Black cat lying on the floor looking into camera

Cat care on a budget

When times get hard, you may look for ways to cut costs. This often means that you need to look at what you spend on your pets and find ways to save money. Don’t worry, there are things you can do to keep your pet healthy and happy on a budget.

Cheap cat food

Cats need a balanced diet that is specially made for their species. It needs to contain:

  • carbohydrates
  • protein
  • fats and oils

You can find all the essentials needed in your cat’s food by looking for pet food labelled as ‘complete’ and that’s approved by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This means it will meet all your cat’s nutritional needs. Be sure to leave a fresh bowl of water down every day too.

There is a bewildering choice of cat food available in pet shops, supermarkets and from your vet, however just remember that a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best food for your cat. As long as it’s ‘complete’, your pet will have everything they need in their food.

Many cats enjoy treats, but they aren’t necessary, so can be cut out when you’re on a budget.

Top money-saving tip: Buy in bulk. Though it may cost you more money upfront, buying in bulk is a lot cheaper than buying as and when you need it – and don’t forget to check the sales and reduced section too.

Help with vet bills

In an emergency, and where you have no insurance in place, it’s worth speaking with your vet to see if they can offer a payment plan to help you pay off your vet bill.

Blue Cross highly recommends taking out a pet insurance policy from the day you pick your kitten or cat up so that you’re covered in the event of them needing medical treatment.

For ongoing preventative care, such as vaccinations and annual check-ups, most vets offer pet clubs. Pet clubs work by charging a small monthly fee that will cover your pet for annual vaccinations, health checks, flea and worm treatment and discounts for things like neutering, pet food and dental treatment. It’s worth checking with your local vet to see if they offer this service, as charges can vary.

If you find yourself without pet insurance and with no means of paying for your cat’s treatment in the event of them needing a trip to the vet, our free veterinary services are available to pets whose owners are on certain means-tested benefits. If you fall into this category, you will need to check to see if you are in the catchment area for one of our hospitals or clinics. 

TIP: As a precaution, it’s handy to know some basic first aid for cats – it could be the difference between life and death

Why are vaccinations important for my cat?

Keeping your cat up to date on their vaccinations and annual health checks is the best thing you can do to protect them from certain common diseases. Treating your cat if they get a disease will be much more expensive. If your cat gets very sick you may have to take time off work to care for them.

If you have a kitten, don’t underestimate the importance of initial vaccinations when your cat is young. It’s the best head start you can give your cat’s immune system to fight off disease throughout their life.

It can pay to do some research when looking into a vet. Kitten vaccinations can vary from £31 to £82, with boosters ranging from £19 to £50. You can save yourself a lot of money by shopping around for more affordable vet fees.

Why will neutering my cat help me save money?

The cost of neutering your cat will be less than the cost of having an accidental litter. Cats can be expensive – not only because of the set-up cost and staples, like food, but they can also cause damage to the home, meaning bills can soon add up. So, imagine having an accidental litter when you aren’t prepared for it. 

Neutering your cat is the best way of preventing any unwanted litters. It also lowers the risk of certain diseases like pyometra and breast cancer in female cats and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in male cats. If your cat gets one of these diseases, the cost of treating them would be a lot more than the cost of neutering.

Tabby ginger cat looking into camera with a toy in her paws

 How to keep your pet healthy at home

There are things you can do at home to lower the risk of your cat needing a trip to the vet.

Watch your cat’s weight

Obesity can lead to more visits to the vet and bigger vet bills. Overweight cats also struggle with daily routine tasks, like cleaning themselves. 

Obese cats are more likely to get:

  • diabetes
  • lung and breathing problems
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • arthritis

Treatment for these diseases and illnesses increase your vet bills and can have an ongoing cost if they then need medication for life.

Prevent your cat getting fat by feeding the recommended amount of feed for their size, along with good quality, regular exercise, which they can get with access to outdoors. If you have an indoor cat you will need to make sure they are still free to exhibit their natural behaviours and get the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation that they need. You can make a cat puzzle ball very cheaply and easily which will keep your cat entertained.

Information on how much you need to feed your cat can usually be found on the back of the pet food you buy. 

If your cat has had more treats than normal one day, reduce the amount of food given that day to compensate.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, speak to your vet who will be able to advise you best on how to help them lose weight. Some vets have free weight clinics, so it’s worth checking with your local clinic to see if this is something they offer.

Daily checks

Spotting anything unusual or different on your cat will give you an instant advantage in catching anything early. So, it’s worth giving your cat a daily full body check by:

  • running your hand over their coat and under their fur to feel for any lumps and bumps
  • checking paws for any cuts or scrapes
  • looking for loss of fur
  • checking your cat’s ears to make sure they’re clear of discharge and odour
  • opening their mouth to check their gums and teeth for build up of plaque and inflammation

Top tip: Daily checks will be made easier if you check them over while you’re grooming your cat

Flea and worm treatment

Regular flea and worm treatment given monthly will keep your cat free from parasites that can pose serious health risks, as well as make them very uncomfortable. 

The best flea and worm treatment options will be prescribed by your vet, however a safe, cheaper alternative is to buy one of the following, which will be available without a prescription in your local pet store:

  • Advantage (or any other treatment containing imidacloprid)
  • Frontline (containing fipronil, preferably combined with (S)-methoprene)
  • Prazitel or Drontal (containing praziquantel, pyrantel embonate)

Unfortunately, these brands don’t cover lungworm, so be sure to ask your vet for advice on treatment. 

Grooming

Grooming is important for keeping your cat healthy and happy. Cats with long or thick fur need grooming more than others. If their coats aren’t taken care of properly, they can become matted and can cause pain for your cat which can lead to a vet trip.

Not only will grooming your cat make them look pretty, but it also gives you the chance to bond with them and give them a general health check while you’re there.

— Page last updated 02/10/2019

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