Affordable vet care: Creative strategies for cat lovers

japheth-mast-Ga6z9QD8yvw-unsplash Affordable vet care: Creative strategies for cat lovers cat care affordable cat care

What do you do when staring down “yikes!” vet bills? Or when no vets are available for days except the ultra-expensive, wait-forever emergency clinic?

Whether it’s as minor as catio bee sting or as terrifying as a life-threatening diagnosis, I’ve been there. When you dearly love your little furry friend, these situations are worrying enough without adding financial fears.

But all is not lost! Let me share some of the best ideas I’ve found for dealing with these scenarios.

Finding affordable vet care

We fall in love with and adopt cats at all stages of our financial journey. So when our cat has a health problem our bank account just can’t afford, what do we do? We can either ask for help or find more affordable care––or both. Here are some ideas.

7 resources for help with unexpected vet bills

  1. Diabetic Cats in Need offers financial aid for insulin (and can even help find new homes for cats with diabetes).
  2. Paws 4 A Cure helps cats and dogs regardless of breed, age, or diagnosis. You might qualify for assistance with vet bills.
  3. Best Friends provides state-specific lists of places that offer financial assistance and services for pet guardians.
  4. You could use Go Fund Me to invite friends on social media to contribute to your kitty’s vet costs. Be sure to include a sweet photo and say how much your furry family member means to you.
  5. Some clinics have a fund held in reserve to help pet guardians in need of financial assistance. Ask your veterinarian if they have something like this.
  6. Ask your clinic about financing options like payment plans, deferred payments,  and credit plans that are available for your pet’s care. 
  7. Local rescue groups and shelters may also have funds set up to help with veterinary care for families in their community. It’s worth asking.

4 ways to find low-cost vet clinics near you (in the US)

  • Check out local veterinary colleges. Some operate low-cost clinics for clients on a tight budget.
  • To look for financially friendly veterinary services, visit Pet Help Finder and click Veterinary Services. NOTE: You may need to dig to find a gem in your area! Many of the results listed offer special programs, such as free spay/neuter services, rather than affordable care for all conditions.
  • Look for community or shelter clinics in your area and see if they offer discounted services for what you need.
  • See if you can find a veterinarian in a less-expensive nearby town. If your cat isn’t car-phobic, it could be worth the drive. 

When you need veterinary advice NOW (but can’t access or afford a vet)

One Friday evening our kitten was stung by a bee on our catio. While she seemed ok, we weren’t sure if there was something we should do to prevent a reaction. No clinics were available/open for days. We weren’t sure warranted a late night at the emergency clinic, where she’d be last in line.

Google searches are rarely helpful in these moments! You’ll find every possible answer, and they will all conflict. Instead, if you’re in the USA or Canada, you could do what we did and try a service like Airvet. (I am not an Airvet sponsor or affiliate, just a customer!) For $49*, we got an on-demand video consult. The vet helped us make a plan for how long to keep an eye on her and what to watch out for and told us exactly how much Benadryl (for her weight) we could give to help prevent a reaction.

Airvet is helpful for those “I’m not sure how concerned I should be or what the next step is” moments. It’s definitely cheaper and faster than going to a pet emergency clinic when you’re not in an immediate life-or-death situation.

*This price may have gone up, but there is also now a membership option where consults cost less.

Saving on pet insurance (an alternative to pet insurance!)

Wouldn’t it be nice to have money on hand for these little and big cat emergencies—or even for the checkups? Well, in theory, pet insurance would be good for this, but not only is it pricey, it’s hard to be sure what kind of reimbursement you’ll actually receive,

But how about this! One couple who didn’t want to worry about unexpected vet bills or buy questionable insurance set up a savings account specifically for their cat! They said, “We started to put 20 bucks a week in an account automatically. We used this money for his regular checkups and emergencies. It was one of the best things we ever did.” Even if you only put in $20 a MONTH, you’ll still have a nice little sum on hand for kitty care.

As a vet student put it: “If I buy pet insurance, the money is gone. It may or may not be reimbursed substantially in an emergency. If I set it aside, it’s there until it’s needed. I can then use all the money to pay my vet instead of gambling on an insurance company.”

Smart, right? I hope some of these ideas help your little furry bundles of love get the care they need!

Let’s help each other! If you have any insights or tips about any of the above, please share them in the comments.

Love to hear your thoughtful thoughts! Leave a reply...


  1. This is such a creative strategy for cat lovers! 😺 I love how it brings together our passion for cats in such an engaging way. Your ideas are not only fun but also a great way to connect with fellow cat enthusiasts. Keep up the great work and keep those creative strategies coming! 🐾👏

    1. That’s another potentially helpful tip, thank you, Michelle. I’m listing their fees below if anyone is interested. While they aren’t dirt cheap and can’t get back to you immediately, with available vets being more scarce these days, this could be a useful option.
      General Consultations
      FHC Member – $44
      Non-Member – $55
      Cardiology Consultations – $75
      Oncology (Cancer) Consultations – $75
      Behavior Consultations – $115

  2. Chewy offers free text or video chat with a vet as long as you have at least one auto ship set up with them. I’ve used it and it is very professional.

  3. The timing of your article is interesting as we are currently considering insurance for our 7 yo. When we rescued all our cats they were young and healthy. We had no idea how prevalent disease is as they age, just like it is for humans. Once they’re considered seniors it is advised to get them check-ups w/ blood work twice a year. I agree with that. Their health can change rapidly in a very short time. Plus, they don’t show pain or let us know something is wrong until the disease process is well underway. They are very subtle creatures.

    Starting in 2017, our 11 yo Annabelle was diagnosed w/ kidney cancer and then GI lymphoma.

    In 2018, 12 yo Max was also diagnosed w/ GI lymphoma. He passed earlier than expected due to sudden cardiomyopathy.

    In 2020, it was 12 yo Meimei’s turn for GI Lymphoma. She later developed hyperthyroidism and shortly before she passed, began having seizures.

    2022 brought 14 yo Ursula Chronic Kidney Disease. Also in 2022, we took in my mother-in-laws two 14 yo cats. Simon came w/ diabetes and Annabel was recently diagnosed w/ hyperthyroidism and we suspect she is in early stage CKD.

    In addition, Meimei, Ursula and Annabel have needed dentals to remove teeth.

    My vet reassures me these diseases are extremely common for aging felines, it’s not that I’m somehow doing something wrong and making them sick. We have spent THOUSANDS caring for them until it was time to let them pass. We are not wealthy, we are on fixed incomes so these expenses require sacrifices but this was the commitment we made to them when we rescued them. Which is why we’re now considering insurance for Sumi.

    The idea of saving money monthly is a good one but $20 is not enough, especially if you have multiple cats. At at least $50 per cat is more realistic. You do not want to lose a beloved companion due to lack of funds i.e. economic euthanasia. Having to let them go is agonizing enough.

    1. My heart goes out to you, Lisa—all those ailments are painfully common, it’s true. And it’s so awful the way they can show up suddenly. I’m not sure if anyone offers discounts for pet insurance for families with MANY pets, but if they did, I could see how that might actually make it worth the investment.

  4. HomeAgain, the “pet recovery” (microchip) service, charges an annual subscription fee of $24.99 (as of July 2023). Included in the cost is free access to a 24/7/365 Medical Hotline “staffed with licensed veterinarians.” They claim it’s an $85 per-call value. I have no personal experience (nor affiliation) with the service, just putting it out there as another possible source of low cost help that might be worth investigating.

    1. Cat, that’s really interesting! Thanks for sharing this! I will be looking into it because that would be a great inexpensive resource.