Simple Ways to Save on Pet Care

The following is a guest post by Mary Jane Humes.

dog and cat

photo credit: Yukari* via Flickr

As a pet owner of seven little house pets, I have researched and found some simple ways to save on pet care beyond using coupons.

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Here are some tips that I personally use to help with expenses in owning animals:

Cat Litter. When our kittens first came to live with us, I was concerned about our tight budget. Now we would have to spend money on buying “toilet paper” (litter) for the cats. I have experimented with several kinds and brands and here is the money saving solution that works for us and our three cats.

Spend money on the most expensive, clumping-variety cat litter that you can find in the stores. Use coupons and stock up when you can but only buy the more expensive stuff . My favorite is Arm and Hammer brand. Head over to their website to grab some coupons. The baking soda that is already in the cat litter will absorb odors. Fill your litter box about 4 inches deep with the cat litter and forget about it. While the box directions tell you to scoop every 24 hours and add litter as needed, I have found that you only have to scoop every two or three days. Completely change the litter once every two weeks. The better litter seems to last longer and odor-free. Obviously, if you are experiencing odor or the cats will not use their litter box, scoop and change more often.

Pet Odors. To eliminate pet odors caused by pet accidents, fill a spray bottle with a solution of half water and half vinegar, usually white vinegar, and then spray the portion of stained carpet. Let the carpet dry, vacuuming is optional. This works well to rid your car of “doggy smell,” too. Ever since I found this trick, I have had my spray bottle filled and ready.

Fresh Carpets. The very best carpet odor eliminator that I have used is made by Arm and Hammer. Their formula for pets results in a very strong fresh, clean, soap and water just-scrubbed smell. This is great to use right before having important company. Your house will smell soapy clean for up to 3 days.

Fleas.  Fleas are every pet owner’s nightmare. No matter what you do, if you have animals, there may be a few fleas lurking around. I have found that most chemical flea treatments do not work, so I give my doggies a daily garlic capsule. Do not give garlic to cats since garlic is poisonous to them. I do not have any good flea solution for cats, except to vacuum daily. A good (and inexpensive) flea bath for both cats and the dogs is washing them with diluted Dawn detergent. Dawn kills fleas. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse your animals after using the detergent on them

First Aid. Pets can get itchy skin related to flea bites, cuts, scrapes and so on. There are a lot of expensive remedies in your pet store. After you put the stuff on Fido, you feel you have to follow him around to make sure he does not lick if off. But he hides and licks and then you worry about what is he eating and is it helping or hurting him since he is taking it internally; this is a vicious cycle. Here is what I found that works wonders and is relatively cheap. The best money-saving pet first aide is simply coconut oil. At temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil is a liquid and at lower temperatures it is a solid. Solid or liquid, simply and generously rub coconut oil on the problem. What is left will nourish and heal their skin and since coconut oil is very healing internally, you don’t have to scold Fido for licking off the coconut oil. Reapply liberally since it is good for so many things for both your dogs and cats. If you prefer your cocoanut oil to be in liquid form, gently heat the container in a pan of water on your stove. NEVER microwave coconut oil, since that will destroy most of its healing properties.

Shots or Not? Vaccinations are a hot and controversial topic for both children and pets, too. Vaccines are costly, but you want you pets to be in the best of health. I totally agree, yet I choose not to have my pets vaccinated, except for the mandatory rabies vaccine. I don’t have children, but it’s probable that I would not have them vaccinated. Not only does not getting shots save money, I believe that the vaccines actually interfere with the natural immune system functioning of our pets.

Worms, etc. Internal parasites are a real concern to any pet owner. To save on costly worming treatments and trips to the vet’s office, I use a cheap product called diatomaceous earth, or “DE.” Suggested amounts for adding DE to your pet’s food is for cats and dogs under 35 pounds, 1 teaspoon daily, and for dogs over 35 pounds, 1 tablespoon. For more information on the benefits of feeding DE to your pets, places where you can purchase this excellent food additive cheaply in your area or on online and a wealth of more information, check out the Yahoo talk group The Golden Secret.

Safe Pet Food.  Lately, there has been a real concern about pets getting sick from pet food and treats. Cleaning up after a sick pet is no fun and neither are costly vet bills. It seems that the culprit in unsafe pet foods are those originating from China. Check your label to make sure that none of the food you are feeding your pets comes from China. Even if the label reads that is it “Distributed In The USA,” to be on the safe side, make sure that the pet food product is “Made In The USA” before you purchase it.

To save more money on pet foods, consider making homemade dog and cat food. Search the internet or ask your local veterinarian for recipes on making your own healthy pet foods. Feeding your pets homemade food will help you save money on buying food, save on vet bills and give you the sense of satisfaction of really caring for you furry friend.

