A few weeks ago, Brian and I acquired a new furry feline friend. He came with the unfortunate name of “Cronic” (their spelling, not mine….) and was soon rechristened as Chaucer. Fortunately, he is too stupid to know his name and so the change does not seem to have upset him very much. ;)
At first glance, having a pet doesn’t seem to fit our low-cost big-hack lifestyle. Pets can be expensive! Vet visits, food, litter… these things can add up. But they don’t have to.
When getting a pet, adoption fees or purchasing costs are often your biggest initial expense. If you buy from a breeder or pet store, your cost soars into the hundreds. The local SPCA charges $75 and up for a cat and $150 and up for a dog, , depending on the age. So already, you can save money by “adopting” from the SPCA. The good thing about adopting from animal shelters is that their animals will come spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
But if you want to save even more money, consider finding a a furry friend from Craigslist. If you avoid the amateur breeders, there are lots of people who are simply looking for new homes for their pets. Most of these animals are spayed/neutered and many will be already vaccinated. Of course, you won’t get the pick of the litter, but it’s not uncommon for adult cats to be free and kittens to be free or cheap.
We adopted Chaucer for free from a family in Delta, a city close to Vancouver. He’s a mellow tabby mix of some sort and 7 years old. He had already been neutered and had received regular vet visits. (His family was also giving away a 3 year old female cat, but we decided we liked the old guy better).
Next up, you need to consider pet supplies. These are usually one time expenses as well, and can include things like litter boxes, pet beds, or leashes. Now assuming your are not planning on giving your pet a life of luxury, these items don’t have to cost a lot of money. Simple food bowls, beds, and accessories can usually be found in the pet section of discount stores like Walmart or Superstore. But Brian and I try not to add to consumer waste if we don’t have to. Again, Craigslist was our friend and we picked up a litter box and a carrier second-hand for less than $20 in total. For a bed, I bundled up an old fleece blanket and placed it on Chaucer’s favourite perch. My personal opinion is that pets don’t need beds unless you have absolute no soft surfaces for your pet to sleep on, but if you’re feeling handy, try making your own pet bed using scrap or re-purposed fabric.
Finally, we needed to be prepared for regular pet expenses. This includes things like food and litter. Sadly, used litter is not an option so the best option I have found it to simply stock up when litter and food go on sale. As well, the manufacturer’s site often features coupons which you can combine with sales in store. We spend about $10-15 per month on food and litter.
So having a pet doesn’t have to be a huge drain on your budget. Of course, if you had a dog, it would probably be more money, since most dogs eat more food than cats do. As well, there should be money set aside for semi-regular vet visits and potential emergencies. But for a start up cost of about $20 and a recurring monthly cost of $15 or less, our apartment now has the privilege of being covered in cat hair. ;) And it’s all worth it… right?