29 March 2012

Struggling To Keep Your Pets?

As a pet lover, it breaks my heart to hear stories of families having to give up beloved pets because they can't afford to keep them anymore. I am hearing it more and more, and the shelters are becoming overwhelmed. If you're struggling to feed and care for your pet, but you don't want to part with them, there are things you can do to help cut a few costs.

Contact the company who makes the food you feed your pet most often, and ask for coupons. Many have email lists that send out coupons on a monthly basis, from brands like Wellness and Blue Buffalo, to the family of Purina products. If you don't have a printer or can't afford to purchase ink, call the 1-800 number found on the bag of food or the website and ask for those coupons. Emailing will work too, but I have found that companies may be more generous in this situation if you speak to them.

If you purchase food at certain stores, check to see if they have a frequent buyers club. Sometimes if you purchase so many bags (even if you used coupons!) over the course of a year, they'll give you one bag free. For instance, one of our local pet stores has a buy nine bags, get the tenth free, and you have a year to purchase that many. Another store gives a 15% discount if you purchase 12 of the same item, which helps if you have to purchase canned food. And another one gives you 10% back of your purchase in free products at the end of the year - which can add up. If you shop at grocery stores for your pet food, be sure to choose a store where you can get gas rewards for purchasing, which can help you in the long run.

Even cheaper? Make your own pet food. There are many recipes available on the web for making both cat and dog food. Contact your local butcher or speak with the butcher at your local grocery store. Some will hold markdown meats for you to use to make meals - and being able to purchase meats at a reduced cost can really help. Just be sure to either cook those meats right away, or freeze them. Getting your pet sick from bad meats will cost you an emergency vet visit! For around $5 a week, I feed two 30 pound dogs by home cooking their foods.

Some food banks do have pet foods, but you have to ask, as it's not something they usually advertise. If you ask and they don't, they might see the need to carry it in the future, so you aren't asking for nothing!

Ask on Craigslist or Freecycle for items your pet might need, and be sure to check those sites frequently. Sometimes you'll find folks giving away open bags of food because their pet passed away, or because they bought too much. (For instance, for us it's far cheaper to purchase rabbit chow in 50 pound bags, but that's more than our bunny will eat in a year, so we share half via Freecycle when we buy it. It's a win-win situation!)

Keeping your pets weight down will help cut health costs down the road. If you have a dog, be sure to walk them daily for at least 20 minutes. With cats and other small animals, play! Overweight pets are unhealthy pets, and end up having spinal and joint problems.

Stores like Petco hold vaccination clinics on a regular basis. Contact your local store to find out when the next one will be held. This can save you 50% over the cost of most vets. You can also contact your local Humane Society who can help with spaying or neutering your pet, as well as vaccinations. You may need a current paycheck stub to show proof of income, but sometimes that can help you get the surgery free! Your local shelter can sometimes also direct you to a veterinarian who can help with reduced cost visits, too.

Speaking of vet visits, some clinics will put out coupons for a free vet visit. Be aware that this is the office visit cost only, and won't include any vaccinations or medications, but it can help make sure that your pets are healthy and that there are no pressing health issues to be worried about. If you receive a coupon, and it's not your regular vet, you can always try asking your current veterinarian if they would be willing to honor the coupon. Banfield Pets is one nationwide clinic that gives free exams for new patients.

If you have to move due to not being able to afford your mortgage or rent, be sure to ask before signing any new rental payments if your pets are allowed to live there. If you are unable to find a pet safe place to live, contact local rescue groups for housing recommendations - many times the word of mouth can help. (It could also help "grease the wheels" into getting your pet into housing where they aren't normally allowed) Rescue groups might also be able to help foster your pet(s) for a few weeks while you find a place to live, but be aware many are overwhelmed right now too and may not be able to help other than recommendations.

Can you live with a pet or two while living in your car? It can be done, but remember that it is just as uncomfortable for your pet as it is for you. Try to keep a favorite bed and toy for your pet, so they still have something that is theirs and familiar to them. Make sure your pet(s) are leash trained - this goes for cats too, because you don't want them to be frightened and run out the door. Know where there are dog parks and safe places for dogs to run off leash so they are getting plenty of exercise, since it's pretty hard for them to be enclosed in a small space for so long. And most importantly, make sure there is plenty of air in the car by keeping windows down, especially when it's warm! (Don't leave your pet alone in the car for more than a few minutes! It's illegal in many areas, and police can be called, which could ruin wherever you are parking your car!) Unfortunately, many shelters will not accept pets, so it's your car, or camping.

Above all, don't be afraid to ask for help. If a company, place, brand, etc, can't help you, always ask if they know someone who can!


Sandra K321 said...

Whenever one of the local organizations is running a food drive for our foodbank, I always try to put in a few cans of dog food. I was looking at one of the local shelter's website yesterday that shows photos and a little story of their animals and I noticed a definite increase in the number of animals who were there because their owners couldn't afford to keep them any more.

Noelle the dreamer said...

A very thought provoking post! You are a true animal lover! Thanks for sharing! Sometime when someone loose everything he/she is so distressed it is hard to think of alternatives...Praying no one has to make such a choice! Heartbreaking!

Sparkle said...

Thank you for an awesome post that offers solutions instead of just bemoaning a sad situation!

Cheysuli and gemini said...

If you are using google chrome there are some Craigslist plugins for Chrome that will allow you to save your Craigslist search and auto searches it every five minutes. I have one that works well and another that seems to pick up more than I do with a hand search but it's nice to keep checking back quickly-