How to Save on the Cost of Pet Ownership

Americans spent $69.5 billion on their dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs, and other pets in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This was a 4 percent increase over the previous year. Considering that nearly two-thirds of U.S. households own pets, according to the APPA, it’s no wonder that sometimes our wallets feel strained.

But whether your concern is the high cost of food, boarding, grooming, or healthcare, there are some smart ways to save.

01
Boarding

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An overnight stay for a small pet in a kennel typically is about $20 to $25, according to Care.com, and many high-end boarding facilities charge three or four times as much. Boarding a cat may be a few dollars cheaper than boarding a small dog, but it still adds up. Friends or family who love your pet enough to step in when you’re gone can be a much cheaper solution—especially if you're willing to return the favor. That’s why one of the most important things you can do to save money on boarding is to raise and train a well-mannered pet. It’s hard to ask people for a favor when your dog isn’t house-trained or has separation anxiety.

02
Grooming

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Professional grooming is a luxury you can do without if you train your pets to be comfortable with you taking care of their grooming needs. Ease them along by handling their feet gently so they'll allow you to clip their nails. Make sure to use only a brush that they're comfortable with, and start slowly so they feel like it's just another way for you to pet them and give them attention. By taking care of these basic needs regularly yourself, you can save a lot of money on groomers.

Training cats to be comfortable with nail clippers can be more challenging, but it can be done. The key is to be patient, work with your cat when she is calm and relaxed, and never force the issue. You even can reward the cat with a treat when she allows you to handle her paw.

03
Pet Food

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Once you find a brand of food your pet and you like, it’s important to compare prices. Just as they do on food for humans, warehouse clubs like Costco often offer the best per-pound deal on food for pets. Compare unit prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal, then look for coupons and special offers. Some pet supply stores have loyalty programs that offer further discounts.

And, just as with human food, pet food brands go on sale. Sites like Wag.com send you email alerts indicating what’s discounted and when.

04
Healthcare

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Just like with grooming, train your pets from an early age to be comfortable with you brushing their teeth. Dental care is expensive, and brushing a few times per week can save you from having to get a professional cleaning that can run $300 or more.

Put in the effort to get your animals comfortable with being handled so that you don’t need to pay to have them tranquilized or put under for veterinary visits. For vaccinations, clinics like Petco’s Vetcoclinics.com service offer two-hour windows and prices that don't include the normal office visit fees you'd pay a regular veterinarian.

If your pet needs a prescription, ask for generic alternatives. Also, check with your vet about rebate offers from the drug manufacturer. These often are available, and by answering a few questions online, you can receive a rebate for a percentage of the cost of the drug.

When it comes time to spay or neuter, save money by opting to have the procedure done at a local shelter. You can find low-cost options by searching on the website for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). According to PetMD, vets typically charge anywhere from $200 to $500 for a cat, depending on age and gender. Low-cost services, though, sometimes can be as little as $50. PetMD reports that the cost savings for dogs can be similar, but even low-cost options may range as high as $150 depending on age and gender.

05
Other Supplies

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The most important thing that pets need is love and attention, and that doesn't always need to cost a lot. Yes, dogs need chew toys to keep them occupied and to save your furniture—and the same goes for cats and scratching posts. However, luxury items like elaborate beds and dishes are of no significance to your pets. They'll be just as happy sleeping on some old blankets or pillows and eating from basic stainless steel dishes.

Often, the best way to purchase these basic items is to do so in bulk on sites like Amazon. They'll have toys and other necessities available for a fraction of the cost of what local pet stores charge.