Hi curious cats! Skye Blake here, looking at payment options you have when dealing with vet bills.
Not all of them work for everyone so let’s discover some that might work for you…
- Get Started!
- OPTION #1 – HEALTHY CAT
- Keep Vet Bills Down…
- OPTION #2 – PET INSURANCE
- Possible Insurance Options
- OPTION #3 – SAVINGS
- Medical Savings Account
- OPTION #4 – CREDIT & PAYMENT PLANS
- Regular Credit Card
- Healthcare Credit Card
- Payment Plans
- Non-Insurance Wellness Plans
- Personal Loans
- OPTION #5 – SHOP AROUND
- Veterinary Options
- Pharmacy Options
- OPTION #6 – FUNDRAISING
- Friends & Family
- OPTION #7 – CHARITIES
- Who Is Skye Blake?
- List of Sources
No matter what you decide, the main thing is to get started… don’t put it off.
Get started with a plan, know basic vet care costs, and set aside at least that amount each year.
Most people like setting an amount aside each paycheck or month to avoid a sudden big bill.
Using these payment options gives you peace of mind about the financial part of a difficult, emotional time in any emergency or serious medical situation.
If you have a financial advisor, discuss your payment options to find what works best for your situation.
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
OPTION #1 – HEALTHY CAT
Keep Vet Bills Down…
Your first payment option is one you probably haven’t thought of this way…
Keep Your Cat Healthy!
Keeping your cat healthy and at a proper weight means you’ll have less need to go to the vet, especially in her senior years.
This avoids many chronic conditions that develop with age and joint stress.
That means less bills… pretty cool, huh!
Be Aware of Breed Specific Health Problems
Purebred cats are more expensive in general and certain breeds are more susceptible to physical problems than others.
Hairless breeds, for example, can more easily have skin problems than other breeds.
Do your research before getting a specific breed of cat to see what issues may arise, especially later in life.
Mixed breeds tend to have the least problems overall.
Of course, every cat is an individual and environment also plays an important part in their health.
Feed Only What He Needs
You may not think of this as a payment option, but proper feeding is one of the most important ways to keep your cat healthy and reduce vet bills.
While many people consider “chonks” (fat cats) cute and adorable, the threat to their health isn’t.
A cat who can barely move isn’t cute, funny or happy!
On a cat every pound of excess weight is a burden on joints and organs.
This leads to diabetes, arthritis, thyroid, heart, kidney and liver diseases, causing unnecessary expense for vet care and medication… and shortening her life considerably.
If your cat is 12 lbs. and should be 6, she’s carrying almost twice as much as her body can handle.
That’s like you weighing 240 lbs. when you should be 120!
Miserable way to live, don’t you think? Overfeeding isn’t love.
Feeding what she needs and keeping her exercised is love.
Feed the appropriate amount of high quality “feline-only” food 2-3 times a day or according to your vet’s recommendations, since she knows your cat’s age, breed, and health.
Save treats for training and use supplements if your vet recommends them.
Put the money you spend on treats toward food that helps her stay healthy… or put that extra amount in your medical savings account (another payment option)!
Discover more about keeping your cat healthy at “Cat Health!“
Play & Exercise
Here’s a fun way to pay for your cat’s health!
Play with your cat daily until he gets tired, especially before bed. High energy cats need this a couple times a day.
Play is part of a cat’s instinctive need to hunt and gives him critical exercise that helps him eat properly and sleep through the night… a good way to avoid unnecessary vet visits.
Cats are built for short bursts of speed rather than endurance runs. Jackson Galaxy refers to this as the “Boil and Simmer“.
If you play with this in mind, you’ll have him jumping around (“getting to a boil”) then resting a moment, then playing to a boil again.
Repeat this process until he’s tired, panting, and barely interested in playing anymore.
Then feed him.
Find a few favorites of the many toys available for your cat.
Here’s the link to Jackson’s great video explaining “Boil and Simmer” play.
