Veterinary care for a cat isn’t cheap, and the exact cost of a visit will vary depending on many factors, including whether you take your cat to the vet for a routine checkup or a serious health issue. Pet insurance may help defray the cost of vet visits resulting from accidents or injuries.
Forgoing veterinary care isn’t an option — you want your cat to live a long and healthy life. Here's a look at common vet costs you might pay out of pocket without pet insurance.
How much does a vet visit cost for a cat without pet insurance?
Your cat may need to visit the vet for a variety of reasons, each costing different amounts. Here's a look at some routine veterinary and emergency costs you could end up paying.
Routine veterinary costs for a cat without pet insurance
Taking your cat to a veterinarian for preventative care can help keep your pet healthy and protected against long-term medical conditions. Depending on your cat’s condition, you may need to pay some of or all the following routine costs to keep them healthy.
|Fecal parasite test||$20-$50|
|Preventative medication - flea/tick and heartworm||$140-$185|
|Ear infection treatment||$150|
Your vet may want to perform additional diagnostic tests on your cat, including x-rays, ultrasounds, urine analyses, and more. Costs for such tests can vary depending on your provider, your location, and the age and overall health of your cat.
Emergency veterinary costs for a cat without pet insurance
Emergency visits to the vet are usually more expensive than routine visits, but are typically few and far between. If you need to bring your cat to the ER, hospitalize it overnight, or have surgery, you’re likely going to pay quite a bit out of pocket if you don’t have adequate pet insurance. Below are some of the costs you could expect for various emergency veterinary visits.
$600-$1,700 (1-2 days)
$1,500-$3,500 (3-5 days)
Keep in mind that emergency costs can vary widely depending on the specific care provider, the type of care required, length of the emergency vet stay, number of tests run, the size and age of your cat, and other factors.
See More: What Is Emergency Pet Insurance and What Does It Cover?
How often should you take your cat to the vet?
Kittens tend to need more frequent vet visits, especially early on. You should take a kitten to the vet every three to four weeks for the first 16 weeks for necessary vaccinations and other medical care. Follow your veterinarian's advice on follow-up care. Many kittens are spayed or neutered between six to 12 months of age.
Adult cats ages 1 to 10 should be taken to a veterinarian at least once annually for a comprehensive examination and updated vaccinations. Your vet will assess almost every aspect of your cat's appearance and health to look for potential concerns. They may also make recommendations based on your cat's condition.
For example, if your cat is overweight, your vet may suggest implementing dietary restrictions and switching food until the next exam. It's also important to plan regular dental checkups for your pet since 85% of cats over 6 years of age experience periodontal disease.
Special care may also be necessary if you have an indoor or outdoor cat. Outdoor cats face a high risk for some diseases and may require year-round heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. The number of annual vet visits depends on whether your cat has any ongoing medical conditions that require more frequent care by a veterinarian.
Senior cats are prone to more medical problems and may need visits to the vet every six months. Some vets may perform additional tests on senior cats, such as bloodwork and urinalysis, because of the increased risk for disease.
Check Out: 25 Cat-safe Houseplants: Non-toxic and Pet Friendly
How to budget for a veterinary visit
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates the annual cost of owning a cat to be around $1,149 between food, litter, grooming, routine and preventative medical care, and other expenses. Depending on your veterinary care provider, you could pay $300 or more each year for medical care for your cat.
Here are some ways you can save on veterinary costs.
Create a pet fund. Open a separate account or set aside funds each month specifically for pet expenses. Calculate how much money you need to save each year for your pet and divide it by 12 to get a monthly savings goal. Don't forget to plan for expenses beyond vet costs, like food, toys, treats, and shelter.
Don't skip preventative care. Vet costs may seem expensive, but they could be even more expensive down the road if you skip preventative care measures. Taking care of your cat now could save you thousands of dollars in emergency vet bills as it ages. Keep up on vaccines and other vet recommendations.
Take care of your pet. Follow your veterinarian's advice on diet, exercise, and other health matters to maintain your cat's health long-term.
Consider your cat's breed. Some cat breeds are more prone to developing particular health conditions. Choose a lower-maintenance breed to avoid more serious health issues.
Get pet insurance. Like most types of insurance, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. But it can help pay for accidental injuries, illnesses, and breed-specific conditions. You can also buy additional coverage that helps pay for routine care and preventative surgeries. To find a plan that works for your needs, compare pet insurance today.
See Also: Is Pet Wellness Insurance Worth It?
What to do if you can’t afford to take your cat to the vet
Veterinarian costs can be overwhelming, especially if your cat has an ongoing medical condition or requires emergency vet care. Consider the following tips if you're struggling to afford veterinary care for your cat.
Pet-proof your home. Cats are curious by nature and tend to get into things they shouldn't. Walk through your home and look for any potential hazards your cat could encounter, like harmful chemicals or electric cords. Opt for the pet-safe version of products whenever possible.
Consider low-cost clinics. Not all veterinary care is expensive. Low-cost vet clinics provide the same services for less than other vet offices. Look for low-cost vet clinics or schools in your area that provide animal care.
Ask about payment plans. Ask your veterinarian if they offer payment plans for regular customers. A payment plan can make vet costs more affordable by allowing you to pay them off over time.
Open a credit line for vet expenses. Companies like CareCredit offer veterinary financing to help pay off your pet’s medical expenses over time.
Consider buying pet insurance. While pet insurance isn't free, it can save pet owners considerably more on routine and emergency vet care. Shop around for a pet insurance plan with affordable premiums that aligns with your pet-care needs.
Veterinary visit FAQs
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about veterinary visits for your cat.
Why are veterinary costs going up?
Veterinarians aren't immune to the economic issues happening across the board in the U.S. Rising inflation, labor shortages, and increased expenses have caused many veterinarians to charge more for vet services.
What can you expect during a routine vet visit?
A routine vet checkup, or wellness exam, typically includes checking your cat’s weight, eyes, ears, teeth, paws, nails, coat and skin, and other physical attributes for possible issues. Your vet will also examine your cat’s body for any abnormalities, swelling, or signs of pain. A routine check may include necessary vaccinations and other preventative measures, such as blood work or a fecal exam.
How often does your cat need to be vaccinated?
The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) recommends that adult cats that received vaccines as a kitten be revaccinated every one to three years, depending on the animal and other factors. Check with your vet for specific vaccination recommendations and requirements.
What are the most common illnesses in cats?
Common diseases among cats include diabetes, heartworm, cancer, rabies, ringworm, upper respiratory infections, worms, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline leukemia virus (FelV).
Do indoor cats need regular vet visits?
Indoor cats may be at a lower risk of developing some diseases common to felines than outdoor cats, but they still have medical needs. Indoor cats require annual veterinary visits for exams, vaccinations, and preventative veterinary care.
- Care Credit. "Average Costs: Veterinary Care." Accessed December 15, 2022
- Preventive Vet. "Pet Emergency Statistics and Veterinary Costs." Accessed December 15, 2022
- Animal Medical Center of Chicago. "How Often Should I Take my Cat to the Veterinarian?." Accessed December 15, 2022
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Cutting Pet Care Costs." Accessed December 15, 2022
- Veterinary Centers of America. "Are Booster Vaccines Necessary for Cats?." Accessed December 15, 2022