Cat Care Q: What Is Okay to Scrimp On?

By Amy Loeffler

Lolcats aren't the first cat-based humor craze. (Never heard of the online phenomenon? Go here.) In the late '70s Steve Martin got big laughs recounting tales of his embezzling kitty-cat. In the act he recast these slinky, aloof creatures as scheming, material girls sick for cat toys. According to the comedy routine, Martin's cat-gone-wild racks up thousands of dollars worth of nonreturnable cat booty while posing as a feline version of Martin himself: "So now I'm stuck with $3,000 worth of cat toys," Martin laments in his monologue.

Cats may dream of being conspicuous consumers and indulging in kitty amusements like chasing dancing laser pointer dots, catching tickly feathers on a string, and inhaling herbaceous, heady catnip, but in tough economic times these extras may temporarily get stricken from the budget, embezzlement or not!

Luxuries large or small may take a back seat to basics like healthcare right now, but when it comes to keeping your cat healthy and purring like a champion, there are still ways to trim the fat. Specifically, you may be wondering what the best ways are to stretch your pet's healthcare dollars at the vet. RedPlum has a few suggestions for spreading around the wealth in lean times. Here are the items you may be able to cut out:

  • Vaccinations: Vaccines are a fundamental component of feline health. As with wellness exams, the key philosophy is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But did you know that vaccines can be administered cheaply and without the cost of a vet visit if you buy them from a retailer. Online retailer Drs. Foster and Smith offer three kinds of vaccines that run the gamut of standard vaccinations for cats, except for rabies. Rabies is one vaccination that legally requires third party documentation, not just your own meticulous record keeping, if verification is required after a bite. You can still save money on rabies vaccinations, however, by going to a rabies clinic where cost for the vaccine is minimal, and you'll still receive documentation.
  • Boutique Treats: Vets carry fancier (read more expensive) products than say grocery stores, so steer clear of the veterinary equivalent of the candy aisle when you visit with your cat. Boutique grooming, food and clothing brands can be pricey at veterinary outlets, so for the time being stick with generic brands if you’re on a budget. Your fluffinator can deal with grocery store treats until your wallet is fatter.
  • Surprise Ailments: This may come as a surprise, but the best way to NOT dump amazing amounts of cash on the family feline is to maintain those annual or biannual wellness exams. The cost of shelling out dough for a wellness exam amounts to a pittance when considering that early detection can not only save moolah for you in the long run, but also something more important: your cat’s life. For example, a wellness exam may detect something latent like an underlying tooth infection. If caught early many infections, including those of the teeth, are easily treatable. Scrimping on these regularly scheduled wellness exams may leave you with few and also expensive alternatives when infections and other health issues have gotten out of control. If your vet does happen to uncover a problem that is more than the monthly budget can stand during a wellness exam, consider a payment plan to keep your pet and family finances going strong.

Amy Lewis, D.V.M. at Falls Village Animal Hospital knows that prioritizing family monies can be difficult when finances fall short of actual expenses. "My best recommendation is for any owner that is having financial constraints to have a frank and honest conversation with their veterinarian in discussing options and priorities of treatment for their pet. Only within the individual patient-client-doctor relationship can the best decisions be made for the pet."