20 Clever Pet Care Tips That Don’t Break the Bank

burberry dog sweaterI love my pet as much as the next person, if not more, but I refuse to mortgage my home to buy the endless array of high-priced clothes, toys, and grooming products that are out there. There’s something that feels utterly wrong about paying more for Rover’s doggy sweater than the one I bought for myself. I’m not saying that I don’t splurge every now and again and get something special for my furry friend, but forget about buying this stuff all the time–it would obliterate my budget.

Even if you skip boutique pet items and high end services, just owning an animal can be expensive. Feeding them and cleaning up after them costs money. There are also vet bills for regular care, and if they get sick, you will be burdened with a big expense. And don’t even get me started on the damage they can do to your home, your car, your yard, and your clothes–it’s nothing malicious of course, but my cat has broken more than one major electronic item during a particularly feverish game of chase the laser.

Having a pet doesn’t have to be incredibly costly, however. There are plenty of things you can do to make caring for your critter much more affordable!

DIY Grooming

Long Haired Cat Being Brushed and GroomedAll furry friends need a bit of care for their coats and other clean-up, just like you do, and depending on breed, keeping your cat and dog well-groomed can be costly. Professional groomers’ services aren’t cheap, so learning how to do some grooming on your own can be a super saver. And even if your pet isn’t fuzzy, like a hairless cat, there are still grooming and hygiene tasks that they need you to do for them in order to prevent issues for them and expenses for you. And even if your animals didn’t need grooming, you should want to groom them–it’s a great way to bond!

1. Get basic grooming tools. Brushes, combs, deshedders, rakes, and any other grooming tools appropriate for your pet should be in your home. Top of the line tools aren’t necessary, by the way. You can get value-priced and inexpensive tools that do the job just as well.

2. Groom your furry friend. Once you have grooming tools, actually use them. Not only will your pet feel better and look good, you will prevent problems with their skin and coat like matting. By preventing these problems early on, you can avoid expenses for professional grooming and vet care.

3. Don’t buy cleaning products when you have alternatives at home already. The Los Angeles Humane Society has a few suggestions. Dog ears need cleaning, especially if your puppy is a big fan of water or has floppy ears; you can do this with by swabbing the dog’s ears with a baby oil-dipped cotton ball. They also need cleaning around the eyes, particularly if your dog has a wrinkled face or droopy eye lids, and you can clean them with a wash cloth with warm water.

4. Pass on pet shampoos. Make your own. You can use baking soda as a dry shampoo, by sprinkling it on your pet’s coat, rubbing it in with your hands and maybe even a gentle brush. You can make your own shampoo to remove fleas according to some folks on Pinterest by mixing a cup of Dawn and a cup of vinegar with a quart of water and massaging it into your pet’s coat before rinsing it out with vinegar and then water.  

cutting the nails5. Trim nails or claws yourself. Buy clippers to trip your dog’s nails or cat’s claws at home. Just be sure to buy the correct nail clippers for your animal, as dogs with very long nails probably need the scissor variety. And don’t cut too deep, though—you could trim too far down and hurt your pet and cause bleeding.

6. Don’t forget dental care. Brushing your pet’s teeth on the regular can help prevent bad breath, but this isn’t just a grooming issue. By taking care of their teeth, you are taking measures to prevent a whole host of health issues that could lead to pricey vet care. The folks at The Daily Puppy recommend making a homemade toothpaste with tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of water mixed into a paste in a small bowl.

Save Your Stuff

Fixing and replacing items your pet damaged or destroyed can be the most pricey part about owning a pet. In order to avoid these expenses (and make caring for your pet cheaper), you can start by removing things that are just asking to get clawed at, pushed over, or peed on.

naughty puppy7. Keep your door looking dapper. The ASPCA has a good idea for your housetrained dog to not do damage every time he or she wants to go out. Rather than having your dog scratch the door and tear at the flooring when it’s time for business, hang some Christmas bells on your door knob and train your dog to bat at them or nudge then with their nose.

8. Save on expensive solvents. When your animal has an accident in your home, you need to clean it up ASAP to prevent permanent damage, and you don’t need expensive stuff to do the trick. There are inexpensive options from discount stores and concentrated products that can really stretch your dollar. Get an enzyme cleaner, which will help to eat up odors.

9. Use natural products to clean up accidents. The folks at Animal Planet recommend scrubbing spots immediately with club soda, and once it dries, it should be sprinkled with baking soda and rinsed with water and vinegar, blotted dry, and vacuumed after an hour has passed. Any remaining discoloration may be remedied by a paste of lemon juice mixed with cream of tartar, left to stand for thirty minute before being rinsed and blotted dry.

