Greetings worried cat lovers! Skye Blake here, with info I’ve sniffed out on how to pay your vet bills.
Many people are shocked at their bill after a trip to the vet with a sick or injured cat.
Being prepared financially for both routine visits and potential emergencies will give you peace of mind when you need it most.
You can keep both your buddy and budget healthy for a long time. Yay!
Let’s start with what costs are involved with your cat’s vet care…
- Why Are Vet Bills So Expensive?
- Modern Veterinary Medicine
- What You’re Paying For
- Vet Care Includes
- Vet Care Doesn’t Include
- How Does a Vet Decide What Diagnostics or Treatment Options to Use?
- The Cat and Owner’s Situation Affects Fees
- The Diagnosis
- Your Views & Attitudes About Your Cat
- The Vet’s Responsibility for Your Cat
- Ask Questions About Diagnosis & Treatment
- What’s Next?
- Related Pages of Interest
- List of Sources
Why Are Vet Bills So Expensive?
Historically many animal diseases and injuries couldn’t be treated or people didn’t want to bother and the animal was put down.
That kept costs down.
Many people now treat their pets as family members and will go to extremes to save them, often requiring intensive care, expensive drugs, and hospitalization.
These costs add up.
You can easily be set back hundreds or thousands of dollars for anything from a shattered leg to dealing with cancer.
But if you plan ahead you can have control of the financial aspects of your cat’s care.
This will give you peace of mind in a difficult situation since you’ll already know what you can afford and how to pay those vet bills.
The good news is cats require less vet care overall than dogs.
And if you keep your cat indoors, the risk of sickness or injury is much less, which also lowers costs.
Modern Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary medicine has caught up with human medicine in technology and training…
… and the cost of diagnosing and treating diseases has gone up accordingly.
Modern vets go through the same years of intensive study that human doctors do, and sometimes even more.
One difference is that vets have many different species of animals to understand, while human doctors have one (and that’s hard enough to figure out!)
Specialists like vet orthopedists, cardiologists, and oncologists have even more years of study and the costs are comparable.
A good example is cancer treatments.
You’ll most likely begin with surgery, which can cost about $500 for simple removal of a tumor.
If it’s a more complex situation, you could be referred to an oncologist for treatment.
Chemotherapy goes from $200-$2000+, depending on length of treatment.
Radiation treatment can cost $1000-$4000 or more.
What You’re Paying For
Many people don’t understand what they’re paying for when going to the vet.
Even though vets are devoted to caring for animals, they can’t do it for free.
As with any other service, it’s a business and has many associated costs.
Costs to Run a Veterinary Office
Here are a few examples of what it costs to run a veterinary office.
These are reflected in the fees charged for any service.
- cost of diagnostic equipment & supplies (x-ray, MRI, microscopes, etc.)
- drugs (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, chemotherapy, etc.)
- medical tools & supplies (syringes, surgical tools, etc.)
- office supplies (computers, printers, paper, etc.)
- salaries for office and vet staff (techs, receptionists, others)
- at least 8 years of veterinary school and years of experience and expertise
- training and experience of medical technicians, specialists and other staff
- overhead (rent, utilities, etc.)
Vet Fees You Pay
A helpful article detailing fees charged is “How much does a vet visit cost?“, certainly worth a look.
Use this information as a start and talk to your vet’s office staff about fees for regular office visits, vaccines, and other routine items.
These can vary from city to country, regular clinic to emergency hospital.
Vet Care Includes
When planning your feline finances, it’s important to distinguish between routine vet care and emergencies, since you’ll plan for them differently.
Routine care is predictable, emergencies are not.
Routine Veterinarian Care
Here are examples of routine care…
- annual or semi-annual checkups
- flea & tick prevention treatment
- heartworm treatment
- ear cleaning
- dental cleaning
- blood tests
- spaying females, neutering males
- euthanasia (end of life)
Injury & Chronic Illness Care
Non-life-threatening injuries and chronic illness care includes diagnosis and treatment, such as…
- bite wounds
- broken bones
- injured eyes
- skin conditions
True life-and-death emergencies usually involve injury or sudden illness with difficulty breathing, blood loss, unresponsiveness, or inability to pee.
These can happen either during or after office hours.
After hours care or emergency hospital care is usually more expensive.
It’s for these situations that you prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Vet Care Doesn’t Include
There are costs involved with caring for your cat that are not part of typical veterinarian care.
While some are done in conjunction with your vet’s recommendation, they’re basic care that you’re responsible to provide.
Some are one-time expenses, others are recurring and will add up.
