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How to Afford a Pet

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Don’t let financial strain keep you from the joys of pet parenting.

By Jenny Hoff

There is nothing like coming home to a furry friend who runs to greet you at the door or exploring Austin with a little buddy who is the living embodiment of being in the moment. But having a pet is more similar to raising a child than simply caring for a houseplant. It’s a big responsibility that comes with some unforeseen expenses. According to a study conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a large percentage of people who rehome their pet do so because of financial stress. That’s not a situation any person—or pet—wants to be in. There are many things to consider before bringing a pet home, including financial concerns. Here are some ways you can save a little money while still saving a life.

Adopt from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder.

The cost of buying a dog or cat from a breeder is much higher than adopting a furry friend from a shelter. An added bonus: The shelter will provide neutering or spaying services and shots for free, which can save hundreds of dollars. If you’re willing to wait, the Austin Humane Society partners up with KXAN-TV every year for a one-day Clear the Shelters event, through which you can adopt a new buddy at no cost. Austin Pets Alive! also offers discounted adoption days throughout the year.

Get creative with boarding options.

If you travel often, boarding a pet can get pricey. Consider using the Nextdoor app to find another pet parent in your neighborhood willing to do pet swaps when either of you is out of town. You can also touch base with the adoption agency you used. “Our adopters have a Facebook group where they can share tips, tricks and recommendations with each other,” says Katera Berent, public-relations and events manager for Austin Pets Alive! “Our adopters have also found friends for both themselves and their pets in this group, and we often see them offering up pet-sitting services, just out of the goodness of their hearts!” If you are looking for something more official, check out a site like trustedhousesitters.com, which offers a database of reviewed pet sitters. Once you pay the $119 annual fee, you can choose your pet’s perfect sitter, who will come stay at your home (for no added cost) and take care of your little critter while you’re away.

Learn the basics of pet grooming.

Grooming can be costly. But by learning the basics yourself at home or spending a fraction of a typical grooming price at a self-service dog wash, you can keep your pet clean on a budget. There are many self-service dog-wash stations throughout the Austin area that you can rent for less than $20—and that price includes towels, shampoo, brushes, the tub and even doggie cologne. “When you take your dog to a self-service wash, you also have the benefit of having professionals around you in case you have questions,” says Edward Flores, owner of Mud Puppies in Austin. “It’s important to remember that the animal will respond to your confidence. The more confidence you have in cutting their nails or cleaning them, the more at ease they will be.”

Keep your pet fit and healthy.

The biggest cost of having a pet can come in the form of unexpected veterinary visits. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a pet fund set aside in case of a vet emergency. However, you can limit unexpected vet visits by keeping your pet healthy and active while also pet-proofing your home to ensure Spot and Tiger don’t eat something that could make them sick. Diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems in pets can largely be avoided if you keep your critter on a good diet, don’t overdo snacks, keep her active and show her love. It’s a great way to keep humans healthy too.

Pets can bring so much love to your life, but they’re also a huge responsibility. By making sure you can afford it, asking the right questions to know what to expect and looking for ways to avoid some of the higher costs of pet parenthood, you can keep your pet—and your finances—as healthy as a horse!


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