Once upon a time, not so long ago, animals were kept outdoors. Dogs were kept primarily for hunting and guarding purposes, and if cats were allowed around at all it was to keep the rodent population away from the grain.
How times have changed! They’re in our homes now, and on our laps, and even in our beds. Many people think of them as their children, or at least as little people with fur. Most of them are considered part of the family and we spend a small fortune on their toys, food, and medical bills. So Billshark thought it would be a good idea to offer our pet lovers some tips on how to shave that fortune down a bit.
If you don’t already have a pet, don’t buy one. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by skipping breeders (don’t even think of getting a puppy- or kitten-mill pet) and adopting from one of the thousands of shelters in the country.
Yes, you’ll be checked out thoroughly, but that’s the lesson these shelters have learned to prevent drive-by pet adoptions by irresponsible owners. You’ll save a lot of up-front cash, not only because it’s cheaper to adopt, but because most reputable shelter and rescue groups have already done the basics for you: Spay/neuter surgery, vaccines, deworming, etc.
You can generally find any type of animal you’re after from shelters and rescue groups, from snakes to rabbits to hamsters to cockatiels, in addition to dogs and cats. There are also purebreds available from many shelters and breed-specific rescue groups. Just keep in mind that, due to the inbreeding that produces them, purebreds are often prone to more health problems than mixed breeds, and that translates to more money for vet care.
This is the biggest category in the expenses associated with pet ownership. The average dog will cost approximately $1,200 per year in veterinary care, and $1,070 for cats, according to the ASPCA. This cost rises as the animal ages and needs senior care.
Your best hedge against costly vet bills is insurance. Buy it when your pet is young because no policy will cover pre-existing conditions.
The second-best way to save money is to prevent illnesses and accidents in the first place. Keep control of them when they’re outdoors, and be aware of hazards in the home, such as wires that can be chewed and food and medicines they can accidentally get into.
And, as with humans, preventive care will save money in the long run. Annual vet visits along with recommended vaccines and teeth cleaning can help catch problems when they’re easier—and less expensive—to treat. Ask your vet about any discount or wellness packages or group discounts if you have more than one pet. And check into new vaccine guidelines that allow some to be given every three years instead of annually.
You don’t have to buy top-of-the-line pet food, but it’s riskier to feed low-quality, cheap food. To save on health issues down the line, buy well-known, high-quality food in bulk and feed according to package directions. Overfeeding not only wastes money, but produces overweight animals that will eventually experience such issues as diabetes and joint problems. Skip pricey (and calorie-laden) pet treats and make your own.
Toys and Bedding
You’ve heard of EBay, right? And Craigslist? And Goodwill? Why buy brand-new toys that the little critter will lose interest in within a few weeks. You can also make your own, and save a ton of money. YouTube has plenty of instructional videos. Cats, especially, are easy. Like kids who prefer to play with the box than the toy it contained, kitties love boxes, paper bags, even crumpled pieces of paper. Dogs will be perfectly happy curling up on an old comforter. And most dogs become attached to a favorite ball or chew toy; they don’t need a house full of toys.
- Grooming is a necessity for long-haired dogs and cats. You may be able to perform some of these tasks—bathing, nail clipping, trimming fur—yourself. If you can’t manage it, it’s worth the cost of having it professionally done, because ungroomed animals are unhealthy animals.
- Many shelters and even local pet stores offer low-cost vaccines, micro-chipping, and spaying/neutering, often for up to 80 percent less than you’d pay your vet.
- Kennels and pet sitters can quickly add up. Try to arrange with family or friends to watch your pets while you’re gone. If you can return the favor with their pets, this can work out well for both parties.
- A well-trained dog is a joy; an untrained dog is, um, not. Unless you have an especially difficult case, however, you should try training your dog yourself. There are countless books and videos that will show you the basic techniques, and this will have the additional reward of helping you bond with your new pet. If this isn’t sufficient, many pet stores offer group training sessions that can be cheaper than hiring a trainer.
And if you need money for your pets (or any other purpose), be sure to let Billshark take a close look at your bills. We have saved people hundreds and even thousands of dollars on their bills.