A gray kitten at the vet with a stethoscope.
A gray kitten at the vet with a stethoscope. Photography ©SbytovaMN | Thinkstock.

9 Ways to Find Affordable Vet Care for Your Cat

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As the cost of veterinary care continues to skyrocket year after year, many pet owners struggle to find affordable vet care for their cats. “With the incredible student loan debt, declining veterinary visits, and retailers taking more market share on basic preventative products, including pet food and even some pharmaceuticals, veterinary costs at best will maintain current levels, but are more likely to increase,” says Darren Taul, DVM, president-elect of the American Animal Hospital Association and owner of two veterinary hospitals in Central Kentucky.

So, what’s a cat owner to do about finding affordable vet care? First, staying on top of your cat’s health with routine care is the best way to ward off future health issues. Don’t skip seeing the vet for years and years even if your cat seems healthy. “The most important part of preventive care is annual veterinary visits (for pets less than 7 years of age) and semi-annual veterinary visits (for pets 7-plus years of age),” Dr. Taul advises. “So many things can be detected early and are much less costly than after a problem occurs.”

If paying for your cat’s veterinary expenses feels impossible, here are nine ways to find affordable vet care, including free and low-cost routine and emergency vet care assistance:

1. Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Services

A kitten at the vet.
Spaying or neutering your cat will save you money in the long run when you think about things like the cost of unplanned kittens and certain health risks. Photography ©SbytovaMN | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Spaying or neutering your cat is not only the best way to reduce the pet overpopulation problem (which in turn keeps cats and kittens out of shelters), but your cat will be healthier in the long run. It’s expensive to care for unplanned litters of kittens, and the risk of certain health problems, including some types of cat cancers, can be greatly reduced or even avoided entirely simply by having your cat spayed or neutered. To find a free or low-cost spay/neuter program near you, contact local animal shelters, humane societies and rescue groups. These organizations will have the most up-to-date information on the resources available in your community.

2. TNR for Feral Cats

If you feed stray or feral cats in your yard or neighborhood, but can’t afford to do much more than that, many community TNR (trap-neuter-release) programs are available to help provide health care for these cats. “TNR programs are utilized mainly for feral cat colonies to control population while keeping cats in their own colonies,” Dr. Taul says. In addition to spaying or neutering the cats, many programs also provide vaccines and even parasite prevention. These groups will either trap the cats for you, or lend you traps and offer tips so you can trap the cats yourself. To find a program in your area, contact an animal shelter, humane society or cat-specific rescue group in your city or county.

3. Low-Cost Vaccine Clinics

Vaccines are an important part of keeping your cat healthy and free from disease. If you can’t afford the cost of routine vaccinations, contact your local shelter or humane society to ask about free or low-cost vaccine clinics in your community. Some pet-supply stores also host low-cost vaccine clinics.

4. Pet Savings Account

An orange cat with a cast on at the vet
A pet savings account will help you pay off any unexpected vet costs. Photography ©pyotr021 | Thinkstock.

Anticipated costs like food and vaccines are hard enough to budget for, but the costs that really hurt are bills for serious or emergency treatment. Start a savings account and deposit a certain amount into it every month for each pet you own. Then, vow not to touch that money unless you need it to pay one of your pet’s vet bills.

5. Pet Insurance

Pet insurance helps you plan for the unexpected. It is mainly for illnesses and injuries, not for preventive care like vaccines and dental cleanings. “It is important to know that pet health insurance does not cover pre-existing problems,” Dr. Taul explains. “The best time to enroll in pet health insurance is while [your cat] is young and healthy. If you wait, you can still get coverage, but it won’t cover any previously diagnosed problems and is often more expensive.” Read more about pet insurance for cats here.

6. Wellness Plans

The opposite of pet insurance, wellness plans cover only preventive care, not illnesses and injuries. These types of plans might be offered directly from your veterinarian, or added on to most pet insurance policies for an additional fee.

“Well pet plans are nice and are very similar to a pet savings account by most standards,” Dr. Taul says.

7. Payment Plans

If your cat needs veterinary care and you can’t afford to pay a large sum up front, ask your veterinarian if they will allow you to pay your bill in smaller installments over time. Some clinics will set you up with a payment plan with no additional fees; others require a small processing fee and/or interest. Some third-party companies like ScratchPay offer payment plans that don’t require a credit check. Essentially loans, such plans charge interest, but allow you to pay over time.

8. Credit Cards for Vet Expenses

If you’re faced with a large vet bill and you’ve maxed out your credit cards, you might be able to get a special line of credit strictly for veterinary expenses. Third-party credit companies like CareCredit offer a variety of financing options for pet owners. “Third-party veterinary credit cards certainly serve a great purpose and fulfill the needs of pet owners who are not prepared for unexpected veterinary expenses,” Dr. Taul explains. “Many have low or no interest for a period of time, which is similar to a payment plan. This type of service can be a lifesaver, but people with no credit history or a bad credit score might have difficulty being approved.”

