All of us who own a cat know what a joy they can be. Unfortunately, some of us are also all too painfully aware of what a drain on our finances a sick one can be. Of course, there are certain things we can do to mitigate the chances of them becoming ill in the first place- balanced nutrition, regular checkups, and plenty of exercise being just a few of them. But there are only so many things you can guard against, and no matter how much attention we pay to their diet and their weight, sometimes illness just happens… and when it does, you’d better be prepared.
The Cost of Ownership
Inviting a cat into your life doesn’t just mean you get a cute companion to snuggle up to on dark, cold nights. Cats are a responsibility, and if you choose to bring one into your home, then guess who that responsibility falls to? In addition to keeping their tummies full, their coats sleek, and their minds stimulated, the responsibility of ownership extends to making sure you’re prepared (and ready) for the cost of treatment if the worst happens. For most owners, coughing up for veterinary treatment isn’t an issue (in principle, at least). As a recent survey by Royal Canin highlighted, most people are willing to part with the big bucks if it means getting their kitties fighting fit. According to the survey, 41.8% of cat owners with an annual household income of $75000 or less would be prepared to part with $3000 if their cat needs medical surgery. 29% of those with a household income of $100,000 would be willing to part with 10% of that under the same circumstances, while 44.6% of cat owners with an annual household income of $35000 of under would be prepared to spend up to a $1000.
But how far will this kind of money actually take you? We all know a trip to the vet rarely does anything good to our bank accounts, but what kind of damage are we really talking? A quick glance at some of the average costs for veterinary care (we got our info from Docshop) although prices do vary depending on region) tells us all we need to know. If your cat needs some lab work done, expect to pay $5 for basic testing and up to several hundred dollars for intensive testing. A radiography will set up back between $100-$200, while an MRI will cost you in the region of $2500 per scan. Ultrasounds are typically in the region of $50 to $500 while an endoscopy will cost you anything between $800 to $2000. Expect microchipping to cost around $50, and an ECG to cost around $25 to $100. When it comes to medication, there’s obviously going to be a degree of divergence based on type, dosage and prescription length, but generally, expect to pay around $30-$200 per month. So, seeing as a sick cat is clearly an expensive cat (and given that most of us want to avoid unnecessarily high bills without sacrificing our pet’s health in the process) what exactly can we do to bring these costs into more manageable echelons?
In Sickness and In Health
First of all, we can listen to Royal Canin’s veterinarian spokeswoman, Dr. Natalie Marks, who clearly knows a thing or two about both feline health and veterinary charges. “More often than not, people don’t bring their cat to the vet until the cat is visibly ill,” she told The Motley Fool. “Cats are stoic animals, so when they show signs of illness or pain, they are really hurting. This is why it’s so important to take your cat to the vet on a regular basis. Otherwise, cat owners may end up spending significantly more time getting their cat back to better health.” So, there you have the first step. Pay close attention to your cat, and don’t be tempted to wait it out to see if they get better. As soon as they start to show signs of distress, get them to a vet quick smart. The longer you wait, the higher the costs are likely to rise.
The next step: budget for the unexpected. Even before you bring your cat home for the first time, make sure you’ve properly considered how you’ll manage if they get sick, and have a contingency plan in place in the event they do. The last thing you want is for your furry friend to get ill and find yourself in a position where you can’t do anything about it. Not only are the consequences devastating for your poor cat, but they’ll also be incredibly hard for you to bear- there’s nothing quite like being helpless in the sight of an animal suffering to bring home the realities of your poorly managed finances. If you want to avoid being stuck with a medical bill you can’t pay, consider either setting aside a fixed amount of your paycheck every month or getting some form of pet health insurance in place instead. If you decide to opt for insurance, just make sure to read the small print. Some insurance providers won’t provide cover for pre-existing conditions (or will apply a premium if they do), while others may not offer the kind of fully comprehensive plan you need. Even more importantly, check that your regular vet accepts the policy for payments – there’s nothing quite like paying several thousand dollars into a plan only to find its worthless at the last minute.
So, there you have it. Pets may bring sunshine and happiness into our lives, but owning one isn’t just about enjoying the good times. Fortunately, with a little forethought and a dash of financial savvy, you can make sure those good times are never overshadowed by the sting of an unexpected vets bill.