How Much Does A Cat Dental Cleaning Cost? A lot.

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Don't let these cute sleepy critters fool you, they can get sick too

Don’t let these cute sleepy critters fool you, they can get sick too

Previously I wrote about not needing a large emergency fund if your life is generally low-risk. Not owning a home or car means there is a low risk for major life emergencies. I don’t have to worry about any surprise repairs.

And then I adopted two cats.

Before adopting them, I had determined how much food and litter would cost per month. It came out to $30/mo, which I I could handle. I knew that other expenses could spring up sometimes but didn’t really give it much thought. Indoor cats are at a much lower risk of danger than outside ones. That was what I told myself at least.

When it comes to pets, the common question is: “What is your limit of spending on your pet to save their life?” Some people will say they don’t have a limit, some will say $1,000, or $500, or whatever other arbitrary number that sounds like just enough.

The problem here is that the question assumes you’d pay this all at once. Rarely is this the case. Your pet might need prescription medicine or food that is costly. They may need regular visits or treatments. They may need pre and post appointments for a procedure. It won’t be $1,000 all at once but it adds up over time.

I currently have an emergency fund of one month’s rent but did not adjust this when I adopted the cats. My mistake. When I discovered my cat needed a dental cleaning, I immediately made a plan to use my tax return to pay for the procedure. I was lucky that it could wait and was not a medical emergency.

Of course, there is a conflict here. It’s not fair to my cats to not give them the help they need because I can’t afford it. However, I also can’t sacrifice my financial well-being. This is why it is so important to make sure you can financially take care of an animal (more than just the monthly costs) before taking one in. You are agreeing to take care of this animal. Make sure you can take care of yourself first.


Scarface cat hiding from the vet

Scarface hiding out from the vet

How Much is a Cat Dental Cleaning?

After owning my cats for a year, I decided to take them to the vet just as a check-up. Turns out, my cat Scarface has sensitive gums that were swelled up and infected. Some cats are more susceptible to tartar than others and he happens to be one of them. Because of his swollen gums, his teeth were being pushed out. This resulted in him having canines that looked like vampire fangs.

The vet recommended I bring him back for a dental cleaning. I was given a quote of between $250-$650 depending on teeth extractions and other complications. He would need to be put under anesthesia so it was a full procedure.

That first appointment was $100. Dental cleaning requires pre-blood work to make sure he could handle the anesthesia, this was $150. The dental cleaning itself resulted in my cat needing four teeth pulled, that came to $550.

All of the appointments including the cleaning totaled $800. Now, that wasn’t all at once and is how health bills usually work. It is more than I expected to pay for my cat’s health. But this is what I signed up for. Also, I hope this will prevent more serious dental issues in the future.


11 Comments

  1. Kara says:

    Great post, Leslie.

    I’d add that pets, just like people, are not always perfectly healthy. Yes, having an indoor cat or dog puts them at less risk for a lot of things, but what if your animal develops an allergy or suddenly manifests symptoms from something genetic?

    I have 2 perfectly healthy cats who have incredibly dry, flaky skin. If I don’t treat it and feed them the more expensive food for their condition, they will claw and scratch and bite themselves until they have bald spots. There was certainly no indication of this when they were kittens, but it’s become worse over time as they’ve gotten older – and probably exposed to more allergens. That’s the kind of thing you can’t plan for or expect or say won’t happen to you or your animals.

    (On the other side of the equation, they’re both toilet trained, so I don’t have to buy litter! Yay!)

    But I agree .. if you choose to own animals, you need to increase your emergency/slush fund savings to accommodate them. Because you never know what might happen!

    • leslie beslie says:

      Exactly, agreeing to take on a pet means agreeing to take care of them for their entire lifetime. It’s a huge commitment. It really bothers me seeing animals having to live unhappily or unhealthily because their owners don’t think it’s worth taking care of them.

  2. Man, I get pissed when my crappy dental plan doesn’t cover all the dental work that I need as a human being. It must be tough shelling out dough for cats as well – but you are right, I think in the long run it will save you money by preventing more serious conditions.

    • leslie beslie says:

      I certainly don’t want to do that again in a few years. So I’m going to really try to start brushing his teeth. It’s just… not fun for either of us.

  3. Amanda says:

    I feel bad because I’ve only taken one of my two cats to the vet ONCE – and that was because my roommate at the time had gotten a new cat that gave my cat a cold. They are indoor cats, and I guess I do take that for granted. They seem healthy, but how would I know? My cats both have vampire fangs, so maybe they have dental issues too? If I wasn’t getting laid off in less than a month, I’d look into booking them appointments, but I suppose that will have to wait until my employment situation improves.

    • leslie beslie says:

      Do your cats have bad breath? That is a pretty good indicator that there might be something going on. If they will let you, you can lift up their lip to try to see their gums. If they are very red, then there is a problem. Unfortunately cats aren’t cooperative when it comes to checking out their mouth, especially if it is painful for them.

      A general check-up appointment at my vet is $50 so just plan ahead, take them each a few months apart, and hopefully they are healthy and won’t need to go back for a while. Some vets might also help if you need financial assistance by setting up a payment plan.

    • Kara says:

      Amanda – see if you can find a vet that will treat them on a sliding scale. I was complacent about my last cat’s health for the same reasons – she was an indoor cat and she “seemed” healthy. Plus I’ve had cats all my life, so I thought I knew what the possible issues were (such hubris).

      It turned out that she had a bad thyroid condition. If I had taken her to the vet on a regular basis, I’d have caught it early and it would have been treatable with meds, but because I didn’t catch it until it was too far advanced, she went into heart failure and died. I’m absolutely not trying to guilt anyone; just hope that someone can benefit from my experience. I probably could have had 5 or 6 more years with my Domino-girl if I’d been more on the ball about her healthcare.

      • Amanda says:

        Thanks ladies. I will definitely look into this sooner rather than later. My one cat has HORRIBLE breath whereas the other’s isn’t so bad, so I’m assuming it’s not because of the food they eat. I will try to look at their gums when I get home.

        $50 to find out if there is an issues isn’t so bad. I just hope there isn’t!

  4. This is definitely one of the many reasons that I am not a pet person. I bought a fish a few weeks ago, but, you know, that’s about as low maintenance as pets get. I clean his bowl once a month and make sure to drop a few icky dried worms in daily. It’s not much of a commitment.

    The picture of your cat in the shopping bag is adorable though!

    • leslie beslie says:

      Really, it’s all you want to put into it. I had a bigger fish tank in college (freshwater) but enjoyed buying live plants (to give the fish a more natural environment) and buying new types of fish. It will be a while before I do that again though. Good luck with your fish!

  5. Maggie says:

    Two years ago my 10 yr. old Siamese had surgery for bladder stones. The total cost was about $1,500, including “senior” blood work, lab analysis of the stones and a dental cleaning. Recently I noticed he had bad breath and made an appointment for a cleaning. I was told that he would need “senior” blood work prior to cleaning and that I could drop him off in the morning, which I did, and left. When I picked him up later the same day the bill was over $900. It was reduced to $850 when I refused a five day supply of expensive pain meds (vet had ordered 10 viles of pain meds – vet ordered 2 viles when he had surgery). Charged $77 Office Exam, $200 SuperChem, CBC & Elec, $66 T4 blood work, $53 Urinalysis, and a variety of drugs used during and post dentistry. Actual dentistry was $154 without the anesthesia. I have spent thousands over the last 4 years on older cats(kidneys, bladder and neurological) at this same vet. This time they clearly ran up the bill. I will not be back. This cat was not sick. He needed dental work. Be very careful to ask about all the charges before you leave your cat for a dental cleaning.

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