Can You Afford A Cat?

We welcome Boots to our family, although I worry about whether I can afford another cat. Boots

As I’m typing, our newest family member is curled up in my lap. Boots came from my rescue’s shelter as a foster. That’s how most of my cats got here! Like many of the others, I brought him here because he was sick, and he wouldn’t get the care he needed (eye drops three times a day) in the shelter.

It took just a couple of days for me to realize that Boots was going to be yet another foster fail. He’s the sweetest, most loving little guy. He sleeps next to me stretched out on his back with his head on my shoulder. He follows me everywhere. And he sits on my lap and helps me type. He’s a great editor! Oh, and he gets along with the other cats. They love him, and he loves them.

So how could I return my new best friend to the shelter? I couldn’t. But part of me wonders if I made the right decision, not for me, but for him.

Can I Afford Another Cat?
Many years ago, while one of my cats and I were waiting to see the vet, I read an article in Veterinary Practice News about the “financial worthiness” of people who adopt cats and dogs. The author’s premise was that moderate and low income people should not bring animal companions into their homes because they couldn’t afford to care for them properly. I was incensed!

But I had to admit he had a point. Cats can be expensive, and living with one (or several) is not for the financially faint of heart.

Sizzle has heart disease, and his annual rechecks with the cardiologist cost about $700. Ginger hurt her foot a couple of months ago, and her vet bill was an astonishing $500. Boots has FIV, so I can’t take a wait and see approach if he gets sick. His precious little body doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight infection on its own, so if he gets sick, he’ll need immediate medical care. 

I live in fear of a multi-thousand dollar medical emergency. Will my Care Credit card and the other credit card I save for vet bills be enough? I can only pray that they will be because choosing euthanasia for a sick cat due to lack of funds would never even be a remote possibility for me.  

Cutting Costs, Not Corners
When an emergency strikes, there’s not much you can do to avoid a vet bill so high it sends you into sticker shock. But you can try to be prepared by investing in pet insurance, starting and maintaining a medical savings account for your cats or setting aside a credit card that you’ll use only for their health care.

There are ways to save money on cat care, too. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Seek out low-cost wellness clinics for your cats’ annual exams. You don’t need to spend $100 or more per cat for your regular vet to check their weight, listen to their hearts and draw blood for those senior blood panels. 
  • Give serious thought to whether your cats really need those “annual shots.” Chances are, they don’t.
  • Avoid prescription food. You can usually achieve the same benefits by tweaking your cat’s diet. If your cat has food sensitivities, many cat food manufacturers make single-protein-source wet food that tastes better than prescription food and is less expensive. 
  •  If your cat has a chronic illness that requires daily medicine, get it at your drugstore. The medications cats take for hyperthyroidism and heart disease are human drugs that will cost less if you buy them from a pharmacy instead of your vet. A Canadian pharmacy will cost even less.  
  • Do your best to keep your cats healthy. For instance, feeding an all-wet-food diet and learning to brush your cats’ teeth will help prevent gum disease. Dentals for cats are expensive!
  • All-wet-food diets can also help you prevent obesity, and other costly health problems like diabetes and bladder stones and crystals. 
  • Avoid using air and carpet fresheners and scented candles. The essential oils in these products can be toxic to cats and can cause seizures and even asthma. Both could require expensive emergency vet visits.
  • Buy your cats’ food, litter and things like flea meds online. Online retailers are usually less expensive than the pet supply chain stores, and on most websites, the threshold for free shipping is well under $50. Compare prices from site to site, too. 
  • Remember that the least expensive isn’t always the most cost effective. Good litter makes harder clumps and lasts longer. Inexpensive dry food that’s mostly grain colored with red and yellow dye could backfire and make your cat expensively sick.  

Here’s more information on finding affordable vet care.

My Boy Boots
Boots has left my lap and is now wrapped around my neck, purring in my ear. He’s a funny, quirky cat, and after a difficult summer, I appreciate having a friend who makes me laugh.

Last month, he suddenly appeared on a patio in Burke, Va. He was skin and bones and in urgent need of a human friend. He found one on that patio, but she couldn’t keep him because her dogs hate cats. We’re still not sure why she contacted me when there are so many rescues much closer to where she lives. But sometimes, the universe steps in and introduces cats and people. So I think of Boots as a gift from the universe at a time when I really needed one.

Can I afford another cat? No, not really. But when I think about it, finances are never a reason to deny a cat a happy home, no matter what that vet said. By adopting Boots, I made room for another cat in need to come to our no-kill shelter. If only the people who are “financially worthy” adopted animal companions, imagine how many more cats and dogs would be in rescue or lose their lives in “shelters.” 

True, living with cats can be expensive. But isn’t it better for us to stretch a bit to give cats homes than to let them die in shelters? I don’t know about you, but I think it is. 

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