Pets not debts: 10 money saving tips for pet owners

Cat and money

Pets can eat money, although not usually literally (thanks to Piez)

It’s love at first sight. You’re smitten. How can you resist those big eyes that plead, “Take me home”? You’ve fallen hook, line and sinker and you take your new pet home to meet the family. Now be prepared for the commitment that will last the animal’s lifetime.

An important fact that some people forget when they set their hearts on a pet is that they can live for as long as 15 to 20 years. Before choosing your pet, you need to do your homework and look at the cost of food, shelter, vet bills, toys, accessories, and in some cases, training.

Your new pet is a huge responsibility and there are many questions that you will need to ask yourself before buying a new, furry member of the family.

Make sure you have enough time for them. If you work everyday, think carefully before choosing a cat or a dog as a pet, as they would be left alone all day. Smaller pets such as mice and hamsters are much less expensive to keep than larger pets. They also require less attention.

Are there any allergies in the family? Pets can sometimes trigger allergies or make existing ones worse.

Increase in abandoned pets

The RSPCA are saying that animals are still being abandoned at an alarming rate. They blame the recession and the on-going fad for buying pets as gifts.

So despite Dogstrust’s famous slogan and campaign

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”

thousands of puppies, kittens and even hamsters are still given as gifts. Every year hundreds of thousands of children plead for the latest fad or popular toy on the market, only to lose interest after Christmas when the novelty wears off.

Rewards of owning a pet

Owning a pet can bring many beneficial rewards. Studies have shown that people’s blood pressure can be lower when talking to pets. Pets also give companionship and comfort (especially to senior citizens) and children can learn about caring and responsibility.

However, some families do not take into account the costs associated with keeping a pet. If you are struggling to pay the mortgage and other debts, then it can be difficult to set money aside for Fido or Rover.

Given this, how can you ease the burden?

Ten money saving tips for keeping pets

  • Leaving pets in kennels can be very expensive. If you are going on holiday, ask a neighbour or member of the family to petsit. You could offer a service in return such as gardening, babysitting, or ironing. If you’re in a squeeze try the National Association of Petsitters.
  • Buy pet food in bulk. This can work out cheaper than buying single tins and packets of biscuits (thanks for the tip @MellyBentley).
  • Save old blankets and towels for bedding rather than buying expensive pet beds.
  • Consider adopting a pet from the local animal shelter rather than purchasing from a pet store or breeder (find one via the Cat Protection League or Dogs Trust websites). They will not cost as much and you are saving an animal’s life in the process.
  • Ask for shredded paper from your work as bedding for your small animals like guinea pigs and hamsters (thanks to @PhilDobbs).

Dog and money

  • Remember, if you have a pet such as a cat or dog, you will need to think about spaying or neutering the animal. You will also need to keep up with regular injections and other treatments. If you are on certain benefits, you may qualify for free vet care at your local PDSA.
  • Don’t buy medicines directly from the vet, buy them online (search for “pet medication”) from a reputable website. These sites sell both prescription and non-prescription treatments at prices as much as 50% below what you would pay at the vets.
  • Don’t pay for expensive toys bought from the pet shop. Charity shops and pound stores are a good source of animal toys. Homemade playthings will keep your pet equally amused (make sure that there are no small parts that can be chewed off or swallowed though).
  • Some people don’t bother with pet insurance as the premiums can be very high. However we’d argue that in the long run this could turn out to be false economy as you never know when your pet could end up needing an urgent (and expensive) medical treatment. There are many different pet insurers so shop around for the best deals.

And the most important tip: if really want to save money on keeping a pet – make sure you really want one…remember that a pet is for life!

If you find you really are struggling to keep your pet because of the expense, don’t abandon your pet. Contact one of the many animal shelters who may be able to find a new home for them. And if you would like further help and tips on budgeting, you can use our online debt advice facility.

Do you have any more tips? We’d love to hear from you!

(Special thanks to Which? and Martyn Saville for help with the tips)

Posted by in Saving money