Frugal Pet Ownership


I recently adopted a stray cat named Chirpy. He is about 6 months old. His mother (whom we named Minerva) was a neighborhood stray who wanted nothing to do with the”indoor life”. But, she has been fixed for free through a PETA program and is being fed well by people in our neighborhood. Chirpy has come from the last litter she will ever have. Several of his sisters and brothers died from feline leukemia.  Chirpy has tested negative for both feline leukemia and FIV and is being monitored carefully. Everyone knows that pet ownership is not frugal. Even though I obtained Chirpy for free, vet bills, food and other costs are a part of every pet owner’s life. How can one be frugal with a fur-baby? Read on.

1. Consider nonprofit organizations’ “mobile clinics” when it comes to getting your pet spayed and neutered. Chirpy was neutered for free because of a nonprofit organization in my state called PETA. SpayHR is another organization in my area that does things like this. Do a web search for free spay and neuter programs in your city. Some of them have income requirements or limited time offers so read carefully.

2. For routine veterinary care, consider a clinic located inside of a pet store. They tend to offer up front pricing and super low costs. These are considered preventative care clinics and have a limited amount of services. But, if they meet your needs, then check them out. I did a search and found two such clinics located in pet stores in my area (PAWS veterinary clinic located in Pet Supplies Plus in Virginia Beach and Affordable Veterinary Services located in the Care-A-Lot pet store in the same city). You can get a rabies shot for about $17 (with no exam fee) at places like this. If you have an old and sickly pet that requires specialized care (such as dental cleanings under anesthesia and daily insulin shots), this might not be right for you. But if you need routine services such as dewormings and vaccinations, it would be silly to not consider such clinics. To be fair, I will list the one big drawback–these clinics tend to be open on limited times/days (such as Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11-4). So, once again, do your homework and call before you go.

3. Practice excellent home care to reduce the need for super-expensive veterinary care down the road. I brush Chirpy’s teeth daily and I feed him a good diet. I also make sure that he gets plenty of exercise. A dental cleaning under anesthesia can be expensive. I can save myself some cash and save Chirpy some pain by caring for his teeth now. Also, this is slightly off topic, but, dry cat food does not clean the cat’s teeth. Cats do not chew their food long enough for this to happen. They rarely chew their food at all if you sit and watch them eat. Dry food causes kidney/urinary problems in the long run (especially in male cats). Cats don’t drink enough water because they evolved from desert dwelling creatures. Their thirst mechanisms do not signal them to drink as often as they should. Wet food has a high water content that ensures that they are getting far more water than they would on a dry diet. After doing a lot of research, it is my opinion that a canned/wet food diet is most appropriate for cats and that is what Chirpy gets. The risk of any potential dental problems is mitigated by me cleaning his teeth daily. PSA over.

4. Consider the pet store’s own brand of generic food and read those labels! When it comes to pet food, more expensive is not always better. Do research on what is best for your particular pet and then read labels. For example, Hills Science Diet is pricey and is full of stuff that cats don’t need like corn and by products (what on earth is the king of the jungle supposed to do with corn?!). But, people think pricey=the best and that is not necessarily so. I read labels on my own food and so I do the same for Chirpy. I have found an inexpensive generic cat food produced by PetSmart called the “Authority” brand. This food contains no carrageenan , grains or byproducts and is full of good things. Real meat is the first ingredient. It is made by people who know pets (PetSmart) but it is quite inexpensive because it is considered generic. Authority makes food for dogs as well. I believe I got Authority for 67 cents a can once because PetSmart is always having sales.

5. Don’t buy pets…adopt or rescue them. Breeders (especially “backyard breeders”) often produce sickly and inbred pets. The adoption fees from a local shelter are often far cheaper than purchasing a pet from a pet store or breeder. You will often get free spaying and neutering and free flea prevention and rabies shots when you adopt. “Purebred” animals tend to have a lot of health problems. Maine Coon cats are prone to cancer and have shorter lifespans than other cats. Dalmatians are prone to deafness and Rottweilers are prone to having hip dysplasia. Purebred does not mean perfect.

Stay tuned for blog updates on Chirpy and (of course) saving money.


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