Those of us who own or want an animal companion can find the cost of getting or caring for the additional family member prohibitive.
The American Pet Products Association estimates that we will spend more than $60 million on pets in 2015. So what can be done to keep our loyal pets healthy and happy, and keep the expenses under control?
1. Adopt From a Local Shelter
If you are looking for an animal companion, adoption is not only kind but typically cost-effective, compared with buying from a store or breeder. The Humane Society and other nonprofit animal shelters typically bundle the cost of licensing, initial vaccinations, spaying/neutering, microchipping for identification, veterinary care, animal-care counseling and a dog leash or cardboard cat carrier. The Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington, for instance, says adopting a cat runs about $50-$75 total, including the above services; dogs run anywhere from $40 to $135.
2. Search Online First
If you find it too emotionally trying to visit a shelter and witness the many homeless and hopeful animals, or you have a very specific type of pet in mind that is not locally available, there are other ways.
Petfinder calls itself the “home of 300,831 adoptable pets from 12,244 adoption groups.” The site has information on adopting everything from guinea pigs to horses. Petfinder gives you a list of rescue groups in your area, ones that specialize in the type of pet you seek. It also provides a list of shelters. You fill out the form and find sources for particular pets and breeds.
You can also look to sites like Craigslist to find pets that need a new home.
“I looked for a free dog, so we looked on Craigslist, and I ended up finding him. Somebody was giving him away,” Saundra Ours told Stacy Johnson, founder of Money Talks News.
3. Smart Pet-Product Shopping
Once you have your pet, there are a number of ways to save money while making sure to meet its needs.
Get the big picture. The dog-centric blog by Voyce (a company that sells wearable dog wellness monitors) recommends checking the Web for prices on everything “from food to toys to dog shampoo” and then checking with your local retailer to see if it offers price matching. Many retailers will give you the same price, or lower, than the ones you found on the Web, if you show them the price, according to the site.
4. Standard Veterinary Services for Free or Cheap
If you can’t afford medical care for your pet, there is help. The Humane Society has a complete list of national and state resources for pet owners in need. Branches of the Humane Society offer medical assistance, low-cost spaying and neutering and vaccination services.
Some veterinary schools also run low-cost clinics. In addition, not all common procedures require a vet’s treatment. For example, if your pet has fleas, ask your vet which over-the-counter products would be effective. You’ll probably find more competitive prices at your local drugstore than he/she can offer.
5. Critter Food for the Long Run
Buy appropriate food in bulk, according to The Simple Dollar. This does not necessarily mean you should buy the cheapest food, which could cause future health problems. (Or a food strike, which some cats I know recently undertook when faced with a bargain brand.)
For some guidance on what is best for your cat or dog, check out this article from HealthyPets. It emphasizes that these natural carnivores need lots of protein, animal fat and other things that you may be trying to avoid in your own diet. (Lesson: Don’t assume it’s good for them if it says “natural” or “veggie based.”) You can also check food for a seal from the American Association of Feed Control Officials to make sure it meets minimum dietary requirements for your cat/dog/bunny/fish.
Once you have made your choice, buy it in bulk — but remember to store it out of the pet’s reach. And, of course, check all your usual sources for coupons. Also: Some municipalities and vets offer free pet food, when their shelter stock is bountiful. There is vet near my house that gives away different types of pet food every Saturday morning.
For most animals, you can learn to do this yourself. Admittedly if you happen to own an Afghan this might be a problem.
The benefits of dog grooming extend far beyond just making the pet look prettier. Grooming improves the mental state of your companion, improves behavior and is important for his/her health.
According to MTN’s 28 Ways to Save Big Bucks on Pet Supplies, you can learn to clean your pets’ ears, clip their nails and — if you have a dog — study how to groom different breeds. Stacy notes that the Internet is full of videos that can teach you grooming techniques.
Important: If your pet is covered in unkempt hair, it is much harder to spot skin issues and other signs of illness. Keeping your pet well-groomed is an easy way to make sure he/she is healthy. If your pet is properly groomed, you should be able to see any unusual issues early and get help.
There are numerous sites on the Web that offer pet toys and treats at discount prices, including: Entirely Pets, Pets Welcome and Pet Supplies 4 Less.
Then there is the do-it-yourself method.
For dogs: BarkPost offers 33 suggestions on how to make your own dog toys, including a cereal box taped shut with treats inside or an indestructible chew toy made from rope and dried sweet potatoes.
For cats: SavingAdvice.com offers a range of household items that can be converted, but also warns to be careful of the size of the items so your cat doesn’t mistake them for food. Something as simple as a flashlight can keep your cats enthralled as they try to catch the beam.
7. Pet insurance
This is a tough one. If you’ve ever had a pet that was seriously injured or ill, where you spent hundreds to perhaps thousands of dollars for your pet to be treated, you are likely more receptive to the idea of buying pet insurance.
To help you think through the many variables — deductibles, accident vs. illness insurance, premiums and so on — check out 6 Things to Know About Insuring Your Pet.
Cherie Wachter of the Humane Society of Broward County tells Stacy your choice is also dependent on your pet’s activity level.
“Especially … if your pet’s really active, if you go running or hiking and if your dog should become injured, that pet insurance policy might be a great way to save some money in the long run,” she says.
Regular visits to your vet can prevent high bills. Remember: Preventive care can save you in the long run.
This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.
More from Money Talks News:
- The Real Cost of Cat$ and Dog$
- How Owning a Dog Can Improve Your Life
- Pet-Friendly Cities for Renters and Travelers