I’ll never forget one woman’s expression as she was forced to give up her long-term cat. I was working at the MSPCA Boston Adoption Center at the time, and this woman’s plight literally broke my heart. She’d lost her job and was about to be evicted, so she was stuck. She planned to spend the night at a homeless shelter because no one she knew could take in her cat. Her face was tight and she was holding back tears as she signed the relinquishment papers.
She is, unfortunately, not alone. One of the top five reasons people give up their pets, according to Catfoodsite’s 2009 FurKeeps Member Survey, is cost.
Unexpected vet bills, rising pet care costs, and abrupt changes in a pet parent’s financial situation can all be disastrous.
Here are some pointers for budgeting pet care and planning for the worst-case scenario. Please share these resources with others and leave any comments in the section below.
- Make sure you’re ready before you adopt. The annual cost of owning a pet can range from $500 to $10,000 for a dog and from $300 to $5,000 for a cat. Before you adopt, take a look at our Estimated Annual Dog Care Costs and Estimated Annual Cat Care Costs.
- Your pet should be neutered or spayed. Spaying or neutering your pet is the most cost-effective way to avoid an unaffordable litter, as well as costly health and behavioral issues (read our article Why Spay or Neuter?). Spaying and neutering don’t have to be expensive: Locate a low-cost or free spay/neuter clinic in your area.
- Purchase in large quantities. The smallest bag of pet food may appear to be the cheapest, but it may actually be the most expensive per pound. My cat’s (admittedly very expensive) food costs $17.99 per 3-pound bag online, and a 15-pound bag costs $42.29. If I buy the same amount of cat food in 3-pound increments, I end up paying $89.95 for 15 pounds of food, which is more than double the price! Some pet experts also recommend buying higher-quality food to cut the overall cost of pet health care.
- Create your own toys and snacks. Try our homemade dog treat recipes or Nikki Moustaki’s tips for making your own pet toys and saving money on pet treats.
- Plan for unexpected costs. Pet insurance can assist you in preparing for unexpected vet bills. One of our partners, PetFirst, offers a low-cost pet-insurance plan for as little as $5 for the first month. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so check out our Pet Health section for tips on keeping your pet healthy.
Do you know of any organizations that help pet owners in need, such as by providing low-cost medical care, donating pet food to food banks, or temporarily housing pets whose parents are in the military or have lost their homes? Let us know what you think in the comments!
You might also like:
FurKeeps: Get it right from the start
Pets on a Budget: Weekly tips for the cash-conscious pet owner
Pets on a Budget: Easy homemade pet toys
Wondering about Never Leave a Pet in Your Car? Check it out on our latest post!