emergencies occurred. But I discovered that people really wanted to help, and I realized that as an animal-lover, I would want to help in similar circumstances. After all, I’ve sponsored a pig at Out to Pasture Farm Sanctuary. Why wouldn’t I sponsor a sick kitten?
If you’re not comfortable simply asking for money on the Internet, and don’t want to go all-out hosting a dinner (it’s fun, but it’s a lot of work), there are plenty of other ways to raise money to help with massive vet bills. Everyone loves a bake sale or a yard sale, especially when it’s for an adorable cat. Maybe your friends would pay a cover to get into an awesome party at your place, especially if they love your cat as much as you do — and you have really good snacks.
Also, the Humane Society of the United States has a list of organizations that provide financial assistance with pet-related expenses. Different organizations cover different types of expenses, and have different qualifications, but there might be one that can help you.
Although asking people for money can feel weird, I am so grateful that people in my life cared enough to help out. When someone I only knew through the Internet gave me and Effie $150, I actually wept. Not only was I desperately in need of the cash, I felt less alone. We all know it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes it takes a village (or the Internet) to take care of an animal, too.
When I have the resources, I know I’ll pay it forward. This was the reason I also raised money for Portland Animal Welfare Team at my benefit dinner — I was so grateful that people helped me so much, I wanted to make sure I was also helping others, too. And someday, when my credit card debt is under control, you can bet I’ll be donating to every fundraising page for vet bills I see.
What is your plan for massive veterinary expenses? Do you have money set aside? Pet insurance? Do you have four credit cards like I do? If you were in need, would you feel comfortable raising money from friends and acquaintances? Let me know in the comments!
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