Save Now, Pay Later — A Cat's "Tail"

by Katy on May 12, 2009 · 30 comments


It’s no secret that I like a bargain. Free garden supplies, cut rate groceries, even my backyard solar clothes dryer.

I love it all.

But there are times when getting a bargain in the present means a financial burden in the long run.

Usually this phenomenon is relegated to poorly constructed goods, but my example is a bit different. My example is my free kittens.

But first I’m going to share the story of Kit-Kat the beautiful two-year-old kitty we adopted from The Humane Society last year. Kit-Kat came to us de-clawed and pissed off. Like the blind man whose powers of hearing became superhuman, this cat’s ability to defend herself by biting was beyond the expected. We were gentle with her, tried to respect her needs, but an unwarranted bruise-inducing chomp on my son’s arm while he slept was the last straw.

It broke our hearts, but Kit-Kat earned a return ticket to The Humane Society.

I decided our next cat would be a kitten, someone who would not come to us with mysterious aggressive tendencies.

But The Humane Society didn’t seem to ever have any kittens, and I started to scan through craigslist in search of the perfect addition to our family.

I finally found an ad for free kittens, two females, not even that far from the house.


Unlike a Humane Society cat, which comes spayed or neutered; fully vaccinated, identity chipped and with a certificate for a free veterinarian’s visit, these kittens came with nothing.

Let me correct myself, these cats came with round worms.


Their first veterinary visit cost me an arm and a leg and they didn’t even get any vaccinations. Just a routine physical with a fecal test and subsequent medication. (The vet was kind enough to inform me that the medicine might make the kittens vomit, and that I might notice worms in the vomit. This was to be considered normal, nothing to worry about.)

Double gag.

So I now have Zelda and Hyena, unvaccinated de-wormed kittens as a result of my bargain hunting tendencies.

So yes, it turns out you can be too cheap.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Have you ever gotten a bargain in the short term that cost big in the long run? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

P.S. I will be taking Zelda and Hyena for vaccinations and spaying.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg from FruWiki May 12, 2009 at 7:58 am

Repeat: There is no such thing as a free cat.

The one kitty we adopted from a rescue place cost us $100 and she came fixed, vaccinated, and freakily well adjusted for a cat (she was fostered there from birth).

The other four kitties cost us several hundred dollars each.

In general, though, I usually end up paying more in the long run when I settle for something now because it’s cheap or easily available but not 100% perfectly what I need and want. It could be clothing, a kitchen appliance, etc. So, I’ve learned to be super picky, patient (maybe), and not wait till the last minute to look for something I need. Sometimes I probably go overboard buying something that is way better than I needed, but I rather pay more for extras I don’t need than pay too little now and have to buy something better later.


Meg from FruWiki May 12, 2009 at 9:06 am

A few minutes ago I found out that our youngest cat Pluto, one that literally found us not even a year ago, has end stage feline leukemia. The vet said he was probably born with it, but now he would have at best a few, painful days left.

I have a good idea where he came from originally. There’s a house in the back of the neighborhood with dozens of cats on the porch and in the area with new kittens all the time. No doubt they have that and all the other crud he came with. WHY do people do this?! Why do they think THAT is humane?! We’ve always taken great care of our pets, got them fixed and vaccinated and taken to them vet when they got sick. It isn’t cheap, but that’s the price you pay when you take responsibility for the life of another.

I’m still glad we took Pluto in because he had a good life here while it lasted and our Felix and him were such good pals (fortunately our cats are vaccinated and should be alright). But it hurts so much.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl May 12, 2009 at 9:15 am

I’m sorry, Meg!

On topic, I’m not a pet person, and so I know that I would seriously balk at having to pay for all the expenses that come with one. The most humane thing for me to do is not own an animal(we do have a fish and a hermit crab, but they hardly count!).


fairydust May 12, 2009 at 10:02 am

our new kitten came all dewormed, vaccinated, and fixed (I had to pay for the chip), but now she has an incredibly rare-in-cats hyperthyroid condition that will require meds for life. The meds cost about $24 every 3 weeks. I won’t give her up for anything, but it pains me that her meds cost more than mine each month (well, so far anyway)… so, there really is no such thing as a free (or even cheap, apparently) cat.

I’m sorry to hear about your cat, Meg! Hope the final days aren’t too awful!!


