Affordable Pet Ownership: It is Possible!
Owning a pet takes money. Add up the costs of vet bills and food, toys and supplies, along with any fees for training, boarding and/or grooming needs, and you can spend anywhere from $200 to $2,000 in the first year alone, depending on the type of pet you choose. Either way, it’s a lot of cash! But before you think you can’t afford your own Spot, Fluffy or Sir Hiss, consider the following five ways you can facilitate more affordable pet ownership:
Spend More to Save More
It might seem counterintuitive, but spending more upfront can actually save you money with pet care in the long run. Have your animal spayed or neutered to prevent the cost of unexpected litters, as well as the fees for several serious health problems that can arise when pets keep their reproductive organs (such as testicular, ovarian, uterine and breast cancers, prostate disorders and pyometra). Similarly, it’s important that all pets receive ongoing preventative healthcare. Regular vet visits will save you the hefty expenses that often come with unexpected health issues. Preventing illness will almost always be less expensive than paying for the treatment of it.
Get comfortable doing things yourself, especially those daily maintenance tasks like brushing teeth, clipping nails and cutting hair. Professional grooming services can add hundreds of dollars to your pet care costs each year; unless you intend to show them and need pristine results, most animals don’t need someone else to keep them presentable. Similarly, you can escape vet bills for teeth cleaning by learning how to do it at home. Maintaining your pet’s oral health yourself helps negate the need for costly periodontal disease treatment later on.
Research the Options
Just like market researchers use focus groups, microsurveys, interviews and other tools to help them make good decisions, you should, too. Before you bring a pet into your home, think about breed characteristics, your lifestyle and your budget. Some animals are more prone to certain diseases. Some live longer than others. Some need special cages, tanks and accessories. Some eat more, shed more, play more or simply require more in general. In short, your pet breed dictates a lot of your costs. Read books and articles. Ask your friends’ opinions. Talk to a vet. Make sure to pick a pet with needs that match all of your resources.
It should go without saying, but we will: buy used. Adopt a pet; don’t buy one. Not only will rescued animals be spayed or neutered and up-to-date on vaccinations (saving you those costs), but they will be vetted for potential behavior problems that could cost you extra in the future, as well. You should also look for second-hand items like crates, tanks and cages and consider using your own items in new ways. Old tennis balls, stuffed animals, rope and ribbons can all serve the same purpose as explicitly marketed (i.e., expensive) “pet toys.”
Make Playtime a Priority
We frequently believe our animals are our distractions from the world, companions to raise our spirits and love us. Indeed, they can be. But we should also be the same for them in return. Be prepared to entertain and enjoy your pet. Make time to play or go on walks and supply toys that encourage activity and stimulate the mind. Good physical and mental conditioning will ensure that your pet maintains a healthy weight and is not so bored that he or she destroys your house. The alternatives — treating physical disease and replacing household items — cost a lot more!