Written by Mary Anne Miller
This question comes up in many internet forums daily. A member will post a series of complaints about their cat, some of them heart-wrenching, and then follow up the list of symptoms with, "But I can't afford a vet, so what do I do?"
When you share your life with a cat, or any animal, you assume the responsibility of that animal. Vet care is not a luxury; vet care is a necessity, and at times an emergency. The animal should not be denied veterinary care because you can’t afford it. A small health issue handled right away will prevent a larger health issue that will develop later.
Maintaining good, quality care for your cat will help. Making sure that he/she is eating quality foods, and that he/she has been vaccinated against all known diseases is a great way to prevent health issues from occurring. Flea treating your cat safely goes a long way in helping a cat remain healthy. Not medicating your cat unwisely with over the counter products, and ignoring any “miracle cure” you read about on the Internet will help safeguard your pet.
There are ways in which you can work with vets, but you shouldn’t carry the attitude into their clinic, that just because vets work and care for animals, they should foot the bill for your cat all by themselves. That is hardly fair to your vet, and the people who work under them.
Familiarize yourself with your vet’s office policies. Do they accept payment plans? Post-dated checks? Can you swap labor for vet bills? I know one gal that worked half the summer putting up a horse fence for her vet, while her vet cared for her sick mare. Get creative if you have to, some vets are willing to horse-trade. It doesn't hurt to ask, they can always say no. In the olden days, that’s how people worked with veterinarians by trading items of value, for services of value.
Is there a humane society near you? Give them a call and ask them if they have a low-cost vet available? Talk to Cat Rescue groups in your area and see if they will swap time spent to help them, if they will help you. Sell items of value. Turn off your computer, disconnect from the Internet and use the money to obtain care.
There are groups out there that will help you. One of the most effective groups is www.imom.org Established in 1998, they screen their applicants carefully but they can help you out if you qualify.
The Humane Society of the United States has a good webpage to refer to if you cannot afford veterinary care.
Editor's note: a recommended financing option that often comes up on our forums is: http://www.carecredit.com/vetmed/.
You should also investigate the Pet Insurance Companies and see if you can find an adequate policy for your cat before the cat falls ill. Another option is to talk to the office manager at your vet clinic first, but start overpaying your vet bills before you pet falls gravely ill. That way you have a reserve of cash available and you can't get to it, except to use it for what it was meant for, the well-being of your pet.
Visit the Cat Health section in Meowhoo.com. You will find a myriad of websites that pertain to good health care and it would benefit you to know about what is going on with your cat and what you need to do in order to nurse her back to health. It also will help you to know what questions to ask your vet.
If you live close to a vet school, that is another opportunity available for you. Getting a second vet's opinion is also a way to go. The second vet might be a bit less expensive than the first. Look into Internet vets that do phone consults. You need a credit card, but you can obtain some vital help in a dire situation. Of course the best way is to have a vet look at your cat, and diagnose the problem, offer solutions. Don’t bother the vet with questions about how you are going to pay for it, that’s why he hires an office staff. Find the office manager and sit down calmly and find out your options.
Another means to consider is to stop unnecessary spending for awhile. I am not saying deprive yourself permanently of perks or pleasures, but if you would for example, quit smoking or cut down, stop drinking soda pop, don’t go out to fast food places or restaurants, or rent videos, or go to movies for a few months and put that amount into a special pet fund, think of how far ahead of the game you would be. Not buying that new pair of shoes, that you don't really need but you want and just exercising caution when spending would help immensely to give you a nest egg that you can fall back on.
There are ways to handle a large vet bill. Please don't expect to land in internet forums and be handed a miracle cure, or the money to pay for one. The forums here on TCS are all about the welfare of cats, but we also promote responsible pet ownership . Learn how to be a responsible pet owner and then this problem will never confront you.
Mary Anne Miller is a free-lance writer, and member of the Cat Writers' Association. She is a web copy writer, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne at her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.
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