7 Ways to Save on Cat Care
According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, Americans will spend approximately $45.4 billion on their pets. Before you get out that frugal yard stick and start lecturing about spending too much money on cat trees, catnip toys and feather ticklers, understand that the majority of those expenses are spent on vets. Cat owners spend 55% of their budget on routine and surgical vet visits. Some of these visits are necessary; however, many could be prevented.
Last year, my short haired, domestic ball of energy, Smokey, had an emergency vet visit for a kidney stone. His urethra was partially blocked and it required emergency surgery. After the emotional and financial rollercoaster ride, I asked my vet what I could do to prevent future episodes, and he gave me a few simple cat care tips:
1. Upgrade Your Cat Food
Humans can't live on junk food alone, and neither can cats. Cat food that has a grain, such as corn meal, as a primary ingredient is nothing more than a filler. These foods promote overeating and poor nutrition. Try upgrading to a cat food that has meat as the primary ingredient, or use grain-free cat food. Paying more for cat food can save you more in the long run, because it prevents health issues, such as obesity, in your pet.
2. Dump Clay-Based Litter
According to the Bureau of Waste Management, approximately 8 billion pounds of spent cat litter is dumped into U.S. landfills every year — that's over twice the amount of disposable diapers. As this litter absorbs waste and water in landfills, it can become 15 times its original size. Additionally, the dust from the litter can enter the cat's urethra, swell to a larger size, and cause urinary tract blockages. Switching to eco-friendly, clay-free litter helps your cat and the environment.
3. Brush Their Teeth
Periodontal disease is common in adult cats. Just like humans, cats can get tartar on their teeth. The tartar irritates the gums and causes inflammation, otherwise known as gingivitis. If left untreated, the tartar can build up and start to separate the gums from the teeth, causing more bacterial growth, leading to periodontal disease. This disease is irreversible and can lead to your cat losing teeth, getting painful abscesses and bone loss. Studies show that 4 out of 5 cats over the age of 3 have periodontal disease. Brushing your cat's teeth now can help avoid expensive vet bills in the future.
4. Do-It-Yourself Grooming
Cats naturally groom themselves; however, many owners feel that their cat needs a little extra hygiene help, and choose to bathe, brush and clip their kitties at the groomers. Instead of taking your cat to the groomers, do the grooming yourself. Use a grooming glove to remove loose hair and spend some special bonding time with your cat. The more you handle your cat, the more tolerant they will be when you try to give your cat a bath. Trimming your cat's claws is not as hard as you think. It just requires a little preparation and know-how. Make sure you have the cat supplies you need before starting the grooming process, use gentle tones when grooming your cat, and try to restrain them as little as possible.
5. Early Spay/Neutering
Sterilization of your cat can help him/her live a longer, healthier life. An altered cat can live an additional 3 to 5 years. Altered animals have a lower risk for mammary gland tumors, prostate cancer, perianal tumors, pyometria, and uterine cancer. Additionally, bad habits, such as roaming and spraying, are less likely with an altered cat. Lastly, you'll be doing your part to reduce cat overpopulation.
6. Pro-active Kitty Care
One of the things that saved Smokey's life was that I noticed he was hunched over, in front of my bedroom door, and struggling to urinate. This wasn't normal for my cat, and I knew something was wrong. If you get anything out of this article, remember to pay attention to your cat's routine. They may not tell you anything is wrong, but if you watch for the health warning signs in your cat, you may be able to catch a health problem while it's still small.
7. Ensure Your Cat is Insured
Veterinary costs have more than doubled over the past 10 years. New lifesaving treatments, like surgery and chemotherapy, are available to cats; however, these procedures can be expensive. For the vet bills that can't be avoided, pet insurance can be a low cost solution to ensure you get some of your money back. Some pet insurance plans even offer reimbursement on wellness care. Make sure to do comparison shopping and that you buy an insurance plan that fits into your budget.
Lastly, avoid putting your cat's expenses on a credit card, because you will end up paying more for cat care if you don't pay off the balance at the end of the month. Smokey's emergency vet visit cost me $700. If I had put that bill on a credit card with 14.99% APR, and only made minimum payments of $25, that vet visit could potentially cost me $194.03 in interest and take 3 years and 8 months to pay off. Add your cat's expenses to your monthly budget and try to set some money aside each month for yearly vet visits and vaccines.
This is a guest post written by Kathryn Katz, who is a Certified Personal Finance Counselor and works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, educating consumers via the Internet about managing credit and money responsibility.
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