Pets provide people of all ages with companionship, responsibility, and purpose. For older individuals who are at risk of becoming lonely and/or depressed, a pet can make all the difference in their emotional and physical well-being. However, the cost of providing adequate care for even one pet can become exorbitant very quickly. This can especially be a barrier to pet ownership for seniors who may already be on a tight budget. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help potential pet owners adopt a furry friend with confidence, or help a current owner lower their fur-baby’s costs of care:
- Adopt, don’t buy. If you are looking to add a pet to your family, adopting from the humane society or a rescue organization is far more affordable than purchasing an animal from a breeder. Not to mention many purebred animals typically have some kind of breed-specific health issues that can mean large veterinarian bills later on. Many shelters and rescue organizations conduct special adoption events during which they offer reduced fees—and you’ll be saving a life! (Furthermore, The Pets for the Elderly Foundation is a national charity that helps individuals age 60 and over pay for pet adoption fees in order to encourage companionship through pet ownership.)
- Form pet-sitting circles. If you tend to travel and are close with neighbors or friends who also have pets, try to establish a pet-sitting group. Each participant will avoid the high costs of boarding or “pet hotels” in return for looking after someone else’s animals while they are away.
- Buy used pet supplies. Many humane societies and local charities have thrift stores where you can find secondhand pet bowls, toys, and accessories. Buying these supplies new isn’t necessary, and you’ll save some dough while contributing to a good cause. Just make sure that your items are clean and in good condition in order minimize hazards to your pet.
- Do the grooming yourself. Frequent brushing is vital in order to keep your pet from developing painful and unsightly mats. Cats tend to keep themselves quite clean, but dogs are prone to getting rather smelly from time to time. Some heartier dogs can be bathed outside with a hose and some mild shampoo, while smaller, more fragile breeds can be bathed in the bath tub, or even a large sink. Just be sure to avoid getting water in your pet’s ears and dry them thoroughly following bath time, since ear infections are a common reason dog owners make trips to the vet. The sooner you condition your pet to be groomed, the easier it will be on the both of you.
- Don’t overfeed your pet! Providing too much food for your animals can be unnecessarily expensive and cause them to become obese. Just as in humans, dogs and cats who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoarthritis. Sharing food with your pets may be a gesture of love, but overdoing it can result in some seriously expensive ailments.
- Break treats into small pieces. Not only does this reduce your pet’s additional calorie intake, but it will also save you a nice chunk of change on a pet item that is usually quite pricey.
- Make your own treats or pet food. It is vital that you do adequate research and/or consult with your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your pet’s diet. Animals’ dietary requirements are very different from humans’, and some ingredients like onions and raisins can be deadly. However, many wet and dry cat and dog foods contain little protein—usually of low quality—and lots of fillers. The cost of most mass-produced pet foods and treats is far too high for the questionable nutritional content it provides. If you enjoy cooking, make your own peanut butter dog biscuits or hearty ground turkey cat food to save some money, improve your pet’s diet and eliminate useless fillers that may be contributing to weight issues.
- Food delivery for Fido. Some communities that provide Meals on Wheels services to homebound individuals may also offer a pet food delivery option as well.
- Low cost pet care. Many shelters offer reduced or free spay/neuter and vaccination programs. In fact, if you adopt, some shelters include these services in their pet adoption fees. Furthermore, some pet stores, such as Petco, offer affordable pet vaccinations, testing, microchipping, and preventative medications. Your community may have additional resources to help you pay for your pet’s veterinary care as well.
- Don’t buy pet medications at the vet. Veterinarians mark up these medications significantly, and most can be bought at local pharmacies, online retailers, or chain stores such as Costco and Target. Simply ask your vet for a prescription to fill at another outlet rather than purchasing them in the office. There may be a human equivalent of the required medication that can help you save as well. Just have an honest conversation with your veterinarian about your situation and your desire to minimize expenses.
- Practice preventative care.The best way to avoid expensive appointments with the vet is to be attentive to your pet’s health and day-to-day behavior. Allowing a simple issue grow into a serious or chronic condition is not good for your pet or your wallet. For instance, a simple, routine tooth brushing for your dog or cat can save you money on professional teeth cleanings, infected teeth, extractions, and even surgery. (Not to mention their breath will stay fresher longer!)
If you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll be able to afford a pet, it’s best to put off this important decision until you can really commit. This is an investment that will (hopefully) last for a number of years, and you’ll want to provide the best care for your furry friend to ensure that they are happy and healthy. Fostering animals from local shelters or volunteering is a great way to interact with pets and benefit your community at not cost to you.
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