It might not be the financial crisis of 2008, but many of us are still struggling with how to best allocate our money. It seems that there are so many things demanding dollars, and costs continue to increase everywhere. Bringing a cat into the picture, or keeping a cat or cats, complicates our finances further.
We all know that it costs money to care for a cat well. But you don’t need to dig a deeper financial hole with worries about cat care. Apply some mindfulness to your finances and your cat expenditures, and you’ll be able to keep cats in your life.
Here are five tips for saving money on your cat care:
1. Make choices and prioritize
Does your cat need to have the best of everything? Well, sure, of course we want this! But sometimes it isn’t realistic if your supply of money is finite. So, get mindful. What do you want your cat to have? What is not so important? Would your cat really be happier with a $200 cat tree, or could you perhaps build one yourself for less or concoct something that serves the same purpose? Would your cat be happier with a paper bag? Some are!
If you have a set budget for what you can spend on your cat, decide where you want to spend money for quality, and where you can improvise if needed. For example, I think diet is really important, so I spend quite a bit of money on good, grain-free cat food (canned and dry). I could surely save a ton of money if I bought the cheapest food on the market, but I believe that much of health starts with good food. On the other hand, I don’t have the $$$ for a fancy cat tree, so I don’t have one. My cats play with boxes, bags, a $10 nylon cat tent that they love, a number of small toys, and the Feline Fisher (worth every penny). Mostly, my cats seem happy when they get time with me — regardless of how fancy or unfancy the toys are.
2. Don’t free-feed
You may be draining money from your household if you’re letting your cat graze on food throughout the day. I know that some people do this successfully. I have never done this. Certainly it’d be easier logistically — simply set out the food and forget about it for the rest of the day. But some of my cats would likely overgraze and gain weight — and I don’t want that.
Like I said above, the food I’m feeding is too expensive to waste. My cats get measured amounts twice a day. For a very senior cat, who might do better with several small meals, I’ve fed three times a day.
3. Set up an emergency fund
This is basic personal finance 101, and it is so easy to overlook! You’ve heard it all before. Pay yourself first. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it can be done — it just takes discipline. You’ll feel good when you put this habit into place, and you’ll also gain a feeling of security when you have cash for emergencies.
You might consider setting up a sub-emergency fund specifically for cat emergencies. Don’t you want to be prepared if something happens to your cat? Veterinary expenses can add up fast. (Ask me, I know.) You’ll have peace of mind if you can stash some money aside for unexpected surprises. Yes, it may only be a few dollars at first. But with regularity, and time, those dollars add up.
4. Take advantage of low-cost preventive or vet services
Don’t let the perceived expense of a spay, for example, stop you from adopting a new female cat or spaying your already-owned cat. Are there low cost spay/neuter options in your area? Ask around, or get creative. Can you negotiate with your veterinarian? I understand that vets have huge overhead and expenses, and that it can be a difficult business to run, but there may, in some cases, be leeway, especially if you’ve been a historically good customer.
If you’re looking to adopt, some shelters offer discounts at particular times, or discounts for seniors, etc. While I’m not sure that giving pets away free is a good idea (it could serve to devalue the pet and possibly attract people who may not be serious about pet guardianship), I also understand that there are times when people are strapped and need to be watching their dollars.
5. Shop around for the stuff you use often
Decide where you most want your cat dollars to go — there are times when the cheapest choice is not always the best choice. This is going to depend on you and your approach to caring for cats. I spend a lot on food, but I don’t spend a lot on cat litter, because I’m not sold on clumping litter and I love a particular brand of litter that is cheap and unscented. If you love another litter and it makes your life better to buy it, than allocate your cat budget toward this and cut back elsewhere.
Come to think of it, always have an eye toward your entire budget. Would you give up _______ so you could buy _____ for your cat? Fill in the blanks. For example, would you give up ice cream so that you could afford something for your cat this week or month? I would. Or a latte? Yes. You get the picture. Look at your entire budget and prioritize as to what’s important overall and what is not so important.
How do you juggle your budget so that you can care well for your cat? What tips can you share? Share your stories in comments!
More on money and caring for cats:
- 8 Ways to Get a Cat Fix if You Can’t Have a Cat
- Can you be Clean and Frugal in a Multicat Household?
- The Steps and Costs for Adopting a Cat
About Cat Holm: Author, freelance writer, and yoga teacher by day, and cat companion by night, Cat loves to write about cats, our bond with cats, and fantastic worlds where cats work magic. She is also fascinated with people’s connection to place. If she’s not at her computer, she’s probably outside in the garden, teaching yoga, caring for cats, walking in the woods and thinking about her next writing project, or searching for really good chocolate. Her website is www.catherineholm.com.