Pet Care on a Budget

Here are simply ways to save money on caring for your cat. This includes regular veterinary care. We explain why.

With the economy stumbling, the prospect of hundreds of dollars a year in cat care may seem daunting. But dont worry: There are plenty of ways to defray the cost of owning a cat without compromising your pets well-being.

In fact, some of the most effective strategies will actually benefit your cat. As Jodi Korich, DVM, director of Partners in Animal Health

Bev Caldwell


at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine explains, “One of the best ways to save money on your pets health is to pay attention to early disease detection and preventive health care.” Just like oil changes and preventive maintenance result in fewer repair bills for your car, she says, regular check-ups and early intervention will save you money in the long run.

Why Dental Care is So Important

Dental hygiene tops Dr. Korichs list of money-saving health care. Dental disease is the most common malady cats suffer, afflicting fifty percent of all cats. Learning to brush your cats teeth at home can make a tremendous difference in your cats oral health. While its not easy to become an expert at cat-brushing, it costs little and can save a lot.

Early intervention is equally important. Because you know your cat better than anyone, youre in the best position to spot subtle changes that might indicate a medical problem. Dont ignore something small in the hopes that it will go away because the cost of a cure gets larger the bigger the problem gets. Make it a habit to examine your cat weekly for things like missing hair, skin bumps, tearing eyes or excessive drooling. Keep an eye out for changes in your cats routine, such as a change in appetite or bowel habits.

Dr. Korich calls vaccinations the “ultimate in preventive medicine.” Fatal diseases like feline leukemia can cost $1,000 to treat – versus less than $20 for the vaccine to prevent it. And since some vaccines can now be given every three years instead of annually, you may be able to save money on the vaccinations too.

Ask your vets office if they offer payment plans or pet insurance. Depending on your cats health care needs, such plans can offer significant savings. One local animal hospital offers a membership plan thats pay-by-the-month and includes vaccinations and an annual exam, saving you money and easing your monthly cash flow.

Another good way to avoid additional vet bills is to take care of your cats nails yourself. Since professionals recommend trimming your cats nails every two weeks or so, doing it yourself can add up to a lot of savings over the course of a year.

Feed for Best Health

You dont need to spend extra money on vitamins and supplements (unless prescribed by your vet) if you choose a well-balanced commercial cat food. And make sure youre giving your cat the appropriate serving of cat food for its size and age. Keeping your cat at its ideal weight will prolong its life as well as save you money in grocery bills.

If youre currently using a premium cat food, consider switching to a slightly less expensive brand or to a dry food that comes packaged in bulk. Be sure to make any change gradually, starting with a little of the new food and shifting the proportions over the course of a week. Dry food can be moistened with water to make the adjustment easier.

Litter can be another grocery bill buster. Choosing a less expensive brand is one solution; or you can stock up on litter when you find it on sale. Since cats are not always keen to switch litters, mix in some of the new litter with the old gradually, so that your cat gets used to the difference in texture and smell.

Because the number of cats owned in this country is counted in the tens of millions, cat products are a big business. But before you reach for that cat fountain, ask yourself whether you can do without or make your own. Rather than buying cat bathing wipes, try a warm, damp washcloth to clean your cat instead. Instead of investing in hair removal tape for your couch, brush your cat and vacuum more often. Or lay a washable cloth on the spot where your cat prefers to lounge.

Dont buy expensive toys that your cat might not like – make your own. Because feline eyes focus best on movement rather than detail, cats are just as happy to bat at a homemade toy as at a $20 colored toy. A balled-up piece of paper costs nothing and can give your cat hours of delight. Cats especially like the faint skittering noises wadded paper makes across a bare floor, reminiscent of the sound of prey. Another popular homemade toy is a knotted sock tied to a string (though be careful your cat doesnt try to eat the string itself). A cardboard toilet paper roll is amusing to many cats.

Last but not least, make sure your cat gets the exercise it needs to keep trim and content. Spend time playing with your cat. This costs nothing, and since a happy cat is a healthy cat, you, your cat and your pocket book will all benefit.