Here’s what a DVM says about vets holding cats when the owners can’t pay the bill.

“It is legal to hold the animal in some states, not legal in most others,” begins Jean Hofve, DVM, who has 20+ years’ experience in both conventional and alternative veterinary medicine, and author of the eBook, “What Cats Should Eat.

Dr. Hofve continues, “But even if it is legal to hold the animal, a veterinarian would be very unlikely to do so, because the cat would continue to take up space, staff time, food, medications, etc., and in most cases has zero sale value.”

If your cat is sick or injured, worry first about your pet’s health and bring the cat to see your veterinarian—even if you fear you won’t be able to pay the bill.

“However, failing to pay for services after the vet has examined and treated your cat is considered theft of services,” says Dr. Hofve, “which would be a police matter.

“Do NOT take a pet in if you do not intend to pay! Bouncing or stopping a check may also result in criminal charges.”

There’s a difference between thinking you won’t be able to pay but intending to—prior to bringing in the cat, and intending not to pay as you’re even walking into the vet clinic carrying your sick or injured cat.

If you intend on paying the veterinarian but don’t know how you’ll come up with the money, have hope and just bring in your cat—after you carry out some recommendations by Dr. Hofve:

“It’s best to call the clinic ahead of time to discuss their particular payment requirements and your financial situation, to determine what your options are.

“For example, there may be low-cost services available at a local shelter or humane society; and many clinics maintain a fund to help folks in desperate situations get care for their pets.

See for more ideas and resources.”

Of course, if your cat is suddenly injured, you may not have time to make phone calls first and instead will need to rush your pet over to the vet clinic as soon as possible.

But what if you’re totally broke, and your cat is hit by a car or attacked by a dog yet still alive? Or what if you happen upon an injured cat that’s not yours, and you have no money but want to get the animal immediate treatment?

Here’s encouraging information for cat lovers who find themselves in this predicament.

Now retired from veterinary medicine, Dr. Hofve has researched pet nutrition and the pet food industry since the early 1990s. She has written dozens of articles and has been interviewed for print, radio and television around the world.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.