Get Vaccinations Less Frequently
Vaccines have become a topic of controversy but there are four currently considered “core” (essential) vaccines and are often required by law.
Others are considered “lifestyle” or “noncore” and not always necessary for pet cats.
An indoor cat might not need as many as an outdoor cat. Ask your vet what options you have for your area.
Some vaccines, such as rabies, are good for three years instead of one, so you don’t have to get boosters every year (depending on your state laws).
Discuss with your vet what your individual cat needs.
Be responsible to get the proper vaccines and don’t use money as an excuse to neglect them.
Find out more about vaccinations at “Essential Cat Vaccinations“, by Katie Grzyb, DVM, PetMD
Keep Flea, Tick & Heartworm Prevention Updated
Keep all pest and parasite preventatives updated, even if you pay the vet to do it.
This is a much cheaper option than dealing with diseases transmitted by fleas, ticks, and worms.
Treatments are usually done once a month, even for indoor cats. Ask your vet about available safe options.
You can save money by applying flea and tick preventatives yourself on a healthy cat.
BUT… discuss your cat’s health with your vet, know what you’re using and whether your cat’s body can handle it.
Buying something cheaper can actually be dangerous for your cat, especially if you apply it improperly.
This could be a case of being penny wise and pound foolish.
You might end up with a poisoned cat and a huge vet bill!
Get Checkups and Blood Tests Regularly
Find answers about flea treatments starting at “Getting Rid of Fleas…For Cats Only!“
Kittens need vaccine visits and checkups and the costs may be included in adoption or breeder fees.
When they reach 7 years of age cats, just as older people, need closer monitoring, even if they show no sign of illness.
Vets recommend a wellness visit 2-4 times a year with basic blood tests to check liver, kidney and other organ functions.
This can catch chronic diseases early (like diabetes, thyroid and kidney diseases) and treatment will cost less, often a lot less, than if you wait until you notice symptoms.
They can also save your cat’s life.
Monitor Your Cat’s Health
Keep a diligent eye on your cat’s…
- eating habits (sudden changes, lessening of appetite, ravenous eating)
- litter box habits (frequency, waste consistency and smell, straining, going outside the box, etc.)
- subtle or dramatic behavior changes (hiding, yowling, swatting, sensitivity to touch, etc.)
Pet Your Cat Daily
Take care of your cat’s grooming needs daily to prevent costly and painful problems. It’s good for your stress levels too!
While giving him a relaxing massage, feel for any unusual lumps and scabs, which you can then have your vet check.
You just might catch a serious problem while it’s easily treatable, resulting in a longer life and much smaller vet bill.
Grooming catches ticks and fleas quickly, controls fur balls, and keeps painful mats from forming, particularly on longhaired cats.
Mats can require the services of a professional groomer (something to consider with longhaired breeds).
Brush His Teeth
Yes, you can and it’s worth the effort!
Rotten teeth are painful and can cause infections to travel through the bloodstream, damaging various organs, particularly the liver and kidney.
Painful dental problems will cause your cat to stop eating and require expensive surgery.
Use toothpaste made especially for cats 2-3 times a week.
Don’t ever use human or dog toothpaste, which could cause a big vet bill!
Discover more at “Dental Care for Cats“.
OPTION #2 – PET INSURANCE
Is pet insurance a good payment option?
Pet insurance tends to be only worthwhile for catastrophic injury or illness.
The idea of pet insurance is the same as for people, just be sure you’re looking at coverage for cats, not dogs.
Coverage can include anything from regular exams to dental work, injuries to chronic illnesses like diabetes or kidney disease.
If you want insurance to pay for routine care, as well as catastrophic situations, you’ll pay a lot more.
Review what a policy covers and what the fees and costs are, such as deductibles and monthly premium payments.
It’s worth taking the time to compare costs to coverage.
In many cases it’s cheaper to pay for the vet care yourself than pay high premiums to an insurance company.
