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A vet visit with your cat can come with an expensive price tag. The exact costs of a trip to see the veterinarian vary based on the services and procedures your cat needs.
If you want your cat to live a long and healthy life, it’s not a good idea to skip regular vet visits. One way to save on costs is to purchase pet insurance. If you forgo pet insurance, paying out of pocket can make a dent in your wallet.
How much does a routine vet visit cost for a cat?
Routine vet visits are an essential part of keeping your cat healthy for years to come. At a basic vet visit, you can expect the vet to administer routine shots and examine your pet for any abnormalities.
Without pet insurance, the cost of a routine checkup for your cat can range from $50 to $250. The ASPCA estimates cat owners pay an average of $160 each year for routine medical costs, including an annual visit.
Keep in Mind
The final cost of your cat’s visit to the vet will vary based on the exam’s outcome. In some cases, the vet may recommend additional services or procedures to help your cat stay healthy, which can end up costing more than the initial estimate.
Common veterinary costs for a cat
Even a perfectly healthy pet should see a vet on a regular basis. Each time you take your cat in, the vet can check for potential health issues your feline is dealing with.
The exact cost of your vet bills will vary, but one of the most basic veterinary costs is your cat’s vaccinations. In general, vaccinations range in price from $60 to $100. Since your cat might need multiple vaccines each visit, this could add up quickly.
On the other end of the spectrum, teeth cleaning can be a necessary procedure for your cat. A teeth cleaning can range from $300 to $500, on average.
The table below highlights common veterinary costs for a cat, according to CareCredit.
Procedure or Care
Cost Without Insurance
Fecal parasite test
Preventative medication, flea/tick and heartworm
Ear infection treatment
Unexpected emergency veterinary costs for a cat
If your cat is injured or develops an illness, you might decide on an emergency visit to the vet. An unexpected visit is often much more expensive than a routine wellness exam.
For example, simply heading to the ER for an exam costs an average of $100 to $200. But if your cat needs emergency surgery, you could easily face thousands of dollars in vet bills.
The table below outlines the costs of an unexpected emergency vet visit for owners without pet insurance.
Cost Without Insurance
$600–$1,700 (1–2 days)
$1,500–$3,500 (3–5 days)
Blood work: $80–$200
Urine tests: $40–$70
IV catheter: $60–$75
IV fluids: $60–$95 per bag
Urinary tract obstruction: $1,500–$3,000+
Intestinal obstruction: $3,000–$4,000+
Heat stroke: $1,500–$6,000+
Uterine infection: $1,000–$3,000+
Hit by a car: $250–$8,000+
How to save money on vet bills with pet insurance
If an unexpected vet bill could derail your financial situation, pet insurance offers a way to safeguard your budget. As with other types of insurance, pet insurance involves paying a premium. In exchange for this premium, you can file claims for covered vet care.
Most pet insurance policies require you to pay the vet bill up front. But if your claim is approved, the pet insurance company will send you a check for the covered amount. The policy will only cover a set percentage of care. In most cases, this means you’ll still pay for a portion of the vet bill.
Pet insurance is generally divided into three different types of policies:
Accident and illness
Accident and illness coverage is designed to help pet owners pay for major events, like an infection or broken bone. In general, this type of policy doesn’t include coverage for routine care, dental care, or pre-existing conditions.
Accident-only pet insurance narrows the covered conditions to exclude illnesses of all kinds. Instead, this type of insurance policy only steps in to help you pay for vet visits related to accidents.
Some covered emergency care might include bite wounds, cuts, and foreign body ingestion. But the additional costs of veterinary care can add up quickly.
Pet insurance policies that include a wellness component can help you pay for a routine checkup. Some covered services might include preventative care, a physical exam, and vaccines.
If you’re looking for help with expected vet bills, you might find what you’re looking for in a wellness plan.
What to do if you can’t afford vet bills
The costs of taking care of your cat can add up quickly, especially if your cat has an ongoing medical condition or needs an emergency visit. While the costs can feel overwhelming, the good news is that you can pursue several options to secure more affordable care costs, including:
Payment plans: Some vet offices offer payment plans to their clients to make the cost of care more affordable. Ask your vet if this is an option.
Low-cost clinics: Like every other service, some animal hospitals charge more than others. Consider shopping around to find the best price point.
Getting a second opinion: If your cat isn’t having a medical emergency, consider getting a second opinion about its health problem.
Setting up a savings plan: Consider setting up an automated savings plan to tuck away funds for future pet emergencies. For example, you could save $20 from your paycheck every week to keep in case of an emergency pet expense.
Vet visit cost FAQs
Taking care of your cat can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. It’s natural to have questions about veterinary bills — you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked ones below.
Why are veterinary costs increasing?
The cost of veterinary care has risen dramatically in the last five years. A big reason for the increase in costs is the inflationary pressure facing vets, who pass on the higher costs to pet owners. Also, the demand for pet care has risen, which increases costs further.
What is the average cost of a cat vet visit without insurance?
The average cost of a vet visit for a cat ranges between $50 and $250 without insurance. Additional services and procedures could push your vet bill higher. But if you pay for insurance, this cost could be lower.
What can you do to save money on vet costs?
Taking preventative measures is a key way to protect the health of your cat and your wallet. For example, getting your cat’s core vaccines and providing regular preventative medicine can help your cat avoid picking up an avoidable illness. Also, keeping your cat inside can help prevent emergency room visits due to accidents.
How much does an emergency vet visit cost without insurance?
Without insurance, an emergency room exam can cost between $100 and $200. However, the diagnosis and subsequent care needs can push an emergency vet visit into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Without pet insurance, you’ll be on the hook for the entire bill.
Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys helping people make savvy financial decisions. She covered insurance and personal finance topics. You can find her work on Business Insider, Money Under 30, Rocket Mortgage, Bankrate, and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn.