Attention all you cat lovers! I have three simple tips for saving money on your cat. I can help you avoid the big bucks on litter and vet bills—and I also have a secret clean up weapon for your favorite furry feline.
Without a doubt, this is my biggest find—awesome, cheap litter. For years I used the World’s Best Cat Litter, which is top of the line in clumping, low residue litter. It’s 100% natural, cuts down on odor, and doesn’t leave a powdery mess. It also helps keep allergies at bay for you and your furry friend.
One day I was poking around a cat message board and heard people raving about litter from a store called The Tractor Supply Co. It mainly sells farm and ranch products but it also has large garden, hardware, and pet supplies sections. They sell their own brand of litter called Paws and Claws and I decided to give the clumping variety a try.
I’m not kidding when I say it’s about 90% as good as World’s Best, but costs one fifth the price. That’s right—ONE FIFTH! Here’s a comparison of World’s Best to Paws and Claws.
World’s Best at PetsMart: $31.49 for 28 lbs. ($1.12 per pound)
Paws and Claws at Tractor Supply: $5 (or $6) for 25 lbs. (.20 or .24 cents per pound)
One 25 pound bag of Paws and Claws, plus maybe an additional quarter of a second bag, lasts me a month. That’s enough to fill two litter boxes with a little left over for freshening. We fully change out the litter every four weeks. I spent approximately $80 on litter in 2015.
The Tractor Supply Co. is in 49 states. If you have one near you—or near a destination you visit—you must try it. You can order on line and have it shipped to a local store, but there is no home delivery.
Vets now offer as many services as high end hair salons. It’s gotten a bit out of hand. Now we have preventive tests, wellness exams, massage, treatment for arthritis, senior lab tests, etc. Where do we draw the line? There’s not a lot of transparency and it’s not easy to figure out what procedures are medically necessary and which ones are fluff. And to some extent, most vets prey upon our sense of guilt. They know we will worry about the what-ifs when we don’t follow their advice.
We must become informed consumers when caring for our pets. First we need to decide if they even need routine vet visits, and if we come to that decision, we need to ask questions and not blindly agree to a bunch of tests and a $200 vet bill.
In 2015 we became more consumer-minded after receiving numerous reminders from our vet practice for Groovy Cat’s annual checkup. I requested an itemized list of procedures to be performed and received an estimate for 9 vaccines and tests, totaling $254. I did some research and asked my vet to specify which of those 9 were medically necessary. They came back with 3 items: a physical exam, a 3-year feline respiratory and distemper vaccine (FVRCP), and a 1-year rabies vaccine. The total was $104.
Mr. Groovy and I decided the procedures totaling $104 would be just fine for Groovy Cat. On the day of our appointment, Mr. Groovy accompanied us into the exam room, which is not the norm. But knowing my proclivity towards weakness for my cat, I needed the support. We matter-of-factly told both the vet tech and the vet the three procedures we wanted, and to their credit, neither of them pushed back or questioned our decisions. Piece of cake.
How do you determine what procedures are necessary? First it depends on your cat. Is he healthy? How old is he? Does he go outdoors? What are your local requirements for rabies vaccines? If there is one, you should definitely get the vaccine, especially if you entertain house guests or have cat sitters. Otherwise you’re taking a risk. If someone receives a cat bite serious enough to require medical attention, it will be reported. If you don’t have proof of a current rabies vaccine, your pet can be taken away from you and put down.
If you’re on the fence about tests and procedures, Google “What is necessary for annual vet care for cats?” and a slew of sites will come up—Merck vet manual, Mercola, Prevention and ASPCA to name a few. Go to cat discussion boards and see what others are talking about. Then speak to your vet or your vet tech. If they’re not willing to answer your questions, or they make light of your concerns, find another vet. Only you can decide what’s right for your pet and what price limits you are comfortable with. For myself, prior to 2015, I never would have thought of questioning my vet’s advice. I don’t know why. I question my own doctors all the time.
CLEAN UP WEAPON
My secret clean up weapon is a box of diaper bags. That’s right—diaper bags. I get 75 for $1 at the dollar store and use them instead of paper towels for many a cat mess.
A few years ago I realized I was wasting many paper towels per day wiping out Groovy Cat’s stinky leftover wet food. I was also messing up perfectly fresh kitchen garbage bags, tossing the gunked up paper towels in the trash. I’d throw the entire trash out when it wasn’t even half full, due to the odor. Then one day I was in the baby aisle at the dollar store and a light bulb went off in my head. I thought if I combined the diaper bags with cheap fold-top plastic bags, I could easily save myself rolls of paper towels and cut back on kitchen garbage bags.
My technique is this: I grab the crusty wet food into the fold-top bag, and place that in the diaper bag. Then I toss those in my second secret weapon (you didn’t think I’d only give you just one, did you?). My flip-top garbage pail that sits outside my back door. All smelly bags (including daily litter) go in there. I just open the back door and toss—voila, all done.
So there you have my three tips. But please keep in mind that owning a pet involves a large commitment and comes with expenses. Mr. Money Mustache recently posted an article called, “Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!” And he got a lot of flak for it. But he’s absolutely right. No one is putting a gun to your head to become a pet owner. If you’re in debt, or struggling just to get by, don’t add a pet to the mix. Don’t get me wrong. Our lives would be far less rich without Groovy Cat (he’s such a character!). But caring for him is an expense. And life with him gets complicated (as in when we need to time our vacations around the availability of the only cat-sitter I trust). So only get a pet when you can handle the added costs and responsibilities. There will always be shelter and rescue animals in need of a loving home when you’re ready.