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Vet Visits for Cats: How Much Will it Cost? (2021 Price Guide)

Ed Malaker

Taking your cat to the vet for regular treatment and care is essential to the well-being of your pet. The primary variables we consider as consumers are how often and how much will it cost? But it’s important to remember that not all vet visits will be the same. The general rule for regular checkups is 1-2 per year. If your furry friend has other health issues, you may be at the vet much more frequently.

Unfortunately, and all too often, we pack our beloved felines into the travel carrier for a trip to the vet, which we all hate—let’s face it—and we don’t have any idea how much it’s going to cost.

We all love our cats, but regular checkups at the vet can lead to a high cost over the lifetime of your pet. If you have never had a cat before, it can be helpful to get an idea of the basic costs so you can be prepared. Keep reading as we break down the scenarios of the most common reasons for vet visits and give you an idea of how much each will cost. Some of these reasons include:

  • Regular checkups
  • Vaccinations
  • Neuter or spay
  • Deworming/flea treatment
  • And more!

Of course, prices for veterinary services may vary from city to city, state to state, and region to region. So, we’ve split the country up into east, west, and central United States, so the numbers will be a little more accurate.

How Much Does It Cost to Take My Cat to the Vet?

The cost of your vet visits will depend heavily on what type of visit it is and where you live. The eastern and western United States are much more densely populated than the center so you can expect to pay more in these areas, and the west will be slightly more than the east. However, the higher population and increased costs also mean a better chance your doctor will have better equipment and more experience. In the central states, especially where the population is more sparse, you will often save a few dollars.

What Can I Expect When I Get to The Vet?

You will need to keep your cat in a carrier at all times when in the clinic because other animals can increase your pet’s stress level and may even chase them. You will need to sign in when you arrive and usually need to spend a few minutes in a small waiting area like you do at a regular doctor visit. After a short time, the vet will call you into the back and usually begins the examination by weighing the cat while still in the carrier. The vet will then remove the cat from the carrier and weigh it again to get the correct weight of the cat.

Once your vet has the cat’s weight, it will continue the examination by checking the ears for signs of infection and parasites. Ear mites will look like a clump of black dirt or coffee grounds. The doctor will also need to check the eyes and mouth and check to ensure adequate flexibility in its limbs and joints, and they will also push on the stomach to feel for any lumps or signs of pain. If your cat is still a kitten, your vet may give vaccination shots. Following your appointment, you might need to schedule more appointments for additional vaccinations or routine checkups. It’s also a good idea to purchase your flea and tick medication, which also helps protect them from heartworm, even if it is an indoor cat.

The following chart will explain how much it might cost different procedures in different parts of the country.

Standard Vet Procedures by US Regions

Procedure West Coast Midwest East Coast
Office Visit $58.95 $52.95 $55.95
Rabies Shot $29.40 $24.66 $27.08
Professional Teeth Cleaning $367.95 $335.95 $353.95
Neuter package (6+ months) $257.95 $241.95 $250.95
Neuter package (less than 6 months) $205.95 $193.95 $200.95
Spay package (6+ months) $347.95 $327.95 $339.95
Spay package (less than 6 months) $295.95 $278.95 $288.95

Source: https://www.banfield.com/Services/price-estimator

Additional Costs

The chart above gives you the most common expenses, but you may end up with one additional cost as well. Some may be elective, and others will only occur once. Here are a few examples of some extra procedures that some cats may require.

  • Tooth Extraction: $50 to $130
  • Geriatric Screening: $200 to $250
  • Blood Tests for Allergies in Addition to Standard Bloodwork: $300 to $400
  • Fecal Exam: $25 – $40
  • Heartworm: $50 to $150/year
Veterinarian-gives-a-pill-to-a-cat_Piskova-Photo_shutterstock
Credit: Piskova Photo, Shutterstock

What Does an Emergency Vet Visit Cost?

Some cats are accident-prone, so it will be no surprise if they have an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.  If it’s during business hours, you shouldn’t need to pay much extra for a visit unless the doctor is extremely busy. However, you will likely incur some additional expenses depending on the emergency.

  • X-rays can cost between $150 and $250. You will usually need X-rays if your cat swallows a sewing needle or other foreign object. Vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures might also cause your vet to call for an X-ray.
  • Ultrasounds are a little more expensive and can cost as much as $300–$600. Ultrasounds are often elective, and you might choose to get one if your cat is pregnant to see how many kittens you will have.
  • Your veterinarian might recommend a hospital stay of 1–2 days if your cat suffers from severe diarrhea or vomiting. If your cat recently began having seizures, your vet might recommend a short hospital stay for observation. You can expect to pay $600 to $1,500 for a short stay.
  • If your cat has a more serious problem, like fecal impaction, kidney failure, or another serious issue, your vet might recommend a longer stay of 3–5 days. These longer observation times usually start at around $1,500 and can get as high as $3,000 depending on the required care level.
  • If your cat gets a wound in a fight that requires cleaning and stitching, you can expect to pay $800–$1,500 for the emergency visit, numbing, stitching, and medication, depending on the extent of the injury.
  • If your cat requires emergency surgery because of an injury caused by a motor vehicle, you can expect to pay at least $1,500 up to $3,000. The extent of the damages will greatly influence the cost, and you may have additional fees after the operation to get your cat back to good health.
  • If your pet is having difficulty breathing due to asthma or heart failure and requires oxygen, you can expect to pay between $500 and $2500 for the service, depending on how many treatments it requires.

Can Pet Insurance Help Me Pay for Vet Bills?

Pet insurance can be a great way to protect yourself against high medical bills that can occur unexpectedly during the life of your cat, but many people ignore this option. It will usually cost between $25–$35 per month to keep your cat covered. It can seem like a lot of money, but if your cat requires hospitalization, you will be glad you don’t have to pay out of pocket. In many cases, not being financially capable of paying for treatment can result in the death of your pet.

When you have insurance, you will usually file a case with your company online and tell them about the vet visit, injuries, and costs incurred. The insurance company will then contact your vet and process your claim before sending you a reimbursement check.

How Often Should My Cat Visit the Vet?

Your kitten will need to visit the vet every month until at least four months old to get all of the required shots and vaccinations. You should consider spaying and neutering at six months, and your pet will need to visit again at one year for a checkup. After the age of one, your cat will be an adult and should see a doctor every six months to one year for another checkup until they are about seven. After seven, your cat is mature and should see a vet twice a year to detect any problems as early as possible.

Conclusion

The vet can be expensive, but cats are generally healthy and can live long lifespans with few problems in most cases. Manually brushing the teeth with a cat-safe toothpaste can help slow the progression of dental disease. Following the portion sizes listed on the packages closely can help keep your pet from becoming overweight, which leads to several health problems, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and diabetes. Doing these two things will dramatically reduce your pet expenses, while owning insurance can protect you from a sudden loss, possibly in the thousands of dollars.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over your cat’s medical expenses and found the answer you needed. If we have helped you better plan for the future, please share this look into how much a vet visit costs for a cat on Facebook and Twitter.

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Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.