Possible Insurance Options
Insurance can be confusing and tricky… always read the fine print!
Here’s a site with helpful info about pet insurance…
“10 Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2023″ (Enter your zip code for a list of companies)
OPTION #3 – SAVINGS
Medical Savings Account
A good payment method is having a savings account for future vet bills.
This will allow you to build up a cushion of cash for true emergencies (broken leg, cancer surgery, etc.)
This can be a great alternative to buying insurance.
The amount you would pay toward your monthly insurance premium, you can put in an interest-bearing savings account or other savings.
Find one with a great interest rate and no penalties for withdrawing money.
Have a direct deposit or automatic transfer set up so you don’t have to think about it.
If you put at least $50 a month in it, you’ll build up a significant amount pretty quickly. In a year you’ll have $600+ to use toward vet bills.
If you start when your cat is a kitten, by the time he’s 7 years old, you’ll have $4,200! Since the senior years are when illnesses are most likely to occur, this money will certainly come in handy.
Don’t touch this money for anything but emergencies.
Instead, factor the cost of wellness checks into your regular annual budget.
An interesting emergency savings option is to become a member of AskVet’s “Pet Care App for Health & Wellness“.
As always, read the fine print and evaluate the costs vs. benefits for you.
As of this writing AskVet membership is $29.99/month, which their website says includes…
- “Care Coach for personalized guidance and pet wellness coaching”
- “24/7 unlimited live access to licensed vets, no appointments needed”
- “Peace of mind with the Rainy Day Fund and up to $1000 for emergency vet visits”
- “Home lab tests and welcome bag to help us get to know your best bud – valued at $100”
- “Deepest discounts on the market for pet meds, food and supplies with the AskVet Club at PetCareRx”1 AskVet.com
OPTION #4 – CREDIT & PAYMENT PLANS
Regular Credit Card
Consider having a specific credit card dedicated only for pet care.
It could be for emergency vet bills only, or include food, supplies, and office visits as well.
This might be a good payment option for someone with enough self-discipline to keep it only for this purpose.
The best case would be to have a card with a 0% interest rate but if not, find the lowest rate possible (just as for any other card).
However, some people do better with a high interest rate card just for emergencies.
The high interest rate reduces the temptation to use the card for non-emergencies and is motivation to pay it off quickly.
If you’re considering this option, be careful about how this will affect your credit utilization ratio, which can have a negative effect on your credit if you’re putting a large bill on the card.
Try to keep this ratio below 30%.
Total your card balances, then divide by the total of the card limits to find your percentage… 2“What to Do If You’re Hit With a Huge Vet Bill”, Credit Karma
Healthcare Credit Card
Some credit cards are specifically made for healthcare costs, both human and animal.
You qualify according to your credit history and can apply online.
Approval is often very quick, and the line of credit is immediately available.
This is nice in an emergency, but you’re better off setting this up before an emergency arises so you know if you qualify and for what amount.
Watch out for high interest rates!
Ask your vet about payment plans for more expensive procedures, however, many no longer do this directly.
Too many people have set up plans and never paid them, forcing vets to write off many thousands of dollars each year.
Instead, many vets now offer CareCredit® and other payment plans handled by third-party companies.
These allow you to pay on an installment plan but, just as with credit cards, be careful about short grace periods and huge deferred interest payments and penalties.
Scratchpay is a newer payment plan company that offers various term lengths and interest rates.
They do a soft credit check that won’t affect your score.
Check with your vet to see if they offer this option.
Non-Insurance Wellness Plans
Ask at your vet’s office if they work with a wellness payment plan (not to be confused with insurance wellness programs.)
Insurance reimburses you for part of wellness visit costs after you pay the vet.
Wellness payment plans are a way of budgeting your money for regular annual vet costs.
These plans are set up for you to pay annual routine vet costs for your specific pet.
Your plan is determined by total routine costs (sometimes discounted) for you to pay either as one lump sum or divided into monthly payments.