Stephanie May 12, 2009 at 11:00 am

Yes, our cat came to us when he was just little, we found him under some blackberry bushes with no mom. It has been 5 years later and he has cost us quite a chunk of money!!! Mostly because you hear…oh it will definitely not cost any more than …..and then it is like 4 times that amount. What a rip off!! We couldn’t have asked for a better cat for our young children though. He gets dressed up, poked at, and hauled around, without ever batting an eye, or lifting a paw.


Elizabeth B May 12, 2009 at 11:36 am

Oh, no. Meg, I’m so sorry. It’s so hard when our pets leave us. But he had a loving home with you, so I hope you can hold on to that. And the people in your neighborhood who don’t spay/neuter their cats should be ashamed of themselves.

On topic: Oh boy, Katy, I so hear you. Why do people think cats will be easier/cheaper than dogs?! Hee.


Emily May 12, 2009 at 11:39 am

The more astute lesson to take away from this might not be that “there’s no such thing as a free kitten,” but that having a pet is a commitment of time and attention, and, yes, money.


Monique May 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Well here’s a radical thing I do for my pets’ health which keeps cost down; I don’t vaccinate them. You can find out why by googling Dr. Richard Pitcairn. It’s ok for me because I live in a rural setting; each person has to research this carefully. I have not had a pet vaccinated in at least 10 years as I am quite sure they cause more problems than they prevent. I also feed my cats and dogs raw food, and for the dogs this is free because it is the cast-offs from my butcher. The cats’ food costs a bit because it must be ground first (one cat has no teeth). For the benefits of raw food for cats, google the Price-Pottenger foundation. There are also natural, safer ways to de-worm pets as well.


BohoBelle May 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Katy you tell the story so well! LOL

We have a pet bird, he’s a lot of fun. In the future, I only think we’ll have pet chickens and ducks. Because at least they kind of pay their own way in eggs.


Lisa May 12, 2009 at 3:41 pm

We have a cat that we got from the Humane Society. She ended up costing us $500 the first month we had her due to, shall we say, digestical distress. We did as directed and kept her in the house until finally I got so tired of her throwing her body at the door to get out. As soon as she was able to go out all of her problems went away. Seems that being inside all day caused her to be anxious which caused all the other problems.

The thing is, this was 8 years ago, and the cat still hates me since I was the one who took her to the vet for the rectal exam.


Angela May 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

In response to the question “Have you ever gotten a bargain in the short term that ended up costing big in the long run?” I would answer “Our fixer-upper house!” I know you can relate to that Katy.

I think my cat was charmed. I had her for 18 years and never spent much more than an annual exam, for which our vet used to charge $18 (I used to worry about how he could make a living). The biggest expense was flying her to New York and back when I lived there for two years.

On the other hand, my mother has spent literally thousands of dollars on a rescue dog- she has not only a vet but a trainer, a pet “communicator,” a person who massages it (it’s called Feldenchrist or some such thing), and a babysitter. I’m not joking. But my mom’s kind of nuts.


Diana May 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm

My older cat came from a humane society. Since he was already eight years old, he cost slightly less than the younger cats. This was due to expected health care costs for a senior animal. Since I didn’t want a youngster to deal with at the time, he was perfect. He hasn’t cost a penny more.

My younger cat adopted us as a kitten. She showed up and stayed. It cost more for me to have her spayed, vaccinated, etc. than it would have cost to get a cat of the same age from the humane society and I was the one that had to get her to the appointments and take care of her.

My dog has cost me the most. Not in health care, he is extremly healthy and has needed no medical attention beyond the basic. The cost came in the form of finding housing. He is quiter than most small dogs and very well behaved but at 35 lbs is above the limit of most rentals in this area. Those that do accept dogs require deposits and sometimes higher rent per month.

People often don’t consider these costs when getting a pet, especially a free one. The pet is dependent on you. If you move, what do you do with him? How about the monthly cost of flea medicine? In the PNW flea treatment can be year around. Yearly trips to the vet and ongoing vaccinations are required. Licensing will set you back some more.


Sue May 12, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I’m a pretty frugal person when it comes to stuff, but cats and other four-legged family members are not stuff. I would not think of adopting a cat that I wasn’t prepared to care for as I would a human family member. I shop around for the best price on cat food, I’ve changed vets when one raised their prices out of sight, and share cat care with a friend instead of using a kennel, but I hope I never cheap out on caring for a living, feeling being.


