By Arden Moore These days, with the price of gas gushing skyward and foreclosure signs littering lawns, penny pinching is now in vogue. We need to figure out ways to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our family budgets and that includes spending on pets. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a pet that Hollywood howls for — like that lovable South Florida lab named Marley or a marvelous cat named Morris — chances of pocketing an income from your pet’s personality are as likely as having I-95 all to yourself at 5 p.m. on a Friday. With scorecard in hand, let me rundown some costs related to pets. According to the ASPCA, expect to shell out about $1,035 for the first year of your kitten’s life and $1,580 for your pup’s first year. These figures include vaccinations, veterinary care, flea and tick prevention, food, toys, treats, pet insurance, collars, leashes, training, grooming and other necessities. After that initial year, the average cost for adult cats and dogs totals $365 and $565, respectively. These figures do not include boarding or pricey outfits or airline travel. So, if your pet reaches age 15, at bare minimum, you’ve spent $6,145 for your feline friend and $9,490 for your canine chum. Like many of you, I have more than one pet. With two dogs and two cats, it’s little wonder why I warranted a “Big Dog” card at Petco. These cards are reserved for those who come often and spend a lot. I nearly fainted when I reviewed my household budget and discovered that I spend more at pet stores than at supermarkets. Let me run down six ways to save on pet care without sacrificing your pet’s health: • Do be down in the mouth. By that I mean start brushing your dog or cat’s teeth daily, or at least a few times a week. Use toothpastes and brushes designed for pets. Or opt to use a thimble-like rubber device that easily slips over your index finger and allows you to massage the itty bitty teeth and gums of cats and small-breed dogs. Dental preventative care will save you expensive professional dental cleanings performed by a veterinarian. These dental items are minor compared to a dental cleaning that ranges between $100 and $300. • Package the necessary vaccinations. You can save up to $200 if you have your pet receive three-year vaccinations instead of yearly ones. Consult your veterinarian about what vaccinations your pet truly needs and base it on your pet’s age, health and outdoor access. • Become your pet’s personal stylist. Each time I take Cleo, my 12-pound Bichon-met-a-poodle-met-a-terrier mix to the groomer, it costs $45. I’ve stretched the time between appointments by bathing her in my tub and using a grooming scissors to keep the hair trimmed on her face. Instead of every month, I now book appointments every two months weeks, pocketing an annual savings of $270. • Bring out your pet chef skills. Save money by making healthy homemade treats in a large enough batch that you can store the extras in the freezer. Use these treats instead of those high-priced ones showcased in a doggy bakery. Add carrots and green beans to your dog’s bowl to help your dog feel full on less kibble. • Score bargains at discount and warehouse stores. Price check the cost of litter, leashes, bowls, beds and treats and you will save a few pennies to a few dollars by buying them at places that primarily cater to two-leggers like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco. • Purchase pet insurance. I’ve learned the expensive way after my dog, Chipper, underwent a delicate rectal surgical procedure priced at $1,200. Pet insurance helps you prepare for the unexpected. It is far less expensive to purchase plans when your pets are young. These days, we need to be smarter than ever on where we unleash our dollars. Just remember: Doggy kisses and full-throttle cat purrs are always free. Arden Moore, an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker, happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio.com and contact her at arden@ardenmoore.com.
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