Non-Veterinary Pet Owner Expenses
- adoption fees
- cat trees
- supplements (if needed)
- grooming supplies (flea comb, tick remover, brushes)
- litter boxes and litter
- heartworm, flea & tick prevention treatments (if not done by your vet)
- catio or cat fence
How Does a Vet Decide What Diagnostics or Treatment Options to Use?
Tests & Diagnostics
Deciding what tests and diagnostic equipment to use is done based on the symptoms that are presented when the vet talks to you and examines your cat.
Once a diagnosis is made, there are five factors involved in determining any course of treatment that must be discussed honestly and openly with your vet.
- The particular situation of you and your cat
- The particular diagnosis
- Your views and attitudes about cat care
- The vet’s responsibility for the care of the cat
The Cat and Owner’s Situation Affects Fees
Your vet will probably ask questions like…
- Is the cat part of a multi-cat household or the only one?
- Do you, the owner, have any medical experience?
- Do you have the time to care for an injured or sick cat?
- Are you comfortable giving pills, injections, putting on eye salve, etc.?
- Will the cat cooperate with taking pills, liquid meds, injections, bandage changes, etc.?
Be honest about your ability to care for your cat at home, money concerns, time available, etc.
This will enable your vet to tell you treatment options that will work best for you.
The vet should discuss with you all treatment options for a particular diagnosis, from least to most aggressive, including the side effects, possible outcomes, and costs.
Vets often offer less costly options when they can, but are well within their rights to ask for deposit money, especially for expensive treatments.
Do you expect to take your groceries home and pay for them later?
Your Views & Attitudes About Your Cat
There are a wide variety of ways people view their cats.
To some they’re barn cats, working as mousers and earning their keep.
They live outside but are provided with shelter in a barn or other outbuildings.
To others, their cats are part of the family and live inside or are indoor/outdoor.
They have food, lots of attention, and places to play and sleep.
A good vet doesn’t judge people as either good or bad based on their attitude, since everyone’s situation is different and there are so many views of cat care.
If you’re responsible enough to bring your cat to the vet, you’re doing something right.
The Vet’s Responsibility for Your Cat
Veterinarians have a responsibility to take the best possible care of your cat.
To do this, they must consider all possible treatments for a specific diagnosis and present them to you to consider.
The most aggressive and/or expensive treatments aren’t necessarily the best for your particular situation.
As your partner in your cat’s care, the vet will consider what will keep your cat healthy in the long run as well as the current situation.
Unless you’re dealing with a life-or-death emergency, you should be allowed to think about it, review your finances, and make a rational decision, even if you want to make another appointment to come back.
Ask Questions About Diagnosis & Treatment
Ask questions! Keep asking until you’re satisfied with the answers.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask what certain terms mean and for an understandable explanation.
Here are a few good questions to ask…
- Why do you want an x-ray, MRI, blood test, or other diagnostic test?
- How accurate are these tests?
- Which disease or injury are you most concerned about in this case?
- Is it treatable and if so, what options are there?
- What is the likely outcome with and without the treatment?
- Are there cheaper alternatives to the recommended treatment?
Diagnosing Nutritional Deficiencies
In the case of possible nutritional deficiencies, sometimes tests are recommended that are questionable because they aren’t always accurate.
Determining nutritional deficiencies can’t be done by one or two tests.
Tests often used are…
- Allergy blood and saliva tests
- Nutrition response tests
- Nutritional blood tests
- Genetic tests
Ask the same questions as above before agreeing to specialized nutritional tests.
You may also want to get a second opinion.
For major surgeries or other procedures, get a second opinion and check on costs at various vet offices.
Be sure you’re getting quotes for the exact procedures and care at each office.
Now that you have a better understanding of what vet charges are all about, let’s find out how to handle paying the bills at “Payment Options For Vet Bills – Discover Yours!” and “Help For Vet Bills – Find a Charity“.
Related Pages of Interest
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
“9 ways to get cheap or free vet care for your pet“, MoneyTalks News, CBS News, September 9, 2016
“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
“Cost of Cat Cancer Treatment“, CostHelper Pets & Pet Care
“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
“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”, Daily Paws, by Stacey Freed, Updated May 18, 2021
“No Cost Pet Euthanasia : Tips To Save Money When Euthanizing A Pet (funeraldirect.co)“, Armani, March 14, 2018
“Pet Ownership Costs Guide for 2021“, kyleedulabs – Contributing Writer, The Simple Dollar, Last Updated: June 10, 2020
“Tips on How to Pay for Vet Bills“, AskVet
“Tripawds ASAP Fund Helps Pay for Amputation Surgery“, December 7, 2016 by Tripawds Foundation
“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 July 6, 2022