As grocery costs, bills, and fuel prices continue to soar, some people find that they can no longer justify spending money on a pet, and particularly on vet costs. In 2021 alone, the RSPCA took 3,644 calls from desperate pet owners who needed help paying their vet bills.
With the cost of living crisis set to put more pressure on household budgets, the charity expects this number to increase significantly this year.
What to do if I can't afford to take my cat to the vet
If you need to take your cat to the vet but can't afford it, you should first speak to your local vet. While it's not always easy to talk about money, try to be as honest as possible with your vet about what you can afford, as they may be able to come up with some alternative options depending on the reason for your visit. Some vets provide their services at a reduced cost. There may also be a not-for-profit clinic in your area that you can take your cat to for veterinary treatment. Your vet should be able to advise on the most affordable way to help your cat, but if unable to, there are other options to consider depending on your circumstance and location.
Don’t be tempted to treat your cat with home remedies if you’re worried about money or get anyone without a vet’s qualification to treat them. Many human medications and products can harm cats and cause serious complications. Here are a few other options to consider:
- Switch to a different vet or get a second opinion
- Consider using a credit-based payment plan
- Get pet insurance
Whatever you do, don't ignore your pet's health problem.
Are there charities that can help?
Some animal charities will provide assistance to pet owners struggling to pay vet bills by contributing towards some of the payment or offering reduced treatment costs through their clinics. Find out whether these charities offer help in your area by visiting their websites.
PDSA offers free and low-cost vet care
The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) offers low-cost and sometimes even free vet care, including treatments and medications, to sick and injured cats whose owners are in need. Depending on where you live and the benefits you receive, you may qualify for free help. However, it's important to note that only one pet per household will be eligible for free help from PDSA. But if you have other animals, they may qualify for services at a reduced cost if you live within the catchment area of a PDSA hospital.
RSPCA may provide financial assistance
While the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) mainly focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating animals, some branches occasionally offer welfare assistance to cat owners who can prove financial hardship or are in receipt of at least one state benefit.
Cats Protection help with vet fees
The charity Cats Protection offers financial assistance to cash-strapped cat owners who want to neuter or spay their cats.
Blue Cross can help reduce the cost of vet care
Blue Cross is a pet charity that provides free treatment in certain locations within the UK. However, it does ask cat owners for a voluntary donation, and they need to live in the catchment area of its pet care clinics and hospitals. To be eligible for free treatment, you’ll need to receive income support, universal credit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit or the income-related employment and support allowance benefit. You may qualify for vet care at a reduced price if you receive any other type of benefit.
How to get medication at a cheaper cost
The costs of medication for a cat can vary considerably, so it's worth seeing if your vet will write a prescription for your cat that you can use elsewhere or purchase the medication online. It's often cheaper to get medication this way as pharmacies that buy large volumes of medications each time will typically offer lower prices than a vet practice. However, be warned that your vet may charge you a fee for writing the prescription, so ensure you work out which option costs less.
My cat needs surgery, and I can't afford it – what can I do?
Again, it's a good idea to speak to your vet to find out if any alternatives to surgery are just as effective or to get a second opinion. Several animal charities may be able to help you cover the cost of your cat's treatment, such as Cats Protection, the RSPCA and the Blue Cross, which provide financial assistance with veterinary procedures or bills.
Making the difficult decision to give up your pet
While giving up your beloved cat is undoubtedly distressing and heartbreaking, sometimes it might be the right thing to do. It will allow your cat to find a happy and loving home that can cover all its veterinary care. If you decide that this is something you must do, contact your local rescue centre or animal charity which is experienced in matching pets with the right owners. If you’ve only recently got your cat, you might be able to return it to the person who sold it to you. While giving up a pet is devastating, just remember that you are doing it for the welfare of your cat.