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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have a VERY URGENT question. I have a year-old male Siamese cat who is primarily an indoor kitty. He managed to get outside yesterday afternoon for the whole day, and now he can’t go to the bathroom. I have tried to get him to the vet, but none of the vets in my area will take a payment plan, I have absolutely no money, and I can’t qualify for care credit. I also don’t have anyone who can help me. The vets that I have talked to will offer a humane euthanasia but won’t see him. What can I do? I don’t want to lose my kitty.

~Danielle

Siouxsie: Danielle, you certainly should be commended for trying. It’s unfortunately a common experience that people who say they can’t afford vet care really mean that they don’t want to spend the extra money. But you’ve applied for Care Credit, you’ve talked to every veterinarian in the area, and you’ve done everything you know to do.

Thomas:  We hope sour suggestions will help you, because failure to urinate is a very critical problem. Whether he is having acute kidney failure from getting into something toxic or whether his urethra is blocked by crystals, your kitty must have veterinary attention, and soon.

Dahlia: Have you tried contacting your local humane society? Sometimes they have free or low-cost clinics. This is more often the case in large cities, however, so if you live in a rural area you might be out of luck.

Siouxsie: There are some organizations that help the caretakers of cats with urgent medical problems. There’s a listing of such sites here. We recommend that you contact these groups right away and see if one of them will contribute to your cat’s care.  You can also Google using the keywords “cat care financial assistance” or something like that.

Thomas: Unfortunately, there’s no way to unblock a cat’s urethra without veterinary assistance. This is a very painful condition. The cat’s bladder gets bigger and bigger as more urine goes into it. Eventually urine will back up into the kidneys and cause toxicity or renal failure.

Dahlia: We hate to say this, Danielle, but if you can’t find any assistance then the most humane choice may be to have your sweet boy euthanized. I’m crying just thinking about it!

Siouxsie: A cat with a blockage will develop acute renal failure and will die if the condition is not treated. The death is very painful and gut-wrenching to watch.

Thomas: I know this is an incredibly sad situation, Danielle. This dilemma is becoming increasingly common as the economy falls apart: do we pay our bills and buy food, or do we pay for an animal’s vet care? Or do we find ourselves almost unable to pay for food and other basic necessities and then have an animal with a medical emergency?

Dahlia: You’re not the only person who’s ever been faced with the possibility of having to put down an animal because you can’t afford crucial care. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your cat if you have to make this choice. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an animal, either, as some heartless people may say.

Siouxsie: Our vet is seeing this more often lately, too, because we live in an area where a lot of people barely make ends meet even under the best of circumstances. Now that food and fuel are so expensive, people are struggling even more. Add a job layoff or a disabling injury to this problem, and the fragile balance that’s made life possible to this point just can’t be sustained.

Thomas: Danielle, we really hope our suggestions can help you get your cat the medical care he needs.

Dahlia: And if you can’t get assistance, and you need to have him euthanized to minimize his suffering, we hope you’ll try not to blame yourself, especially if your current financial situation is due to circumstances beyond your control. You’re doing the best you can. Please know that your kitty boy is grateful for all your efforts to help him and he will continue to love you unconditionally no matter what the outcome.

Siouxsie: While we’re on the rather grim topic of the current U.S. economy and its effects on family pets and livestock, our favorite veterinary blog, Dolittler, has an article on how the foreclosure crisis has affected animals in her area. Here, she writes about the veterinarian’s side of the dilemma of offering payment plans and gives one specific example.

Thomas: On the other hand, if you have a good and long-standing relationship with your veterinarian, it’s possible that he or she might just cut you a little slack.

Dahlia: If your vet knows you — because you bring your cat(s) in for annual checkups, they look healthy and happy, you ask questions about your cat’s health and communicate well with your vet, etc. — he or she (and the front-desk staff that really run the nuts and bolts of the practice) will be more inclined to cut you a little slack.

Siouxsie: However, don’t be surprised if they don’t want to do that. Many clients who make payment arrangements for treatments unfortunately end up failing to live up to their end of the bargain.

Thomas: Regardless of rumors or ideas to the contrary, veterinary medicine is not a high-margin business, and vet clinics really can’t afford to take on expensive treatments and not get paid for the services they offered.

Dahlia: We interviewed our wonderful and fabulous veterinarian, Doctor Sarah, last fall, and asked her some questions about what it’s like to be a vet, how to have a good relationship with your vet, and much more. You can read it here if you’re interested.

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