10. Prevent accidents in the first place. Training your pet helps, but some bad behavior can be incorrigible. You may have to use a deterrent to prevent your pet from doing his or her business in places you don’t recommend indoors or out. You can use natural items, as is suggested by the clever people at How Stuff Works. Some of their recommendations include spraying a mix of one part cayenne pepper in a spray bottle with 10 parts water or putting ammonia-soaked cotton balls. These safe, green solutions are inexpensive, not only because they are cheap to whip up, but because you won’t have to spend money to replace your furniture or carpeting.

11. Protect your plumbing. Washing your animal at home is a fantastic way to save. However, all that fur going down the drain can clog up your plumbing, and if you can’t break up the clog yourself and have to call a plumber, that’s a big bill! Buy a cheap shower drain cover to catch fur that sheds in the tub. And do not ever put kitty litter down the drain or flush it down the toilet, especially the clumping variety–you are just asking for a major clog and a large expense.

Stop Smells and Make “Business” Better

Pets are great, but their odors are not. Not only are these unpleasant scents bad for you, your pet probably isn’t too keen on them either. Bad smells don’t have to come with the territory when you have a critter in your casa. And for most folks, their least favorite part about being a pet owner is dealing with their fur baby expelling waste, but you can make it better.

Cat using a closed litter box isolated on white background12. Keep litter boxes clean. A dirty litter box makes your house smell bad, which stinks. Not only do you not like a malodorous litter box, but your cat won’t either. Your kitty may not use their box if it’s dirty, and that can lead to your feline having some very deliberate “accidents” about the house. Beyond scooping out litter boxes on the regular, you need to clean it out too. Those smarty pants people at Animal Planet have an idea for this as well, suggesting emptying the box entirely and cleansing it by letting a half-inch of vinegar set for 10 minutes, before pouring it out and letting the box air-dry. To prevent odor in the first place, sprinkle a half cup of baking soda at the bottom of the litter pan before adding anything else.

13. Buy baking soda. If you haven’t notice, baking soda has been mentioned a lot lately. An inexpensive something you probably have at home, you can do a lot with it, especially when it comes to eliminating odors. Sprinkle it on pet beds, throw pillows, carpeting, and so on and vacuum it up to get rid of odors. And wiping baking soda on the bottom of pet cages and carriers can get them clean and, you guessed it, less smelly.

14. Guard your garden. Go back up to tip 10 and repeat. If your pet is doing their business in your flower bed or where your kids play, you may want to get them to go somewhere else. Those pet repellents can work just as well outdoors as indoors.

15. Don’t bother with bags. At least, not with the expensive ones. Those special pet excrement bags and their cute little dispensers are just an added expense. Just reuse bags you get from shopping at the supermarket or even try the bags your newspaper showed up in.

16. Stop buying cat litter! Not only can this save you some money, but it is more eco-friendly. The folks at Lifehacker suggest shredding newspaper, mixing it with water and dish soap, and sprinkling it with baking soda; when it’s drained, strained, and dry, it’s good to go. You could also train your kitty to use the toilet, but good luck teaching them how to flush!

Other Saving Tips

dog with kongPeople have come up with a ton of smart ways to save when it comes to pets. While we surely forgot to mention a few, here are a few more tips to help you be more frugal when it comes to your fuzzy family members.

17. Make a doghouse. If you are on a budget, you might find yourself in the doghouse if you spend big bucks on and abode for your canine companion. You can make a waterproof, affordable doghouse by using a plastic storage tote. There’s a great, simple guide to do this on Make that involves cutting a hole in the side of a storage container.

18. Create your own toys. A little bit of craftiness can save big bucks. You don’t have to buy pet toys, but you can make them, and there are a few DIY projects at Vetstreet. Otherwise, you may not have to even go through the hassle of really making anything. A stray feather tied to a string can make a great cat toy, and your dog could play tug of war with you all day with a length of old rope.

19. Make your own pet food and treats. Depending on the recipe you pick and the ingredients you buy, this may not be a super saver, but it’s still a good way to give your critters nutritious and delicious eats that will probably cost less than the high end items. There are plenty of recipes online for eats for your animals, like the dog treat recipe roundup on The Kitchn.

20. Shop on eBay! You had to see this one coming. You can get deeply discounted pet stuff all the time on eBay: from kitty condos to leashes to carriers to flea protection. Shopping smart on eBay lets you care for your critter without breaking the bank.

Dachshund puppy 
There are a lot more ways to save when it comes to pets! Share your ideas in the comments.

Looking for more incredibly clever ways to save? You may want to read 9 Natural, Safe, and Cheap DIY Cleaning Solutions, From Scrap to Table: Recycle and Regrow Your Food, and Fabulous & Natural Beauty Treatments You Can Whip Up at Home. And if you just can’t get enough of furry friends, check out When Animals Attack: Tablet Edition!













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