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Affordable Pet Care for Owners - Tips for Making Your Money Last

cocker spaniel dog being groomed

6 Ways to Make Pet Care More Affordable

Can you imagine that there are more homes with pets than there are those with children in America? The 2020 numbers are in: 2 out of 3 or over 85 million of U.S. households have dogs, cats and other pets while only 35 million have children!  The breakdown provided by the American Pet Product Association has the split being 42.7 million cat owners and 63.4 million dog owners - which clearly indicate that quite a number of people have more than one pet.

Interesting right? As a pet owner yourself, you can perhaps understand why so many homes make room for pets in their life (especially recently with the pandemic); having a furry pal or a few can bring you a multitude of benefits from improving your well-being, lowering stress, and reducing anxiety (not to mention having someone fetch your slippers or wake you up in the morning 😀).

But even with the amazing benefits, the truth is that the costs associated with caring for a dog or cat can be tremendously high. Recent statistics indicate that an average single pet household can be spending an average of $1,126 a year with 40% of that amount going to food and treats and 35.7% being spent on medical and veterinary care.  

Although, a majority of pet owners are more then willing to spend for the well being of their pet, not everyone plans ahead for these types of expenses. When buying a pet, many pet owners budget only for the basics like food and vet visits but overlook other expenses such as pet-sitting, day-care facilities, boarding services and insurance. 2020 was a tough one for many financially; however, it has taught many of us the lesson of life’s unpredictability and also highlighted the importance of saving money for the ‘hay days’. Unpredictable pet care costs sometimes pop up and it’s important to account for these moments as well.

One cannot put a price tag on their love for their pets. However, the reality remains that owning a pet does carry a financial cost that will impact your household budget.

In this blog, you’ll discover tips on how to manage your pet care budget without compromising your pet’s health and happiness.

#1 Control veterinary expenses

The average American spends $139 per month on their pets, with 24% being allocated to Veterinary care. In 2019, pet owners shelled out a total of 36.9 billion on healthcare. While it’s important to ensure your pet’s life is always in the hands of a good vet, it’s still wise to choose your vet carefully and manage costs. The amounts charged by vets can vary so do your research and find yourself a vet who is good but also easy on your pocket.

Also, some vets will urge you to buy specialty foods or medicines from them, which may be more expensive then the ones you can find in the store. Always ensure you keep in mind what is most cost-effective for you: when your pet needs medication, consider asking for the prescription so you can  order it online, or maybe get a generic brand that is just as good.  

#2 Don’t go overboard on toys and accessories

The American Pet Products Association reported that dog owners spent $107 per year on dog toys and treats and $66 per year for toys and treats for their cats. While toys are essential for their overall happiness and mental stimulation, pets are not going to care about the brand. They would be just as happy spending their time chasing you and the stick you found in your backyard or even a simple laser.

Although it’s worthwhile to spoil your pet with extra love and treat them like a family member, you can do this in a way that doesn’t place a burden on your budget; for example, limit how much you spend to clothe and dress them. Your pet is naturally born with all the clothing it needs to protect them, unless there are extreme weather conditions.

D.I.Y toys and clothes made from items around your home are always a great option. With just a little bit of creativity, you can create anything from toss-able toys to challenging puzzles. Barkpost shares some innovative fun ideas for DIY dog toys. For your sweet feline, provides you with irresistibly easy DIY options. Not only will these toys not cost you an arm and a leg, but your fur baby will get as much pleasure from it as it smells of you - their favorite human.

So go ahead - have fun creating! 

#3 Groom your own pet

Americans spend a lot of money grooming their pets; this is especially true for dog owners. However, in these challenging times, more people are looking for economic alternatives to expensive doggy spas and cat groomers. During lockdown, some of these places had to close down and many pet parents had to figure out how to groom their pets at home.  Thankfully, the internet has a lot of information on how to clean, wash and groom your dog and cat. All you have to do is Google it!

