So, you have found that perfect cat or maybe they have found you. The commitment to bring one or perhaps even multiple cats into your life can seem as simple as pick, name and feed. However, the financial burden of caring for a cat across its lifetime in that moment of euphoria whilst cradling the cutest bundle of fur, wide eyes and curiosity is rarely or only fleetingly considered.
Now that your cat is home, maybe you – like many – have begun to count the true economic black hole these extra little mouths can prove to be. The initial relatively low investment needed to find feline love can soon reveal themselves instead a trojan horse of extra costs at every corner.
Beds, food, playthings, carry cases, vaccinations, microchipping, neutering, unexpected vet visits, carpet cleaning, curtain replacement and hours of work missed whilst scouring the neighbourhood for your elusive creature. It all adds up fast.
Are there ways of spending wisely or things that can be done to ultimately keep unexpected bills at bay? Help is at hand, here are five top health care tips that will make your money go further.
1. Preventative health care
This is one aspect of health care for your cat that people often first consider going under the spending chopping block in order to save money. However, there is a lot of truth in the saying “prevention is better than a cure”.
Although keeping up to date with your pet’s preventative health care as recommended by your vet (vaccinations, flea and worming treatment) is a regular cost, the cost of treatment for the ’cure’ if your cat does develop infectious diseases that can be vaccinated against or skin issues associated with fleas can be significantly higher than the ‘prevention’.
Remember cutting corners with preventive care measures can be costly and, in some cases, dangerous.
It can be tempting to save money by buying treatments for a dog and dividing this between multiple cats. However, cats are not little dogs and as different as cat and dogs are so are their treatments. Certain dog flea treatments are poisonous for cats and can result in seizures and death if applied. Do not be that person.
Similarly, avoid the temptation of low-price flea and worming treatments that can be bought on the internet or shops rather than from the vet. Not all products are made equal and there is a reason you will not find most of these products being sold by your vet. Over the counter treatments are commonly less effective, will cover less and are far less regulated, meaning it can cost more in the long run. Your vet will be able to advise you regarding what are effective treatments.
There are ways of potentially saving on the proper vet recommended products.
Firstly, ask your vet practice if they run any pet health care packages. These typically involve small monthly payments or a yearly lump sum but mean you save big for things like vaccinations, flea and worming treatments. A bonus is that some of these schemes also give you discounts on other aspects of vet care such as neutering and consult fees. An alternative option is to get a written prescription (there will be a small cost for this) from your vet and see if sourcing the products from a reputable online pharmacy will save you money.
2. Start dental hygiene early
As cats get older, the likelihood of you finding yourself at the vets being advised that dental treatment is needed will increase. Unlike for us, dental treatment for your cat will always require a full general anaesthetic and after a visit to have teeth extracted and all the medications that go with that, the result can be expensive. Unfortunately relying on insurance to bail you out in this instance probably will not work as many insurance policies do not cover dental care or only in certain circumstances.
However, just like us, the requirement for dental treatment can be delayed or in some cases prevented if you look after your cat’s teeth from an early age. There are many ways of looking after cat teeth, the most effective but least utilized is brushing. Although not always an easy task, by starting when they are a kitten, most cats will tolerate their teeth being brushed into adulthood. Using specially flavoured toothpaste such as chicken will make the job easier to accomplish. The best toothpastes for cats are ‘enzymatic’ as they have some action against plaque build-up even without brushing, so as a minimum you can just rub it on their teeth.
Other things that can be done are feeding dry food which is shown to lower the incidence of plaque build-up, trying pet mouth washes which are added to drinking water and offering dental chews for cats that though less common, can help in the fight against dental decay.
Another top tip is if despite implementing the measures above your cat still needs to have dental treatment at the vets, it is much cheaper to have this done whilst it only requires a scale and polish rather than waiting until to the point there is a clear need for teeth to be extracted. As before prevention is better and cheaper than the cure.
3. Don’t overfeed them
One of the most expensive day to day costs of owning a cat is food. Some 39-52% of cats in the UK are now overweight or obese. All this extra weight is lost money through the purchase of unnecessary food.
A simple way to save your money is to not overfeed your cat. Cutting down on the portion size to an appropriate amount if you are overfeeding will reduce your food bills. Your vet will be able to advise you if your cat is overweight and make suggestions as to appropriate adjustments to how much you are feeding. Another tip is not to leave food down for your cat to graze on constantly. Most cats just are not wired to eat in moderation so over time they will become overweight and waste your money.
It is well known that obesity has health implications for cats, the same as for their human owners, including arthritis, heart disease and a shortened life expectancy. Keeping your cat a healthy weight may help avoid vet bills associated with these conditions.
4. Borrow, second hand and make
Cat ownership can be expensive, especially if you buy everything you are going to need brand new. In our environmentally conscious world, you can do your part too.
Borrow: Ask around, you might just get lucky. Who knows what friends and family have that they do not currently need or are perhaps even looking at throwing away. Especially with things like pet carriers it does not even need to be a permanent acquisition.
Second hand: Buying equipment second hand such as from charity shops can see you saving considerable pounds compared to the cost brand new.
Make: For many, the experience of purchasing an expensive cat bed, tree or indoor gymnasium is soured by the cat paying more attention to the free cardboard box it came in. Why not channel your inner Blue Peter presenter and get crafty? Check out YouTube and Pinterest for ingenious home-made cat furniture, scratching posts and toys ideas. They can make great projects to do with children so that is a double win.
5. Avoid emergencies
If your pet is ‘not right’, it can be tempting to leave them a few hours or days to see if it passes. However, what potentially may be treatable with minimal medications and without admission in the early stages, may require your pet to be admitted if left to deteriorate and result in higher treatment costs. Remember the rule of thumb that the longer an animal is sick the sicker they will be, which is generally harder and more expensive to manage and treat.
Another tip is to try and avoid waiting to take your sick pet to the vet last minute at the end of the day if it can be avoided, particularly if the weekend is approaching. This may increase the chance your vet may have to transfer your cat to an after-hours clinic. While emergency veterinary care can be expensive at any time, if your cat needs to go to an out of hours emergency vets, these are often more expensive than your regular vet. However, do not avoid going to the out of hours vet to try and save money, as delaying vital treatment can be life-threatening to your cat and be more expensive in the long run.
Consider having insurance to cover life’s unexpected hiccups. A good insurance policy can save you a lot of money if the worst comes to worse and give you less money worries when it comes to needing to seek especially last-minute health care.
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