I have two cats (pause for a joke about being a cat lady here), and the last year has taught me a lot about how much it costs to raise a child — ahem, I mean, pet. In my first few months, I spent hundreds of dollars each month getting food, litter, toys, and random things I didn’t even know I needed, like a travel carrier. But after a year, I’ve lowered my expenses to about $40 per month.
I’ve learned a lot about how to take care of a cat without spending a fortune. Do yourself a favor and memorize these tricks before you get that little kitten that you’ve had your eye on:
1. Buy in Bulk
Purchasing your pet supplies in bulk is the ultimate way to save 10, 15, or even 20 percent on cat care overall.
As an Amazon Prime member, I like to use the site to order my litter supplies in bulk, which I do about every five weeks. (I order bags of clay pellets and dry pads separately.)
In addition to saving a ton of time with the door-to-door delivery, this also saves me about $15 per month.
I also order my wet and dry cat food on Amazon. The best part is that you can set your purchases to be repeated automatically. Every five weeks, I get a confirmation email for a new shipment.
This is great because every pet owner has had the distinct chilling sensation of realizing that you’re out of supplies, and you don’t have time to go get more.
2. Avoid the Priciest Stuff
During my first few months as a pet owner, I purchased only the top-of-the-line (read that as “most expensive”) materials for my cats. You know, the organic, high-protein, touched-by-an-angel food that costs five times as much as the standard stuff.
Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s important to know what’s in the food that you’re buying. However, this stuff can be absurd.
You don’t need to pay that much for quality cat care. Although I don’t regret the Brita filter system I got for my kittens (mostly because it’s pink, holds enough water to last for a week, and is absolutely adorable), the food that I was buying was unnecessarily expensive. They don’t need anything that fancy.
So I did some research and found a pet food company that sat right in the middle of the spectrum. It has organic ingredients that make me satisfied that my cats aren’t eating the fast food equivalent of pet food, but it comes without the hefty price tag that comes with a Gwyneth Paltrow–approved recipe.
3. Get Pet Medication Online
If you ever need to worry about pet medication — knock on wood — it may be best to order it online. Buying medication from websites, like 1-800-Pet-Meds or Chewy, can mean saving a lot of money than you might otherwise spend at a pharmacy.
Plus, the meds can be shipped right to your house, so you don’t ever need to take a trip to the store or to the vet’s office to help keep your pets healthy.
4. Find the Right Vet and Consider Pet Insurance
Speaking of the vet’s office, you should also make sure that your pet doc costs are competitive with other nearby veterinary institutions. Don’t be afraid to call a few places in your area and ask how their pricing table works.
After all, a trip to the vet can cost you hundreds of dollars.
Even if you do manage to find a less expensive vet, the cost can still be expensive. If you need help affording it, pet insurance might be the safest way to go. It is a great way to protect your cat (or other animal) should they get sick or eat something they shouldn’t.
You never want to have to worry about risking the cat getting sicker because the cost of taking care of them is too high. With pet insurance, like Healthy Paws and Trupanion, you don’t have to.
If pet insurance isn’t right for you, it may be best to build a pet emergency fund to help pay for keeping your cat healthy and happy should the worst happen. An emergency may not be necessary, but it is always good to have.
5. Buy Fewer (and Cheaper) Toys
Now, I know this is sacrilege for most pet owners, but there’s no need to spend tons of money on cat toys. Your cat doesn’t need a remote-controlled toy that costs an arm and a leg.
Your pet will be just as happy with a mouse on a rope or a stuffed catnip toy you can buy from Amazon.
If you don’t mind me being even more frugal, they don’t need all too many toys. A dozen toys is more than enough to have them thoroughly entertained. Even a rope tied to a chair can keep your pets happy for hours. Besides, the fewer toys you have, the easier it is to clean up when they’re done with them.
The Bottom Line
Remember, when you buy or adopt a pet, you’re often making a financial commitment for up to 20 years. If you focus on being budget-aware at the beginning of your “investment,” then you’ll be able to enjoy loving your pet without spending hundreds of unnecessary dollars every year.
Additional reporting by Lauren Shayo.