Bringing a pet home requires dedication, both in terms of time and financial resources. The cost of pet ownership, however, shouldn’t stop you. There are many affordable ways to care for a pet without compromising their health or happiness.
Adopting a pet is a good alternative to buying one. Adopt from a reputable shelter or an NGO—many of their animals are already vaccinated, spayed or neutered, saving you money on those things.
If you decide to purchase a pet and have a budget in mind, thoroughly study the breed you are considering. Certain pets are naturally more expensive to maintain than others. For instance, large dogs may need more food, more expensive medications and may incur more veterinary costs. Compared to short-haired breeds, toy breeds with long hair will require more coat maintenance. In the long term, breeds with a genetic predisposition to specific illnesses will need more spent on their treatment.
Before buying a pet, do some research on the breeder and choose a puppy or kitten that is more than 55 days old. You may need to seek medical attention right away for sick puppies or kittens within a few days of bringing them home if they are younger than that or were raised in a crowded environment.
The most cost-effective method of raising a pet is to be proactive in your preventive efforts. Make arrangements for routine veterinary care. These include yearly physicals, immunisations and prophylactic drugs like flea and tick repellents. Setting aside money for these in advance will help you stay within your budget. It is important to vaccinate pets against serious illnesses that can be costly to treat. Locating low-cost veterinary clinics that provide discounted services is another way to save money on pet care. These might provide inexpensive basic services, including immunisations, spay/neuter operations and regular checkups. You can ask your neighbourhood animal welfare organisation for recommendations.
Although purchasing pet insurance may initially seem like an extra cost, doing so will end up saving you money as it can cover the cost of unforeseen veterinary expenses. Before choosing one, compare the options available.
When buying supplies, prioritise necessities over luxuries. Before spending money on toys or extras, you should be sure you can afford to give your pet the three necessities of life: food, water and shelter. Contrary to common opinion, a balanced home-made diet is far more expensive than commercially packaged food. So, if money is tight, you can opt for packaged food from a reputed food brand. If money is scarce, think about buying food and supplies in bulk. Make sure you have adequate storage for this.
The cost of professional grooming can be high but you can cut costs by doing your pet’s grooming yourself. This can include giving them a bath yourself once every two weeks, learning to cut their nails, and brushing their fur regularly. A lot of information is available online to assist you in learning how to efficiently groom your pet; grooming supplies like brushes and nail clippers can be purchased for comparatively little money. Similarly, walk your dog yourself instead of paying a dog walker.
Finally, there are many DIY projects that can help you save money. For instance, you can craft your own cat toys out of common household things, make a cardboard scratching post or construct a cat tree out of cheap materials—what matters is that the pet is stimulated mentally and physically. Instead of spending money on pet bedding, use old blankets or towels. Additionally, you can create your own pet bed by stuffing a worn-out pillowcase or T-shirt with blankets.
By adopting from a shelter, planning for routine veterinary care, focusing on necessities and getting creative with DIY projects, you can provide a loving home for your pet without breaking the bank.
Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.