Pet Ownership: A Frugal Guide To Happy, Healthy Pets

When Mr. MMM and I decided to get together it turned out to be a modern-day Brady bunch, except with pets. Okay, to be honest, I am the one who had 3 pets to his 1, but I’m not pointing fingers here. The bottom line is that, since marrying, we are now a 4-pet household. We didn’t exactly anticipate being outnumbered by our pets, but life does happen. Overall, we couldn’t be happier with our furry little family but they do come at a cost. Pets aren’t cheap, so I’d like to outline our frugal approach to pet ownership. 

The Bunch

I’ll start with the introductions. We have two Mad Money Pups and two Mad Money Cats. Our house sports a purebred German Shepherd Dog and a not-so-purebred, white German Shepherd Dog. On the feline end of the spectrum, we have a Maine Coon Cat and a Calico Cat. Meow! And just for fun, I’m going to go ahead and give you their actual names – just this once. And here we go, in order, rapid fire: Kier, Mox, Neko, and Ember.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

For starters, we make sure our pets are not overweight. Obesity in animals, just like people, can cause a plethora of problems and diseases that are costly and can shorten their lifespan. Since we really love our little companions, we want to keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Grain-Free Foods

evo-cat-food

Fully stocked.

In order to maintain that healthy weight I was talking about, we purchase only grain-free foods for their feasts. We stick to one brand and buy it at a discount pet food warehouse that is only a few miles from our house. Oh, happy day!

Oftentimes, the manufacturers will run deep discounts on their products. It’s not uncommon to see a buy 1 get 1 free deal. In fact, just before Christmas they were running this very deal on both dog and cat food. You better believe I stocked up. Since the discount was limited to one per customer, Mr. MMM and I took turns going through the check-out lines and returned to the store on multiple occasions to make sure we had a stock pile that wouldn’t exceed the expiration date. We’re now totally stocked on pet food through the summer. Not only are we feeding our furry friends top quality food, but it’s not costing us as much as it would had we opted for a less expensive, grocery store brand. Thankfully, because we’re a really frugal bunch, we had the extra cash to drop on pet food when the discount hit.

Related: Owning A Pet Sucks!

Daily Exercise

Daily exercise is also a key ingredient in their overall health plan and our overall frugality plan. It helps with weight management and also keeps their muscles toned and senses keen. The dogs are able to play each day in our generously-sized, fenced-in backyard. When the weather is nice enough, we also take them on treks around the neighborhood. The backyard is nice and they do chase each other and use it as an outdoor track, but hitting the sidewalk with mom and dad gives them the opportunity to see and smell new things. A must for keeping them engaged and happy.

The two cats are forever raising you know what. If they’re not chasing one another through the house, they’re jumping on the dogs, or batting around their toys. Our Maine Coon (Neko) loves to toss a toy down the steps, run down after it, and bring it back up to do the entire process all over again. He, essentially, plays fetch with himself. It’s hilarious. Maine Coons truly are the cats for “dog” people.

And don’t even think about buying toys. It’s a no-brainer to just make your own. Tie a few old (clean) socks together to make a tug toy for the dogs. Give the cats a plastic ring off of some item you have in your house. Graciously accept pet toys from family, friends, and neighbors during gift-giving season! Easy peasy.

Related: A Day In The Life Of Frugal Minimalists

Grooming

In the past, we had an aging Maine Coon who was not able to take care of his fur anymore. For the last 2 years of his life, we were taking him for quarterly grooming, but that is the cost of an aging pet. These days, all grooming is done at home. Baths and brushing is done in the yard for the dogs and in the house for the cats. Nails are trimmed either at home or at the vet. Vets typically do this free-of-charge if you ask. Needless to say, whenever we find ourselves at the vet, we ask.

The only animal we ever had to take to a groomer was the Maine Coon we lost last year. But that was because he was aging (pushing 20-years old!) and couldn’t care for himself like he had in the past. Expect to roll up your sleeves to deal with a situation like this one. Sooner or later, it will happen.

Related: A Celebratory Final Farewell To Mad Money Cat

Indoors Only

Another piece of our frugal pet ownership puzzle is keeping our cats indoors – exclusively. I would love for them to enjoy being outside, but we have been told by our vet that it is much healthier for them to remain indoors. They miss out on viruses, parasites, and fights with feral animals. Don’t feel too bad for them. Our pets live a life of luxury and I have even been known to open a window or two here and there.

Regular And No-So-Regular Vet Visits

pets-5

The life.

Pet ownership does not come without a few vet bills. We keep everyone on a routine schedule for annual check-ups and required vaccinations. Because we have 4 little loved ones who frequent the same vet, we get the multi-pet discount! This is super helpful when it comes time to pay the bill. If you have more than one pet and you’re not getting a discount at your vet’s office, go ahead and ask for one!

Unfortunately, you will experience occasional vet visits that are not planned. We had just this situation last month. Our white Shepherd mix started shedding excessively for this time of year. Mini helped me load him into the car and take him down to see the doc. Of course this happened during the one month that Mr. MMM was away for work. No problem, we handled it and, fortunately, all blood work came back normal, with the exception of one indicator that we’re currently “keeping an eye on”. Since he’s inching towards being a mature adult, the vet wasn’t too concerned and didn’t require a follow-up visit unless things got worse. Thankfully, things got better and he’s back to his normal amount of shedding these days!

Related: There Is Never A Good Time For A Surprise Vet Bill

Lots of Love

I will admit that all of our animals, with the exception of the Maine Coon, were rescues. We are suckers for animals that need homes, especially adults. Along with our daughter, the two of us, and our 4 pets, our house has reached maximum capacity. In years to come, I expect we will look back on the time we housed and cared for 4 animals and wonder how we did it. For now, we’re enjoying the ridiculously joyous, furry, and mostly inexpensive experience of frugal pet ownership.

So, that’s how we do frugal pet ownership. How do you do it? Do you have any tips I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

ember

Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful.

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Lisa is the creator and resident writer at Mad Money Monster. She's a mother, scientist, and financial guru on a mission to save Generation X from working until they die!

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13 comments… add one
  • Miss Mazuma Feb 23, 2017, 6:35 pm

    Yeah for frugal pet parenting! My dog is a bit of a picky eater…well, not really unless you try to feed her raw vegetables or fish. Being a pescatarian I thought I could feed her a salmon based food so we could live in harmony but she loathed it. After one bag I had to switch her to a wild boar flavored grain free and now she eats the Costco Kirkland brand grain free – it’s half the price! Other than that she gets to lick all plates and is not above crying if she sees you put a plate in the sink without offering it to her first. We’ve created a monster!! 🙂 And as Just Us said above, dog hair is a part of EVERYTHING!

  • JUsT Us Feb 21, 2017, 12:04 pm

    … In our home, dog hair is considered a condiment.
    LOL!

  • Kate Feb 21, 2017, 9:13 am

    I think these are all really great tips. The only thing I’d add is in regards to cat toys. Seems like my cats like the most basic things (e.g. empty boxes, twist ties, etc) so you don’t need to spend much money to entertain them. Of course I keep an eye on them around things like twist ties to ensure they don’t eat them, since that would create a huge vet bill!

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 21, 2017, 1:23 pm

      Yes! I realized I completely skipped the section on toys! Our dogs love balls so we bought two that they can’t destroy and they’ve had them for years. They also like old socks tied together for tugging. Our cats like markers and pens! They love to bat them around on the floor. And of course, empty boxes are key! 🙂

  • Go Finance Yourself Feb 21, 2017, 9:01 am

    Great tips. We follow pretty much all of them for our two boxers. We take them on walks as much as possible, even if it is just a short one when it’s really cold out. Vet bills can get expensive. We’ve found one that doesn’t nickel and dime us and doesn’t try to push things that aren’t necessary. We also buy their mess online which is cheaper than at the vet.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 21, 2017, 10:44 am

      Thanks! Yeah, if you can keep them healthy as long as possible, that’s obviously best. A balanced diet and routine exercise is a life saver – literally. 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 21, 2017, 10:50 am

      Yeah, our vet is great, too. He only recommends extra testing and blood work if the results will be significant in terms of treatment. Otherwise, he will treat the symptoms without pinpointing exactly the issue, especially if knowing the issue, wouldn’t change the outcome. 🙂

  • Ryan - JustAnotherDollar Feb 21, 2017, 8:52 am

    We don’t have quite the herd that tut do, but we practice many of the same habits. When I met Alyssa I had no pets and no intention of getting any, but about two months into our relationship she brought home a stray kitten that had been found outside her work huddling for warmth against the November cold. She couldn’t keep a cat at her apartment, so naturally I offered to foster it “until we found a solution.” I’d lived with cats before and after a couple days I was in love. I took her to the vet and had her fixed and $500 later we had our first pet, Kit Kat!

    We learned from that expensive visit that we need to plan better for additions to our family. We would live a

    • Ryan - JustAnotherDollar Feb 21, 2017, 8:58 am

      We would love a dog (or two) eventually, but we know we need to wait until we have a yard for them to run and funds in the budget to take care of them. It’s Alyssa’s retirement dream to own land and run an animal rescue, and that’s why we go to work each day!

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Mad Money Monster Feb 21, 2017, 10:43 am

        Awe, congrats on giving Kit Kat a home! That is a very cute name. Dogs are a different beast. I love ours but they are definitely more work than the two cats. The idea of an animal rescue is awesome. I certainly hope you are able to follow through on that! 🙂

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials Feb 21, 2017, 8:45 am

    I LOVE YOUR MAINE COON! I am a sucker for the big floofy kitties. I got a Siberian Forest Cat. My friends all say he is basically a dog, since I’ve taught him to sit, he plays fetch, and we’re working on lay down and roll over. He is also super friendly and incredibly attached. He cannot stand being left out of something.

    He’s pretty easy to take care of, too. Just a monthly trip to the pet store for food and litter and a biannual trip to the vet! Easy peasy.

    • Mad Money Monster Feb 21, 2017, 10:41 am

      Haha! Thanks so much. We love him, too. He’s only 5 months old! We had to put our older guy down last year and I just couldn’t go on without a big fluff ball in my life. Hence, him being the only animal that isn’t a rescue. Our last one was a rescue, but I couldn’t find a Maine Coon rescue in our area. I had been looking for months. I think I saw pics of your guy on Instagram! He’s VERY handsome 🙂

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