Secondly, there are tons of grooming videos on YouTube with free lessons. Here are two videos that can get you on board:

  1.  How to Cut a Dog’s Hair? Basic Grooming Tutorial
  2. Basic Cat Grooming – Top Tips!

So, with just a few clicks, you will have all that you need and more. Additionally, you can also engage with pet groups on Facebook and Instagram and post your queries. People are always happy to pass on their expert advice.

#4. Make quality food (not brand name food) your focus

It’s okay to ditch the brands sometimes. Many believe that the most expensive pet food brands are best for our cats and dogs. It’s wise to not rely blindly on the marketing message of these brands. Do your homework and find out what is really in the pet food you buy. After all, what matters most is that the right ingredients are in your pets' food. There are inexpensive brands that provide kibble and wet foods that can adequately meet your pets nutritional needs - you just need to do some research.

If you love spending time in the kitchen, you can even make food costs more affordable by searching the internet for some healthy recipes. Try them and see which one your pet loves best. DIY recipes can be a real money saver!

Here are some home-made pet food recipes you can try:

1.  Homemade Dog Food

2.  Homemade Cat Food

3.  Homemade Dog Kibble

4.  Three Recipes for Homemade Dry Cat Food

We have also saved some great recipes for DIY dog treats and home-made cat treats on Pinterest. Check out these easy and tasty ideas.

Happy cooking!

#5. Prevention is key

Affordable pet health care begins with preventive pet care. One of the best ways to protect your pet’s health is through prevention. Using natural pet supplements, feeding your pet good healthy food and giving them lots of love and exercise is a great way to prevent illness.

Another way we can prevent serious illness is by giving timely vaccinations and being diligent about re-vaccinating as per your vet’s recommendations. If you fall short in this area, you can leave your dog or cat susceptible to a variety of life-threatening illnesses, that can result in heavy vet bills.

As with all things you need to do your own research. Some holistic vets are now discovering that not all vaccinations being prescribed are necessary if your pet already has immunity against that particular illness, and therefore does not need another vaccine. You can check to see if your pet has the right amount of immunity to protect them by having your vet do a titer test. There are four canine and feline main diseases for which a positive titer test is an indication that the animal has protective immunity: distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus in dogs, and panleukopenia in cats and does not need to be re-vaccinated. 

The main thing to remember is that by doing the right things upfront to prevent illness will not only reduce costs down the road but will also keep your pet living longer.

#6. Take advantage of the sharing economy

While it may be tempting to get all new things for your new puppy or buy them the best there is, sometimes it is just as good, and certainly more economical to share things with other pet owners. Just start talking to your fellow pet parents in the park and you will not only get good tips and ideas but you'll also be able to create some innovative ways to share costs.  Here are some you can consider:

Do a pet toy exchange

Most dogs and cats have more toys than they can play with in a lifetime, so rather than getting a new box of toys delivered every month, consider doing a toy exchange in your neighborhood. Just be sure to clean and sanitize the toys and then your pet won't get bored playing with a brand new ball, mouse or puzzle.

Form a pet-sitting or pet-walking club

Going away for a holiday or a business trip? Don't have time to walk your dog? Rather than leaving your pet at an expensive kennel or paying for a dog walker, why not ask some of the pet parents in the neighborhood that your pet is already familiar with to see if they will walk or pet sit your dog or cat for you. That way your fur baby can spend some time with a friend and not be so lonely while you are gone. Then when you are back consider returning the favor (just make sure your pets get along).

Trade specialties

Too nervous to groom your pet at home but you are a great carpenter? Why not find a local groomer in your area that can do the job. Then offer to build something for them in exchange. Bartering is something that has been going on for centuries and there is no reason it can't work now.

If you are new to the area or don't know anyone that has pets yet, consider joining a local pet meetup or connect with other pet parents through one of the popular pet apps on your phone. Get creative and you'll be able to come up with lots of ways to get your pet what you need.

Have a great idea? Share it!

Of course this is not all! If you are a seasoned pet owner, you might have your own solutions for affordable pet care that you follow regularly; we’d love to hear your ideas too - you can write to us or share on social media.

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