Providing Good Cat Care on a Budget

We share ways to save money on your grocery shopping - but practicing preventive veterinary care tops the list.

With the economy struggling, its comforting to know that 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 can actually benefit your cat.


According to Jodi Korich, DVM, former director of Partners in Animal Health at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine, “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.

Dr. Korich places dental hygiene at the top of the list for money-saving health care. Dental disease is an extremely common malady, 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 hope 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 issues 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, drinking or bowel habits.

Dr. Korich calls vaccinations the “ultimate in preventive medicine.” Fatal diseases like feline leukemia can be very costly 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. (Your veterinarian can decide which vaccinations are most important for your cats particular lifestyle.)

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. Some animal clinics offer a membership plan thats pay-by-the-month – and it includes vaccinations and an annual exam.

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

You dont need to spend extra money on vitamins and supplements (unless prescribed by your veterinarian) 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 her ideal weight will help to prolong her life, as well as save you money in grocery bills.

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 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 your cat might not like – make your own. Because cat 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 can be cut into rings for your cat to play with.

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.