General exams, blood tests, flea/tick prevention, even dental cleanings can be part of a wellness plan.
If your cat is young and healthy, the plan will include less than if your cat is older and needing to be monitored for various health concerns.
This can be a good option for getting regular care while controlling costs.
Remember, though, these plans aren’t for emergency care.
Wellness plans can be a good partner to a medical savings account or dedicated credit card.
GEICO® has a wellness savings plan if you buy their pet insurance.
It includes 24/7 access to “whiskerDocs®” where you can talk to veterinary experts with any urgent questions.
“Best Pet Wellness Plans of 2023: Routine Care & Preventative Health” lists both insurance and non-insurance wellness plans… worth a look.
Personal loans from banks and other reputable loan companies are another payment option.
They typically have fixed rates and must be repaid within a certain amount of time in monthly installments.
You might be approved for a lower interest rate than your credit cards If you have good credit.
Some personal loans are unsecured but others are based on collateral, like a bank account or auto equity.
Read the fine print and watch for any fees, including origination fees and penalty fees for paying the loan early.
Beware of loan sharks!
OPTION #5 – SHOP AROUND
Small Town Vets
If you live in or near a big city, check the regional area for vets further away.
Clinics located in small towns are often more affordable than in city or suburban areas.
They can be a good alternative to pricier city practices.
You might find a great vet partner in caring for your cat.
Local Vet Clinics
Check with your vet’s office, local animal shelters, cat rescue groups, PetSmart Charities, or vet colleges for information on upcoming low or no-cost spay/neuter or general clinics.
Look on their social media pages and websites for details. Appointments are sometimes, but not always, necessary.
SpayUSA® (North Shore Animal League America) – “North Shore Animal League America’s SpayUSA® is a nationwide referral network for affordable spay and neuter services.”
3SpayUSA® (North Shore Animal League America) (search your zip code, halfway down the page, for clinics near you)
These are available to those who truly need them, and sometimes you must show evidence of financial need.
If in doubt check with those in charge.
You can find a downloadable printable list of colleges at “Accredited Veterinary Colleges”.
Instead of automatically buying medications from your vet, get a prescription and shop around.
You can compare your vet’s prices to those online or at local stores.
Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples and getting the correct medication!
Buy meds online from a reputable company.
A few such companies are PetCareRx®, GoodRX and 1-800-PetMeds®… check for discounts and specials.
Check with the pharmacy at your local grocery store, Walmart, or other discount chain.
You might be able to get generic pet medicines at very low cost.
AAA in some states also offers discounts on pet prescriptions.
OPTION #6 – FUNDRAISING
Friends & Family
Sometimes in times of crisis, your family and friends may be willing to help you, especially if you have no other payment options and it’s a life-or-death situation for your kitty.
Asking for help financially from your inner circle may be difficult and not well received.
Their willingness may be based on how responsible you’ve been in your care and planning, especially with money.
Don’t expect others to pay your vet bills when you’ve been financially irresponsible.
Live within your means and others will be more inclined to help when you need it.
Think carefully before choosing this payment option.
You know your relationships best and whether it will cause problems to ask for help.
Crowdfunding is a way of bringing together people who need help and those who want to help through social media and the internet.
The following sources are specifically for animal-related fundraising…
- Gofundme™ – “Discover Animals Fundraisers“
- Plumfund.com – “Animal Crowdfunding”
- Chuffed.org – “The Ultimate Crowdfunding Guide For Animal Rescue Groups” (for individuals as well as groups)
- Magic Bullet Fund – After your application is accepted, they raise funds for cancer treatments
- Waggle– “The only pet-dedicated crowdfunding platform that partners directly with veterinary providers”
This is a good payment option for emergency surgery, life-or-death or chronic care situations.
OPTION #7 – CHARITIES
Contact specific charities that help people going through a rough patch and have unexpected vet bills.
