Most of us don’t realize how expensive owning a cat’s going to be, in part because it’s changed so much in recent years.
Americans spend twice as much in the pet industry as they did in 2005.
Today, the average cat owner spends over $400 a year at their vet’s office alone. Costs go up drastically when you need to see specialists, receive advanced diagnoses, surgery, etc. for a serious condition.
Even the most responsible pet owners can find themselves overburdened with the unforeseen costs of vet bills.
Whether you’re saddled with a huge bill from an unexpected surgery or just trying to find less expensive options for managing your cat’s healthcare costs, you need to know your options. If you don’t, you’ll likely be paying more than you should be.
1. Talk to Your Vet — Self-Advocate
When pets are like family, you’ll go to great lengths for their care and safety. Which can also mean great expense.
If you’ve found yourself with a seemingly overwhelming vet bill, the first step is discussing payment options with your vet. Many vets will offer an installment plan based on their own discretion. But, many people are shy about initiating that conversation or don’t realize that their vet may be willing to negotiate that plan.
Veterinary financing is available because more often than not your vet wants to help you out. The key here is to express your needs while making your vet feel appreciated for the work and care they offer.
For returning clients, especially if you’ve already established a relationship, your vet’s even more likely to work with you. So don’t give up on this before even trying.
2. Credit Options for Your Vet Bills
When paying the full amount upfront isn’t an option or when seeking alternatives to paying vet bills out-of-pocket, many people rely on paying with credit.
If you don’t already have a credit card, carefully consider your credit options.
You’ll probably want to prioritize the card’s APR, among other factors. Many have a 0% APR introductory period and sign up bonuses.
There are also credit cards specifically dedicated to healthcare costs for both humans and animals. Both CareCredit and Citi Health Card can only be used for paying human and veterinary healthcare costs. This is helpful for someone who’s wary of being tempted towards impulse buys at the mall.
It’s often possible to apply and get approved for the card right at the vet’s office before paying for your pet’s procedure.
Both CareCredit and Citi Health Card offer interest-free periods of six or more months, depending on the vet. And it’s sometimes possible to get extended repayment options with interest rates starting as low as 15%.
But after low APR periods have ended, be careful. With these cards, standard APRs can rise above 25%, which is significantly higher than the average APR of 17.15% for all credit cards nationwide.
3. Personal Loan Options
For some, taking out a loan is more preferable than using a credit card.
The major difference between the two is that a loan is one lump sum and repaid over a fixed period of time. A credit card allows you to continue spending (within your credit limit) while making continual payments over time.
Approval for credit cards and personal loans are based on similar factors. These include your credit score, credit history, and income, among others. For those who have difficulty getting approved, there are other options, such as payday loans like those offered by Bonsai Finance.
Or you may be able to avoid borrowing money altogether or lessen the total amount if you meet certain criteria.
4. Consider Charitable Organizations
There are charitable organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. Search for organizations in your area to help with services ranging from flea to cancer treatment.
Many charities offer assistance based on the owner’s need. Examples of qualifying factors include people of low income, with disabilities, in retirement, on certain state benefits, etc.
Others offer assistance based on the needs of the animal. Such as senior animals, or animals with specific ailments like cancer or heart disease.
5. Reducing the Cost of Future Expenses
Now you’ll want to take steps to ensure you don’t find yourself saddled with unaffordable vet bills in the future.
First, shop around for service providers. There can be a large discrepancy between the costs of providers.
Visit a nearby veterinary college. There, your pet will be seen by a student, but examinations and procedures are overseen by an experienced veterinarian. This can be a great way to cut costs without sacrificing quality of care.
Check your area for nearby animal shelters and pop-up clinics that may offer free or low-cost services. Certain shelters and clinics offer affordable pet food programs, spaying and neutering, and even vaccinations for those in need.
You can also shop around for quality affordable medications, including prescription meds. Ask your vet for a written copy of the prescription your pet needs. You might find a better deal than your vet’s office is offering.
Preventative healthcare measures, such as establishing a monthly wellness plan, will likely save you considerably in the long-run.
Programs like these will typically consist of a monthly fee (as low as $30), for which you’ll get free vet visits and vaccinations. You’ll also get discounts on many other services.
Wellness plans also entail home care like monitoring your pet’s weight, offering a nutritious diet, and scheduling annual health exams with your vet.
You may also want to consider pet insurance and an emergency savings account for your pet.
Explore and Apply Useful Resources
Caring for your cat and paying your vet bills shouldn’t ever mean breaking the bank, and it doesn’t have to. Do your research and take advantage of the help that’s out there.
When you put in the time and make the most informed decisions, both you and the ones you care for stay happy and healthy. So keep it up. There’s always more you can learn from experts and other cat lovers alike in places like this.