Teresa May 12, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Well, funny you should mention kittens. We’re on the look out for two little fur balls from the Oregon Humane Society.We bought 2 coupons on Kink FM’s Half-Price Portland. We paid $15.00 for each coupon that will entitle us for $50.00 off the cost of each kitten which is normally $100.00 per cat. I also have two Chinook book coupons for 20% off each kitten. If I do math my correctly, I should get two kittens for $90.00 total (includes coupon price) rather than $200.00 total. MEOW!


thenonconsumeradvocate May 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm

My friend at work today was telling me how you can buy most cat vaccinations at feed stores and give the injections yourself. As I’m a nurse, I can can give shots with one hand tied behind my back, so I am going to research this a bit more.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


momentary de lurking May 12, 2009 at 11:55 pm

This post sort of horrified me.

You do not have any guarantee that a pet you pay a fee to adopt at a shelter, or one that you pay blood money to buy from a breeder will not eventually have potentially expensive health care costs, especially if you let the cat go outside. People frequently do not take “start up costs” like spay/neuter, worming, and vaccinations, into account when adopting a kitten from a place other then a rescue/shelter/creepo breeder, but the relatively high start up cost doesn’t mean that your cats will continue to wrack up huge vet bills throughout their lives just Because you didn’t initially pay money for them. A cat from the human society can break a paw, or develop health problems just as easily as a free craigslist kitty can.

Why own pets if you do not derive any enjoyment out of them, or if your enjoyment of them is secondary to vet costs? Nothing in your post suggested that you like cats, or that you have any affection for them at all, but instead a mild distain for how much they’ve cost you.

If thats the case then why have them at all? Animals, whether in shelters or on craigslist (which increasingly has people who’ve been told that shelters are full) need loving homes, owners with the ability to take care of them in an emergency, and who are willing to pay for necessary treatments (even if it means bargain hunting or availing yourself of grants and funding services from local authorities, like the low-income spay and neuter shelters in most of WA and OR).

One last thing, many people are giving animals away for free online because landlords are jacking up the cost of animal fees. My “free” kittens (from the litter of a stray who adopted a co-worker) cost me $300 in “pet ownership privilege fees” at my old apartment, and will require me to pay twice as large a security deposit on the place I’m moving to.


tammy May 13, 2009 at 6:55 am

My dear sister’s kitty, Jellybean, had diabetes and was going to be on meds for the remainder of her life (she was 10) – expensive meds! My sister opted to have JB put to sleep as she also suffered from other feline ailments. I believe this not only was a good choice for my sister (who lives on a fluctuating income) but for JB as well, as her quality of life was not good.
We adopted a dog last year. The “free vet visit” was $165.00!


GLM May 13, 2009 at 7:25 am

My cat has cost me around $4,000.

That’s not including food, vet, adoption or litter costs. He’s destroyed that much furniture in my house.

Next time, I’m declawing, or adopting a cat that has been declawed.

It is totally worth saying that I love my cat – I think he’s the best little guy ever. But I do wish I didn’t have sofa stuffing strewn about my home all the time. It’s a good thing that I have a Select Comfort mattress set, otherwise, he’d have destroyed the box springs. (my air mattress is on a platform, not on upholstered springs)

And for some cats, there is no deterrent to scratching. That’s just they way God made them.

But next time, no claws – one way or another.


Jen May 13, 2009 at 8:27 am

WOW! Glad We don’t have a cat. We do have a dog, but her expenses don’t come close to what I’ve seen here!


Kristin @ klingtocash May 13, 2009 at 11:00 am

We’ve gotten all of our cats (we have 4) from a local shelter. The adoption fee was about $100 but they were fixed and had all of their shots. We’ve been very lucky with them. They have been very healthy and have awesome personalities. We even found a vet who gives us a discount for having multiple cats. I love our kitties and wouldn’t give them up for anything.


Meg from FruWiki May 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

Thanks everyone for the condolences. We decided it was best to put him down. The vet said there was just no chance of recovery and he only had a few miserable days left at most even with treatment. It was very tough losing him. Our cats are definitely are four-legged children.

Fortunately, our other four cats tested negative, so we can be glad we didn’t know and had almost a year with him — and that he got to be loved and spoiled just like any other kitty here with us (maybe more so, even).