I am not a vet. In the event of any serious problems with your pet, please consult your veterinarian immediately. These are just some of the tips I have used to help me save money while owning happy and healthy little animals.

About the author: Mary Jane Humes is a blogger/editor at Couponers, where you can find great savings on just about any purchase you may need or want. Her personal website is Raw Food Diet Magazine

About Guest Posting

Northern Cheapskate welcomes guest authors who can write compelling, original pieces on saving money. Send us an e-mail for more information.


  1. says

    I disagree about the vaccines – I think anything you can do to preserve the health and well being of your pet is worth the money. I’ve seen many people whose pets have endured long painful battles with Lyme disease, which would have been prevented with a simple shot.

  2. Michaela says

    I also disagree. As someone who not only worked in the vet field but holds a degree, I can’t tell you how many unvaccinated dogs come in with Parvovirus because owners chose to disregard recommended vaccine protocol. Parvovirus is something dogs can pick up easily, even from their own backyard. It’s highly contagious and can have very high fatality rates. The vaccine to prevent it is often referred to as a “5 in 1” or a “7 in 1.” I mention Parvo only because it’s the most prominent, but the vaccine also covers several other serious diseases, like Distemper.

    Cats have a similar “combo” vaccine that aids in preventing serious illnesses, such as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus. If a person has an outdoor cat, the leukemia vaccine (FELV) is HIGHLY recommended. Unlike humans, Feline Leukemia is a virus and it’s transmitted through bites, food, grooming, etc. Outdoor cats have a high incidence of this fatal disease.

    Garlic is considered toxic to dogs, having an accumulative effect that doesn’t appear until repeated exposure has caused complications. (

    I highly caution people against using natural remedies on animals before consulting with a veterinarian. Remedies that are perfectly acceptable in humans can prove fatal in animals. What’s good for dogs, might not be suitable for cats. Veterinary medicine is a specialized field that requires substantial education in order to attain a doctorates. Although I understand people’s concerns with chemicals and their pets, domestic animals are living longer than ever due to medical advances.

    Pet owners should ALWAYS consult with a trusted veterinarian before making these vital decisions. I rarely take such a strong stance, but this article is poor advice. Medical recommendations should only be given by medical professionals.

  3. Lorna says

    Just a suggestion–you can use diatomaceous earth to get rid of fleas. It’s much safer on carpet/pets than spraying the chemicals. And if your pet/child ingests some, it won’t hurt them.

  4. Colleen says

    I have to agree and thank Michaela for mentioning many of the same concerns I had after reading the guest post. I worked as a Receptionist and as a Veterinary Technician for several years, at a couple of different veterinary offices. I have to echo what she said, and add that concerning vaccines, always talk to your veterinarian first. There are many different protocols, depending on different veterinary opinions. For instance, many vets will not recommend the Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccine unless your dog has contact with others (e.g., at doggie daycare, boarding, dog parks, groomers, etc.). The “5 in 1” or “7 in 1” vaccine, also called “Distemper/Parvo,” or a variation of DAPPV, will help prevent Distemper and Parvo, as well as other nasty diseases, though these two are particularly fatal. There was recently an outbreak of Distemper close to the area I live in, and many good dogs died as a result. These deaths were completely preventable!
    That being said, there are veterinarians who will stop doing the Distemper/Parvo vaccines on dogs over a certain age (roughly 10 years and up) and these vaccines are often good for up to 3 years, anyway (again, depending on the veterinarian). So it’s not that expensive to have vaccines done, if it prevents expensive and potentially fatal diseases.
    Of course, you should never skip on the Rabies vaccine. Even if your pet accidentally or playfully bites someone, your pet can be quarantined for a length of time to make sure they don’t have rabies. If you don’t have the $$ for quarantine, your pet could be euthanized. Seen it happen, many times. It’s so sad and again, preventable.
    And many veterinarians will only give a feline leukemia vaccine to cats if they go outside; if they are indoor only, there is no reason to.
    If you really want to save money on your pets, take preventative measures (teeth brushing, nail clipping, heartworm prevention, etc.) to avoid or prevent expensive future treatments. Get your pets spayed or neutered to prevent expensive and unwanted puppies, as well as diseases such as pyometra for female dogs (look it up, it’s horrible) and testicular cancer in males. And if you have crafty dogs, a crate is really the way to go when they are unattended, preventing any opportunities to get into something and having to have, yet again, an expensive treatment (including surgery!)

    • Michaela says

      Great point on the three year Da2PPV, Colleen! Many clinics are switching over to this protocol. You brought up great home care points too, like teeth brushing.

      This is a fine example on why it’s important to see a vet, especially when an owner newly acquires a pet. There is SO much important information, and it’s difficult to cover it all in just a paragraph or two.

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