Pets change our lives for the better, and not just because they’re fuzzy, tail wagging bundles of unconditional love. They teach us to be kind and make us care about something other than ourselves.
But basic pet ownership is expensive when you factor in food, medicines and grooming. That doesn't even include the cost of giving them the very best treats, toys and veterinary care. (And we know you'll want to.)
Don't despair. Use the following eight tips to save money while you spoil your pet.
1. Buy in bulk
Save money by bulk-buying items with a long shelf life or that won't expire. These items include puppy pee training pads, bully sticks, poop bags, cat litter, cat toys, canned food, dry food, and bedding for fish and small animals.
Certain dry foods can last quite a long time and might even be okay to freeze. When you're buying food in bulk, make sure to check with the store or the manufacturer to see how long the dry food is safe and whether it can be frozen.
If you're already signed up for a warehouse club for humans like Sam's Club or Costco, then you're already set to take advantage of bulk pricing for certain pet supplies.
You'll find many expensive pet toys on the market, but money spent on these items is mostly wasted. Old, worn-out items can be reused as toys that will amuse pets for long periods.
An old sock dangled tantalizingly in front of your feline might provide hours of entertainment. Worn-out tennis balls are as good for playing fetch with your dog as any store-bought ball. Play tug-of-war with your dog using old t-shirts knotted together.
Cost means nothing to your pet — so don't waste money on needlessly expensive toys.
3. Feed your pet leftovers
This suggestion might be a bit controversial, so let's start out by setting some ground rules: Don't feed your pet cooked bones, garlic, or onion; too much fat, salt, and spices; or raw vegetable peels, grapes, and apple cores.
Many human foods can be eaten safely by pets. Small nibblers are very happy to eat raw veggies and some fruits. And keep in mind that before the big business of pet food was invented, pets ate our leftovers, and they lived long, healthy lives.
If you're unsure what human foods are safe for your pet, please ask your veterinarian! And, when feeding leftovers, go slow. Don't feed too many new things at once, because if something upsets your pet's stomach, you won't know what did it.
4. Leave pets with sitters when traveling
Bringing your pet along with you on your vacation can be expensive, as can be putting your animal friend in a kennel while you are gone.
A better option is to let your pet stay with friends or family while you are traveling. Not only will this be cheaper, but your pet will probably be better cared for than at a kennel.
If the people looking after your animal have pets of their own, you can return the favor when they travel.
5. Prepare for and prevent medical problems
There are two ways to save money when it comes to your pet's health. First, pet insurance is a good way to avoid spending a large sum on an unexpected medical crisis.
But even better is to prevent a health problem before it occurs, which will be a boon to both your wallet and your pet's well-being.
Doing what you can to keep your pet as healthy as possible will reduce the likelihood of a costly medical problem. Make sure your pet is fed a nutritious diet, gets plenty of exercise and receives regular veterinary checkups.
6. Train your dog at home
Seek help from a professional trainer if your dog is extremely reactive, fearful, has deeply ingrained behavioral issues or is stronger than you. But if you don't have the means to pay for a dog trainer, then consider using a reward-based system at home.
Reward-based training just means training your dog with treat rewards, and it's the Humane Society's preferred positive and cruelty-free training method.
One simple example of reward-based training is teaching your dog to sit before giving him his meal. YouTube now has an amazing selection of free positive-reinforcement training resources.
7. Groom your pet at home
Some home grooming is super easy, including brushing your long-haired pet frequently to avoid mats. You also can brush pets' teeth (which will help save on dental bills), clean their ears and bathe pets at home.
As with dog training, there are some situations when it's best to call in the professionals. A seriously matted dog, a pet whose nails haven't been trimmed in years, or a fearful animal may best be handled by a pro.
If you groom your pet at home, keep things positive. Use rewards during and after the process to keep your pet interested and happy. To ensure best results, start handling and grooming your pet when it's young.
8. Spay or neuter your pet
North America has a major pet overpopulation problem, and it's mainly due to unsterilized pets creating unplanned litters. There are many economical and ethical reasons to spay or neuter your pet.
When you leave a male cat intact, it wants to mark territory, find a mate (or 10) and fight with other males. Unneutered dogs are more aggressive, too. Unspayed females of both species mark territory and must be kept away from males to avoid unplanned litters.
Getting your pet fixed is simply doing your part to reduce the overpopulation problem. And you'll save money in numerous ways, such as not having to clean up territory markings or not needing vet care for a cat who's been in a street fight.