11 Recreation: Pets

Pets enrich our lives, and they also enrich breeders, kibble makers, and, most expensively, veterinarians. I’ve shepherded two geriatric cats through their final months, and I know firsthand the staggering costs. It’s hard to go cheap when a friend of many years puts up a good fight and a chance exists for more time. Believe it or not, I’ve opened the wallet wide and paid out thousands. When such strong emotions drive my spending, I say “ouch,” and try to make it back elsewhere (perhaps recovering from the veterinarian by becoming more of a vegetarian, see 37.7.8).

11.1  Consider Lower Priced Alternatives

   11.1.1  Buy Animatronics
For options, visit the “Toys and Games” department at Amazon, look under “Electronics for Kids,” and click “Electronic Pets.”

   11.1.2  Go Micro: Habitats
Ant farms, sea monkeys, butterflies, lady bugs, praying mantises, frogs, and earthworms all make great starters for young pet seekers. Visit “Toys and Games” at Amazon, look under “Learning & Education Toys,” and under that click “Habitats.”

   11.1.3  Go Small: Aquariums
Fish and fish food cost less than dogs and dog food.

   11.1.4  Go Rodents!
Hamsters, gerbils, and hedgehogs make good pets if they stay in their containers. Escapes become major adventures.

   11.1.5  Play Chicken
Chickens produce fresh eggs, which saves you scratch as they peck and scratch. Visit BackYardChickens.com or UrbanChickens.org.

   11.1.6  Join Slytherin
Trade fur for scales. Snakes and small reptiles hang out in their terrariums for much less than dogs or cats hang out in your house.

   11.1.7  I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing
Because they’re so cheep! Adopt finches, canaries, or parakeets.

11.2  Borrow Your Pets

   11.2.1  Visit
Satisfy your family’s pet cravings with visits to zoos, butterfly pavilions, and aquariums. Attend dog shows and county fairs. Send kids out to play with neighborhood dogs.

   11.2.2  Install Feeders
Attract hummingbirds, robins, sparrows, and, inevitably, squirrels. Indoctrinate youngsters: because they roam freely, these wild pals are much cooler than dogs or cats.

   11.2.3  Go Bird Watching
If birds bypass your family roost, roust everyone out to see the birds.

   11.2.4  Take Part Time Jobs
Older kids get their pet fix when they walk dogs, clerk at pet stores, assist in veterinary offices, or work at kennels.

   11.2.5  Volunteer
Help at animal shelters or zoos. Who needs pets when you hang out with lions, tigers, and bears?

   11.2.6  Furnish a Foster Home
You shelter abandoned pets pending their placement elsewhere. Beware: fostering often leads to adopting.

   11.2.7  Pet Sit for Friends
If you like someone’s dog or cat, care for it when the owner travels.

   11.2.8  Pet Sit for Strangers
Start your own part-time business by signing on as a pet sitter at DogVacay.com, a sharing economy web service that connects pet hosts with pet owners.

   11.2.9  Train Service Dogs
Train a puppy to become a service animal. Typically, this takes 12 to 20 months. As you help those in need, you sidestep all kinds of end of life medical issues (the most expensive and emotional aspects of pet ownership). Visit AssistanceDogsInternational.org.

11.3  Follow the Products Buying Checklist

For pets and supplies, follow the system in Appendix 1 and these additional tips.

   11.3.1  Get Sheltered Pets
Breeders charge. Many shelters offer free pet days.

   11.3.2  Visit Online Pharmacies
If your veterinarian uses its in-house pharmacy as a profit center, flee to the lower prices at 1-800-PetMeds.com, PetCareRx.com, or DiscountPetMedicines.com.

   11.3.3  Shop at Discount Stores
At Walmart and Target, generic dog and cat medicines sell for $4.

11.4  Follow the Miscellaneous Services Checklist

Follow the strategies in Appendix 2 and these added ideas.

   11.4.1  Use OTC Remedies
Bypass vet visits with medicines for heartworms, ticks, and fleas.

   11.4.2  Hire Young Entrepreneurs
Neighborhood kids usually undercut the rates adult providers charge to walk dogs and pet sit.

   11.4.3  Visit Animal Shelters
Many provide discounted vaccinations and reproductive fixes.

   11.4.4  Skip Pet Insurance
Consumer Reports concludes that most pet owners come out ahead if they skip this coverage. Run the numbers for yourself. Visit ConsumerSearch.com/pet-insurance to see the top-rated plans.

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