You might qualify for their help if you’re disabled, have lost your job, or are dealing with your own medical bills.
Be prepared to show proof of income or that you’ve tried other payment options first.
Find out more at “Help For Vet Bills – Find A Charity“.
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or financial advisor) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.
All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.
However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
“5 Easy Steps to Reduce Veterinary Expenses“, by Dr. Mike Paul, DVM, Pet Health Network, December 21, 2014
“5 Ways to Cover Rising Veterinary Costs (mercola.com)“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, December 27, 2020
“5 Ways to Pay for Vet Costs“, by Sarah Wooten, DVM, PetMD, Updated November 03, 2020, Published: September 11, 2018
“7 Overpriced Veterinary Costs and How to Avoid Them“, by Deb Hipp, Debt.com, December 6, 2019
“8 Ways to Pay Down Veterinary Bills“, onemainfinancial.com
“9 ways to get cheap or free vet care for your pet“, MoneyTalks News, CBS News, September 9, 2016
“9 Ways to Pay for Emergency Veterinary Bills When You’re Broke” , FinanceBuzz
“10 Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2021″, ConsumersAdvocate.org
“10 Ways to Save Money on Veterinary Bills (Without Compromising Your Pet’s Health) – MoneyPantry“, by Lauren Todd – Last Updated November 8, 2018
“13 Costs of Owning a Cat“, by Rivan V. Stinson, October 29, 2020
“13 Ways to Save Money on Veterinary Bills“, by Erin Huffstetler, The Spruce Pets, Updated January 31, 2020
ASPCA – “ASPCA Announces Major Commitment to Help Vulnerable Animals and Low-Income Pet Owners”, ASPCA.com, June 18, 2019
“Boil and Simmer”, video by Jackson Galaxy, YouTube
“Cat Daddy Dictionary: Boil and Simmer”, by Jackson Galaxy, Total Cat Mojo, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, NY, pp. 88-89
“Cost of Veterinary Care“, updated September 6, 2017
“The Costs of Responsible Cat Ownership“, by Franny Syufy, The Spruce Pets, Updated 01/05/20
“Cutting Pet Care Costs“, ASPCA
“Financial assistance for veterinary care costs“, American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org)
“How to Keep Your Veterinary Bills Down“, by Deborah Schoch, AARP, February 7, 2020
“How to Lower Your Veterinarian Bills for an Older Pet“, aarp.org, by Deborah Schoch, AARP, February 7, 2020
“How much does a vet visit cost?“, by Andy Bowen, Leslie Brooks, DVM, BetterPet.com, Updated May 4, 2021
“How Much Should You Spend to Save a Sick Pet?“, aarp.org, by Renee Bacher, AARP Bulletin, February 28, 2017
“Is It Your Vet’s Job to Keep the Cost of Care Down?“, by DR. ANDY ROARK DVM, MS, VetStreet, JULY 11, 2013
“Is Paying Your Vet Bills a Problem? Here’s How to Find Help”, by Stacey Freed, Daily Paws, Updated May 18, 2021
“Pet Ownership Costs Guide for 2021“, kyleedulabs – Contributing Writer, The Simple Dollar, Last Updated: June 10, 2020
“Simple Ways to Reduce the Cost of Keeping Pets“, aarp.org
“Tips on How to Pay for Vet Bills“, AskVet
“Top 7 Best Pet Insurance Wellness Plans for Preventative Health in 2020” (insuranceblogbychris.com), by Chris Huntley, January 27, 2021
“Vet Bill Help: 20+ Organizations That Help You Pay Veterinary Care Bills“, MoneyPantry, by Lauren Todd – Last Updated January 20, 2017
What to Do If You’re Hit With a Huge Vet Bill | Credit Karma, Credit Karma Staff, updated November 15, 2020
“When you can’t pay your vet bills | Animal Wellness Magazine“, by Karen Elizabeth Baril -May 13, 2021
Updated November 15, 2023