The loss hurts, and there’s no replacing Pluto, but I think we’ll be adopting another kitten soon — hopefully a little boy kitty with black fur like him. I’m sure he’d want another kitten to get a shot at the long, spoiled life he should have had. And his buddy Felix just isn’t the same without a little guy friend to wrestle and chase.


Clean Simple May 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm

For the commenter with the destroyed furniture, there’s a middle ground between ruined furniture and declawing — trim your cat’s claws regularly. My two boys get their claws trimmed about every two weeks. They do stretch and try to sharpen against the furniture, but with trimmed claws, there’s no damage done. It’s easy to do with human toe nail clippers (much sharper and faster to use than the so-called cat nail clippers).

Our cats, one in particular, have cost us uncounted thousands in vet bills. Various surgeries, a feeding tube, dental visits…yeah, not cheap. But they’re part of the family and we love ’em.


Rebecca May 13, 2009 at 5:12 pm

The joke in our family is that the most expensive thing in the world is a free animal. Even if it is perfectly healthy, it’ll cost you in food, vet bills, etc. Just another reason to live frugally and budget carefully if you’re an animal lover–you’ll have more money left to put in an “in case of big vet bill” fund!

I am not a nurse and cannot do shots with one hand tied behind my back, but I did ride around with my horse vet for the summer when I was in high school (and currently do labwork and research that keeps my injection-giving skills sharp), and as a result, she now trusts me to give injections and a couple of other types of medicene to my own horses. If I don’t need anything else for my horses, I can just call her, have her drop prescriptions and supplies off at the local feed store, and do it myself. It saves a $50 farm call fee once a year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. You might want to talk to your vet before administering shots to your own cats–I’ll bet they’ll give you some helpful tips on how to give shots to furry, four-legged, squirmy creatures with sharp claws! Also, there may be certain veins that you’ll want to inject into that your normally don’t deal with in humans. For example, vaccinations are routinely injected into horses’ jugular veins!


Angela May 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Just a few notes- to Meg, so sorry about Pluto. But it’s so lucky that your other cats are healthy and how great that you gave him a wonderful year- that’s a long time to a kitten!

Also, I agree with Clean Simple on the declawing- trimming works almost as well. GLM- I hope you won’t declaw a cat- I’ve seen the results and it just destroys them. It’s inhumane and also makes them very nervous and skittish. They feel they have no defenses (and they don’t!). But it would be nice if you adopted an already declawed cat, since the deed has already been done.

And one other thing- my brother had a cat that was diagnosed with diabetes and he gave it shots for years. It was worth it because he was such a loving and entertaining cat, and his good friend. It was harder for him to go out of town, because he had to get someone to take care of him, but again it was worth it. Several of his friends, including myself, learned to give the shots and it was really quite simple. Diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence for a cat. FM-I’m not judging your sister (I know there were other factors), just responding to the overall comments here.


momentary de lurking May 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Declawing is exceptionally inhumane. The procedure is invasive and it would be sort of like having the top joint cut off of each of your fingers.


BarbG May 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm

When I was first getting into frugal living I found all sorts of “free stuff” online. All this stuff was sent to my home with one thing attached. I would be on their mailing list and would receive mail from some of them (i.e.- Reader’s Digest) almost daily. I would be sent other items that I didn’t even order “at no obligation”. Getting things for free online almost always attached to something else.

However, yesterday I picked up some little white fencing for a small garden at the side of the road for FREE! These had no obligation attached to it.

🙂 Love it!


suzanne July 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I hate to offer people what everyone is complaining about, a free cat. I have two cats of my own , this one is a stray , well they all were.
I’m low income and I don’t believe I should
adopt another animal that I am not financially
able to care for. She is about 6 months old ,
purrs alot but afraid of men . I have called
the Humane Soceity and other shelters and
was put on a 3-5 month waiting list to
surrender the animal. I think I made a mistake
by being honest and saying it wasn’t my cat.
That it was a stray. They get the lowest
prioritys on the totem pole.

This cat does not bite, you can pick her up
and even hold her in your arms like a baby ,
she don’t have fleas, I de fleaed and treated her
for roundworms with some over the counter
medication . She is multicolor . Gets along
well with other cats .

Whoever takes her will have to pay for her shots .
I have the spay coupons from the Humane Soceity.
It’ll only cost 1o dollars or less if you use my
coupons . Got them cause I”m very low income .

If you’d like to meet Kitty , email me . Thanks,



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