9. Financial Assistance Programs

If you have exhausted all other resources and need urgent medical treatment for your cat, a number of organizations offer assistance programs for pets whose owners cannot afford the cost of veterinary care. If you adopted your cat from a shelter or rescue group, first inquire with them to ask about any programs they might offer or know about for veterinary care of a rescued cat. If you hit a dead-end there, check out the following groups to see if you might be eligible for assistance:

  1. Brown Dog Foundation: Provides funding to families who find themselves with a sick pet that would likely respond to treatment, but due to unforeseen circumstances cannot afford the treatment.
  2.  Cody’s Club: Offers financial assistance to help offset a portion of the cost of radiation treatments for pets.
  3.  Dogs on Deployment: provides financial assistance to qualifying military members for help with pet care (dogs and cats) during times of need.
  4. Handicapped Pets Foundation: Provides wheelchairs and other equipment for dogs and cats with special needs.
  5. Kobi’s Fund: Provides financial assistance to owners who cannot afford treatment for their cats with vaccine-associated sarcoma.
  6. The Pet Fund: Financial assistance for pet owners who need help paying for veterinary care.
  7. RedRover: Provides financial assistance, resources and support to low-income individuals and survivors of domestic violence and their pets.
  8. Rose’s Fund: Offers financial assistance for veterinary bills for dogs and cats with a life-threatening illness, injury or condition.
  9. Shakespeare Animal Fund: Offers financial assistance for emergency veterinary care for pet owners on fixed incomes or with annual incomes below current poverty guidelines.

 In addition to the above programs, Best Friends Animal Society maintains a listing of state-specific pet financial assistance programs on its website.

Thumbnail: Photography ©SbytovaMN | Thinkstock. 

Tell us: What options for affordable vet care have you explored?

Read more about cat health on Catster.com:

12 thoughts on “9 Ways to Find Affordable Vet Care for Your Cat”

  1. Pingback: Is It Hard To Get Approved For Care Credit

  2. Pingback: Credit Score Needed For Care Credit Approval

  3. Thank you for stating that if you’re faced with a large vet bill and you’ve maxed out your credit cards, you might be able to get a special line of credit strictly for veterinary expenses. I just bought my first cat, and need to find a suitable vet to take her to and can provide her with quality care. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when looking for a suitable vet that can take great care of my cat.

  4. Thanks for the tips on how to find an affordable bet for your cat. I just adopted a kitten and I am trying to find an animal care clinic that I can take her too to make sure she’s healthy. I like that you said that it can be smart to ask your vet or your clinic if they have payment plans for treatment. I will have to look into that.

  5. Patty davichick

    Can you please help me with this I have a cat that needs to be fixed and having trouble with the cost of it

  6. WOW!! And we Americans are accused of being RUDE! HA!!We have nothing over people like Lee from the UK!! I don’t care where you are from, there is this thing called civility. It is the way we, as human beings, should treat everyone and everything. That is part of being a member of the HUMAN RACE!! I don’t discount things that are written or practiced in the UK, Germany, China or any where else!! The world shares cures, ideas, possible cures, possible ideas all the time. If it works, it works on all sides of the ocean!!!
    So, Mr Rude Lee, try being a member of the human race. Try something from another area of the world-it just might work for you!!!

  7. Note: You have to pay the bill in full. Even if you have pet insurance. Later the insurance co. will reimburse you. But it’s not right they do it that way. IDK why this site refuses to let people know this.

  8. You seem to forget that the internet is an “INTERNATIONAL” community and I wish the population of America would remember that the world does not revolve around America. I live in the United Kingdom so all this advice is useless to me being exclusive to America only. You just wasted my time reading your article when it could have been better spent looking for more relative help. It’s far from fair to me and definately not fair to my sick cat whom I love deeply. Thanks for nothing.

    1. Hi Lee,

      Sorry to hear that! We are a based in the USA so most of our more specific advice, like this article, takes that into account. However, aside from point #9, there are likely similar options that you could research in the UK. Best of luck and hope your kitty feels better.

    2. Your reply was unwarranted and rude. I seriously doubt that this advice was good for nothing. The US and the UK are not so incredibly different that Pet Insurance, Emergency funds and Vaccine clinics are inaccessible in the UK. If you actually read the article, you would’ve picked up some useful information.

    3. Yes , I agree with the other person who spoke of your rudeness. If you would have taken ” your time” to pull the dropdown menu at the top right of catster you would have immediately discovered this is based in the USA. Don’t blame others for your ignorance.

  9. Pingback: 6 Things to Remember About a Senior Cat’s Needs – Sporty Pets

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