Smart Ways to Save Money on Pet Care

January 11, 2021 Updated: January 11, 2021

Recently, I read about a family who spent $1,000 to cat-proof their backyard so their two cats, who they consider full-fledged family members, could roam outside without escaping to the outside world.

And that’s not all. Their felines also have lots of cat furniture, and they regularly dine on cat food that costs north of $7 per pound.

Perhaps you spoil your pets, too. There are plenty of ways to save money on pet care.

For example, you can feed them expensive food, but make sure you buy it on sale. And then buy enough to last until the next sale. Instead of paying the big bucks for furniture or beds, make them yourself. There are plenty of how-tos online for those willing to make the effort.

Here are some more ways to save money on your pets.

When selecting a pet, consider adopting; you’ll be saving a life and costs will be much less. (hedgehog94/Shutterstock)

Frugal Choices

When selecting a pet, it’s wise to think beyond cuteness or breed. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a large dog will likely require an average yearly food allowance of $225, while a bird’s diet is only $75 per year. Rabbits and guinea pigs like fresh bedding, which adds up to $415 per year, while a self-cleaning cat will cost you only $165 a year for litter, on average.

Here’s another surprising fact when considering which pet you’ll adopt: Recurring yearly exams and vaccinations range from $210 to $265 on average for dogs and $160 on average for cats.

Adopt Instead of Buying

Breeder prices for dogs are many times higher than the cost of adopting from a shelter. Sure, there will be expenses and fees involved with adopting—but they will be so much less, plus you’ll be saving a life.

Loyalty Clubs

Stores such as Petco, not unlike every supermarket on earth, have loyalty rewards programs. And they have sales. You need to be a loyalty club member to get in on the goodies. It’s worth the effort to join. In fact, join several of these programs so you have options. Then watch the sales, and take full advantage of every savings opportunity.

Human Food

Feed your pets all the human food your vet or other pet professional approves and or recommends. Animal Planet says that baked carrots, steamed broccoli, and eggs are safe and healthy for cats to eat—and much cheaper than cat food.

Pet Food Storage

Some pets are picky about what they’ll eat. I don’t have a cat, but I’ve learned that felines are known to refuse food if it’s too old because it’s been left out. No matter which pets you have, keep an eye on those expiration dates. Refrigerate as necessary, and even look into freezing pet food, especially if you are able to stock up when the good stuff goes on sale.

Spay and Neuter

The decision to spay or neuter has a number of implications, according to blogger and pet owner Len Penzo. Spaying or neutering is better for your pet’s health, which saves you money in the long run.

Neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than unneutered ones, while spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than their intact counterparts.

Unspayed cats have been known to damage furniture and carpet by spraying urine on them to attract males. Unneutered dogs can be violent, resulting in injuries or even lawsuits, if they attack people.

There’s also the obvious huge cost of not fixing those pets: puppies and kittens.

Pet Insurance

Unexpected vet bills can be the most expensive part of owning a pet. Insurance is certainly an option, but choose wisely. Like all insurance, pet insurance is a gamble. It’s likely that you will spend more over the course of your animal’s life on monthly premiums, if your pet remains healthy.

Can’t quite pony up to those big monthly premiums? Create your own insurance. Determine to deposit a set amount of money each month into a special savings account you create for pet health care. Never miss. Should your pet require expensive care, you’ll have the money to cover the cost. And if not, you will have built up a nice nest egg.

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Copyright 2020