Vet visits are a necessary but often expensive part of being a cat owner. When it comes to some common vet expenses, prevention is key.
Don’t let your cat out unsupervised
Allowing your cat to roam outside with no supervision is one of the most dangerous things you can let your cat do. Outdoor cats face many dangers – people, traffic, predators, other cats, poison, disease, weather, injury, becoming lost – just to name a few. It’s no surprise that outdoor cats have a drastically shorter life expectancy than indoor cats – just 2-5 years vs. 17 + years for indoor cats. You wouldn’t let your child or dog go out unsupervised, so why let your cat do the same?
If your cat gets into trouble outdoors, the best-case scenario is a (probably expensive) vet visit. Emergency vet bills can easily cost thousands of dollars and because they’re unexpected, you won’t have time to plan for them.
If your cat loves going outside and is not happy staying only indoors, train him to go for walks on an escape-proof harness or build him a catio.
Feed your cat a high-quality diet
A low-quality diet can contribute to health problems like obesity, allergies, diabetes, feline lower urinary tract disease, digestive disorders, organ diseases, dehydration, and malnutrition. A poor diet can turn into a chronic health problem over time.
When choosing dry cat food, read the ingredients before you buy. Look for meat as the first 5-10 ingredients. Better yet, feed your cat only wet or raw food if you can and make sure there are lots of clean water dishes and fountains around the house.
Watch for signs of bladder crystals or a blockage
This diet-related problem is so common that it needs its own paragraph. Dry food with a high amount of plant protein is terrible for your cat’s bladder in two ways:
- It dehydrates your cat and increases urine concentration.
- The PH of your cat’s pee is too alkaline, which causes struvite crystals to form in the bladder.
The combination of these two factors can often result in a urinary blockage, which is painful and deadly. Hospitalization for a blockage can cost up to $3,000.
Calcium oxalate stones can also develop in the bladder if urine is too acidic and this has become more common as some cat food manufacturers have adjusted their food to prevent struvite crystals.
If your cat is peeing outside the litterbox or straining or vocalizing, take him to the vet immediately because delaying it can cause him to block. This is more common in male cats, but females can also get blockages. Both male and female cats can have painful crystals without being blocked.
Cats can also become blocked due to stress and may strain or meow in the litter box. Whatever the reason is, an immediate vet visit is needed. Be especially aware of your cat’s litter box habits during a big change like a move or a new person or pet in the house.
Brush your cat’s teeth
Dental health is just as important for your cat as it is for you. Cats hide their pain and you might not know there’s a problem until it has been going on for some time. By then, chances are that your cat will need some teeth removed. A cat dental (a cleaning and extraction of teeth) will usually cost over $1,000 and can cost up to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the procedure.
Get a small toothbrush from your vet, the pet store, or even a child’s toothbrush and some enzymatic toothpaste. Slowly get your cat used to the toothpaste starting with touching her mouth and gradually working your way up to brushing her teeth. Use baby steps and positive reinforcement. Brushing your cat’s teeth once a day will help with dental health and allow you to see if there are any changes to her teeth.
Regular vet visits
Taking your cat for regular checkups is key for minimizing problems down the road.
Watch for behavior changes
Watch for changes in behavior. If your cat is acting more aggressive, reclusive, or tired than usual, loses interest in his favorite activities, is vomiting frequently or having litter box issues, or just isn’t himself, take him to the vet. Behavior issues or changes are often a sign of a medical issue.
Get pet insurance or a have a vet fund
Even when you do everything you can to prevent it, an expensive vet visit is bound to happen eventually. Put aside $50-$80 per pet every month to save for it or get pet health insurance.