Long story short, I got a pandemic kitten. As we begin to stay at home more due to social distancing and WFH norms, it seems like more people are also taking this opportunity to adopt a furry friend to keep them company.
Getting a pet is essentially bringing in a new addition to the family and learning to care and love for them. It is a wonderful experience. However, raising a pet is not cheap. The costs of owning a cat are likely to be a 15-to-20-year financial commitment.
Here are some tips I have gathered from my experience with my cat, Wyatt, that has worked tremendously for me.
1. Buying second-hand
Facebook marketplace and Kijiji (Canada’s eBay equivalent) have been a godsend ever since I adopted Wyatt. As much as you want the “best” for your little furbabies, the truth is, your pet probably could not care less whether or not their stuff is brand new. Many people own pets, and for various reasons, will eventually have pet supplies to get rid of. You can get food, toys, beds, cat trees, litter, and any pet supply imaginable second-hand.
For instance, the litter box my cat is using is this special top lid one that retails for $50 on Amazon and $60 on sites like Walmart/Wayfair. I have been eyeing this litter box for a while as it is skinny and fits in any nooks of a tiny city apartment; it also has a grooved lid on top, which prevents litter particles from being scattered all over. Nevertheless, $50-60 is way too much to spend on a mere litter box. Fortunately, I manage to cop a brand new one (in its original box) in the size and color I wanted on Facebook marketplace for $20 from someone who did not want it as it was too big for their kitten. That is a whopping >50% in cost-savings.
2. Shopping on Chinese E-commerce sites
Chinese E-commerce sites like AliExpress hold a bad rep for numerous reasons: slow shipping, missing parcels, and low-quality products. However, the truth is, most pet items you see in local stores get their supplies from these sites (but the bundle version). The only difference is, they know how to shop better than you for high-quality yet cheap stuff. I suggest that if you are looking to buy something for your pet that you are in no rush to receive, do it on AliExpress. The quality is extremely good for the price you pay.
However, I will not deny that this site has its fair share of shadiness, so you have to be sharp when you shop. Here are some tips for living by when shopping on AliExpress.
1. Do not buy the product unless reviewed at least 100 times and has received over 200 orders.
2. Always check and read the reviews.
3. Spend a little extra on shipping (DO NOT take the “free shipping” option, they are usually untrustworthy and untrackable). I recommend “e-packet”. It is around $2 to $5 dollars.
For reference, I got my cat a cute and high-quality pet harness plus leash that would’ve cost me around $40 – $50 at Petsmart for $4 (minus shipping) on AliExpress. Yes, FOUR DOLLARS. On top of that, I purchased a leather pet collar for $3, a customized engraved metal tag for $1.50, and an airplane-approved soft carrier for $15.
3. Getting free stuff
As I mentioned above, places like Facebook marketplace and Kijiji are wonderful for getting good deals. Beyond that, you can occasionally find people letting go of their pet supplies for free. Watch out for these postings, as you can snag some nice stuff for your pets that could save you some money.
Furthermore, local pet stores often have food samples to give away. These samples are not small, either. You can get a whole 100 gram of pet food packet for free. You have to ask the store clerk nicely if they have some. I once took my cat to a local organic pet food store and walked out of place with 8 free-sample bags of dry kibbles (100-120 grams each) and a free toy! These free samples have fed my cat for about 2 weeks now, and we are still only on the third packet.
4. Repurposing and upcycling your old stuff for your pets
I implore pet owners to look around and see which of your belongings you no longer use that you can repurpose for your pets. For instance, I found an old blanket tucked away in a drawer that is now my cat’s favorite thing to sleep with. He drags this blanket to his cat condo every time before a nap, and we never travel without it.
Furthermore, I began to notice that my cat loved hanging out inside one of the shelves of my TV stand. I decided that instead of buying a pet bed, I would upcycle that one shelf he liked into his bed/cat cave. I removed the plant and placed his blanket on that shelf. He regularly hangs out there now while I watch TV and even brings his favorite toys in there for safe-keeping.
Some other suggestions would include sewing up your old clothes into pet toys, upcycling old boxes into pet cribs, and much more. It may require some creativity, but once you start taking on these small make-shift projects, it is the most satisfying thing ever to see your pet enjoy the fruits of your labor.
5. Research before you send your pet for vet shots/treatments
Unfortunately, pet healthcare is not cheap. Animal clinics, especially those operating downtown, are notorious for charging exorbitant prices for any basic treatment your pet may or may not need.
I highly recommend you do your research and not just take the doctor/vet assistant’s advice on what shots and treatments they need. For example, veterinarians often recommend a stool test for young kittens/puppies that costs around $80 – $120. This is recommended even if your pet is healthy and their stools look perfectly normal. Research online and speak to other pet owners on the necessity of these recommended treatments and then make your own judgment call.
Next, do not be afraid to “vet shop”. Do your research on all the animal clinics around your area; read their reviews, and be wary if previous clients have accused them of unfairly charging steep prices. Please do not hesitate to call them to inquire about their prices on certain treatments/shots before sending your pet there.
On top of that, you can get your neutering/spaying procedures done at a cheaper cost. Organizations like the Toronto Humane Society provide neuter/spaying services at an extremely affordable rate compared to private clinics. Moreover, your city may also have an ongoing program to provide these services at a subsidized rate. For example, the City of Toronto has a program called the SNYP (Spay Neuter Your Pet) Mobile Clinic Program, which helps pet owners who make less than $50,000 a year qualify for subsidized or waived fees.
6. Do Not Spoil Your Pet With Food
Believe it or not, food is not the only way to show your pet love and affection. The first suggestion I would offer is not mindlessly to give your pet treats. Pet treats are usually made with higher salt content to make them tastier than regular wet/dry food. Excessively giving your pet treats alters their taste buds to prefer them over their regular food naturally.
The second suggestion I would make may be controversial for some, but I swear by it: Do Not Free Feed Your Pet. Free feeding is when you leave out a certain amount of (usually a cup) of dry kibbles for your pet to be able to access any time of the day. The issue with this is that it encourages mindless snacking and prompts them to become picky eaters. I have heard countless stories from pet owners who free feed their pets and later find them refuse certain foods and instead demand more expensive or higher salt content foods. The point is, if your pet always has access to food, it learns that it can be picky with its food.
Personally, I do not free-feed, and I only sparingly give my cat treats. Both these practices have helped prevent my cat from turning into a picky-eater, which saves me a lot of money in the long run. I have a fixed schedule for when my cat eats, and it has worked tremendously for me. Wyatt is never picky with his food and is happy with whatever food we provide him. In essence, your actions can promote a budget-friendly pet diet.
Overall, being fiscally responsible when raising your pet does not mean you love them any less. I practice all these tips, and I am truly convinced my cat is one of the most spoilt and happiest pets out there.