Meet the latest addition to our family: Rosie. She is not a cloth covered box, she is in fact, a kitten. And you’ll have to believe me when I say that although most kittens aren’t very cute as a general rule, this one will knock your socks off with her adorableness.
But enough drooling for the moment, let’s talk instead about being able to afford Rosie.
Pets cost money. In fact, any time you bring a new responsibility into your life it costs money, be it for a child, an animal or a new car. And before taking on a new obligation, it is important to think of what is involved. I’m not going to talk about what kind of pet works best for your family or lifestyle, because that is a choice that you have to make for yourself. On the other hand, once you have made the choice to adopt an animal, there are many ways that you can take care of your new beastie frugally.
First up is where you acquire your animal. We got Rosie through our local Freecycle group so we didn’t pay anything. Another frugal choice is the local animal shelter. If you absolutely must buy a certain breed of animal, try the envelope method, and save up until you can pay cash.
Once you have your new pet at home, you need to feed and entertain him or her. We didn’t have any extra upfront expenses because we already had cat food and dishes, litter boxes, toys etc. I did add a feeding station and litter box upstairs, using repurposed children’s bowls for food and water and an old dishpan for a litter box. Use a cloth placemat or a dishtowel under the food and water bowls; for large dogs you can use rag rugs. My stepmother feeds their dog from a metal pie plate, my cats eat from thrift store finds.
Don’t buy lots of toys either! Like small children, most animals will be more intrigued by the wrapping than by the object within. As shown in the above picture, Rosie is fascinated with one of my daughter’s stacking blocks. Any small object that rolls will occupy a kitten for hours, while puppies like to chew- anything and everything. Try knotting old sports socks together, one inside the toe of the other, to make a hard, rope-like teething object. These adorable felted wool balls were intended for children’s toys, but I think that they would make cute cat toys too. Another toy idea, also via The Crafty Crow, is this way to turn your child’s drawings into cat toys from What Knot.
When it comes to food, don’t skimp on quality. Here, as with your health, prevention is the best cure. Buy a good brand of pet food, although you don’t necessarily need to pay for the best, and your pet will thank you with fewer health problems and smaller vet bills. Supplement his or her diet with healthy snacks, like carrots for dogs or pieces of well cooked chicken from your dinner. Exercise your animal as well, with regular walks or play sessions. You’ll be better for it too.
While feeding healthy food will lower your vet bills, it won’t get rid of them entirely, and it shouldn’t! Your pet needs regular medical checkups (as do you) and should be vaccinated against the most common illnesses. Most cities (in the United States and in France) have a low cost vaccination clinic. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend the most necessary shots, as well as the generic version. Some medications can be given cross-species as well. It might be cheaper to buy the human version of the treatment for your dog’s arthritic knees, than the canine version. You should also spay or neuter your pet, as this too reduces potential medical expenses.
Adopting an animal is not a decision to be taken lightly. But once you do, your new pet can be a happy and frugal member of your home for many years to come.
Any other frugal animal tips? How many pets do you have? Has money ever been a consideration when making decisions about acquiring a pet or for your existing pets?