Thrifty Animal

By Chelle Cordero

January 16, 2009 5 min read

THRIFTY ANIMAL

Budgeting for your pet is more important than ever

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

Let's face it: Having Fido or Kitty means another mouth to feed, health care bills, clothing and accessories, grooming supplies, legal costs such as licensing and education or training.

"Let's say you're adopting from a local shelter as opposed to buying from a breeder," a post on the website dogtime.com said. "By doing so, you'll save hundreds of dollars -- and possibly take advantage of the spay/neuter surgery that many shelters include in the price of adoption. That said, you can still expect to spend between $795 to $1725 the first year, just for the basics."

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the average yearly cost for a cat, including good quality canned food, vaccinations, litter box supplies, toys, treats, grooming and veterinary care averages about $900 per year. Rabbits cost about $1,000 per year. Even a guinea pig costs more than $700 annually. Small caged birds and fish will cost an average of over $300 for the first year.

MAKE IT MORE AFFORDABLE

Just because it costs money doesn't mean having a pet isn't worth it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a pet to share affection with actually lowers our blood pressure, helps to control our cholesterol and triglyceride levels and assuages loneliness.

One way to save is simply by adopting your pet from a local animal shelter. If you are not sure where you can find a shelter nearby, ask friends who have pets or search the Internet. Also ask your town hall for licensing fee structure and rules.

Keep your dogs leashed or fenced in and keep your cats indoors to help avoid accidents that would require emergency treatment at the vet, which can cost serious cash. Use coupons when shopping for pet food and old blankets or pillows for your pet's bedding.

However, one place you shouldn't cut back on is veterinary care. "Preventative care and early diagnostic testing give us an opportunity to identify diseases before they become significant," said veterinarian Angie Paben, medical director at Cypress Creek Animal Hospital in Lutz, Fla. "Routine wellness exams are the key to saving money and maintaining your pet's quality of life."

CATS, DOGS AND DOWNTURNS

"Certainly the economic downturn is causing many more pets to be given over to shelters," said David Meyer, co-founder and president of adopt-a-pet.com. However, there are plenty of resources to help prevent you from having to do so.

"[The Humane Society of the United States] has 17 listings of organizations that provide assistance to senior, disabled or ill pet owners," said Carolyn Bartz, author of "Secrets of Cat Attitude Revealed" ($30, Come-On-A-My-House). She also recommends asking your veterinarian for a livable payment plan or seeking care at a local reputable veterinary school for a discounted price.

Pet owners who have homes facing foreclosure should always try to relocate with pets. Never leave the animal behind, as this can also lead to criminal charges.

"[With] this tough economy, many are struggling with expenses ... but those who love their beloved Fido and Fluffy do not have to face giving up their pet," said Joanna Pera, a veterinary consultant in Atlanta. "There are many ways to deal with these tough times. Many veterinarians recognize how challenging it is for low-income families and senior citizens.

"There are organizations that focus on helping owners keep their pets. Rescue groups are very motivated for you to keep your pet. I have even heard of them helping out people with food to avoid them having to surrender their [animal]."

These scenarios are all things to think about before you welcome that fluffy friend into your life.

"The best thing to do before getting a pet is to do your homework," said Joan Vokes, a licensed veterinary technician in Greenacres, Fla. "Pets are a responsibility just as a child would be. They cannot fend for themselves and rely on their human companions to supply the necessities for the health and comfort. Knowledge is power, so knowing what the possibilities for care will be ahead of time will help the prospective owners know whether they can afford to have a pet."

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