Saving money on pets?

CarinaApril 19, 2004

I've lurked on this forum for a while, some fun threads & great ideas!

When I got my last puppy three years ago, I remember spending about $80.00 on puppy chewies and toys in anticipation of his arrival, only to have him ignore most of them. The things he liked best were mostly free. Well, and furniture legs & shoes, but that was manageable!

Only one of my dogs really seems to prefer soft dog beds over just lying on the floor (the other two will lie NEXT to a dog bed, perhaps just using it as a pillow.)

I have two dog crates - one was $5.00 at a garage sale (this particular one is about $90.00 new.) The other is a folding one for travelling; I bought it new but heavily discounted on eBay.

Toys they like:

An old bicycle tire, great as a tug toy!

An old wheelbarrow tire.

An old tire I have hung from a tree, two of them love that.

Big plastic pop bottles.

Clean lids from 5 gallon buckets for frisbees.

A bowling ball I bought for a quarter at a garage sale.

I find baseballs in left behind at a local park, tennis balls too.

Stuffed toys can be found for pennies at garage sales, plus they don't have squeakers, which my dogs will eat; this can be quite dangerous!

It's funny - pet stores sell small fake tires, doggie tennis balls, plush toys, large balls etc for astonishingly high prices. And most of us already have the real deal at home!

For chewing:

Free beef shank bones from the butcher. As long as they have those, they couldn't care less about $10.00+ chew things from the pet store.

Also turnips, believe it or not. Many dogs love those, and they're wonderful for cleaning teeth.

For teething puppies - ice cubes, or larger pieces of ice made from weak boullion instead of plain water, eases gum pain.


I don't think they need treats anyhow, except for training. But nuts, carrot or apple pieces, popcorn, cheerios, cheap hot dog bits, cheap cuts of meat baked so they're dried out (you can bag them up & freeze.) All much cheaper & better for them than those dumb fake steak or bacon strip things you can buy for pets. Which are also really expensive - more expensive per pound than actual real steak or bacon.


Old blankets or quilts, carpet scraps. A friend made some beautiful dog beds sewing old quilts & filling them with foam. You can also buy clean childrens' mattresses at thrift stores for under $10.00. Check dog bed prices - they're really pricey! The cat sleeps in a cardboard box with an old holey sweater; he loves it.

I don't scrimp at all on food or vet care, though. A good diet & proper vet care pays off over time. I vaccinate rarely (check my vaccinating thread on the Pet forum.) They all get heartworm preventative, and I get a CBC (complete blood panel) done annually - this can alert you to health problems in the early stages, which can save big bucks in the long run.

I've got tons more critter $saving tips, but this is probably long enough as it is!

Other ideas...?

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Great tips! When we got our new pup about a month ago we rushed to Petsmart and spent $22 on a leash and collar - only to find out they had practically the same leash and collar at the dollar store for only a buck! Our dollar store has tons of pet supplies, so that's our new favorite "pet store"!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 3:34PM
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LOL, a bowling ball? You must have big dogs. I would love to see them playing with all those tires and balls and lids. Must be fun! Some great ideas.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 5:27PM
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Shhh don't tell my vet but since one dog was over 50 lbs I was given the up to 88 pounds 3 pack of Frontline. Hmmm - I split one capsule and so far so good. Have not found any ticks yet. Fleas are not a problem. I would like to know the why the stuff for fleas and ticks is so expensive and stuff for heartworms is so cheap.
If your dog gets mild diahrrea give them pumpkin - the canned plain variety. Mine loved it and it only took a couple of teaspoons to get her straightened out. I keep the rest of the freezer. Liked your tips but would not cut up any old real quilts - they can be worth a lot of money. Kathy

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 6:32PM
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Since I have kitties, here's some of my frugal tips:

A cardboard box with the top cut off is a good bed, just put an old cushion in and watch the critters jump into it.

We have 2 of the pet beds (I also use the cardboard ones) and sometimes if one cat lays in it, another cat will come by it and sniff a few times and pass it by-------one of the beds I take outside since it's one with a hoodlike top----and I just beat it a few times with my hand, then I'll spray it with Refresh----the kitties get back in it. The other bed has a washable cover.

I purchased one of those big bags of cedar chips and I use them to fill up homemade "cushions/pillows" -----I sometimes use old sweaters that have holes, paint, etc, and I take rubber bands and put it on the sleeves and neck----then fill up the sweater with the cedar---put another rubber band on the bottom----instant pillow. Old shirts could also be used, or just squares of material. The rubber bands make it really easy. And the cedar is supposed to repel fleas and insects!!!! Can use for dogs, too!

That's all I can think of right now. I would love to try a homemade-type flea collar----I've heard that the herb pennyroyal will repel fleas. Has anyone tried it?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 11:04AM
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artmom, I have three Rottweilers. :=) So I do have to "supersize" a lot of things!

Canned plain pumpkin is a great stool regulator; even some vets will suggest it for mild diarrhea or constipation. There's quite a few home remedies that are very effective (and lots that aren't.) All the home remedies for flea repellents I've heard of don't work though - like eucalyptus oil on the collar, or yeast/garlic/sulphur in the food. Those don't work at all.

Then again it's not a given that a dog will have fleas. It depends largely where you live - over 20 years in Colorado & Michigan; I've never used any flea product on the dogs, nor seen a single flea since I left California.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 5:10AM
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the best cat toy I ever found was the lid to the cleaning solution for my contact lenses. It was hard, so it rattles against the floor. It's small, so it can go under the piano for fishing out. It's lightweight but not flimsy, so when you smack it (not YOU you, FELINE "you"), it flies across the room nicely. It's round so it rolls, but the top is inset a bit, so it rolls crazily.

The only one better is the pastry tip from the cake decorating kit--but she's not allowed to have that.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2004 at 11:08AM
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Muffin's favorite "kitty" toy is little green army men. She can play with an army man for hours on end. She's very particular though - will have absolutely nothing to do with the gray army men, they MUST be green to get her attention. Silly kitty.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 4:25PM
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My kitty LOVES the little powder puffs that come with loose powder. I use a brush to apply it so the cat gets the puf. He goes nuts playing with it!! Rings from the milk jugs were always one of his favorites too (not sure how dangerous that is though).

Now I have a lab/rott mix, his favorite toys are my ds's stuffed animals. LOL trying to break him of that and he's doing good with the exception of this one duck, he wants it as his own. Come to think of it...I haven't seen it in a few days...hmmmm.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 11:05PM
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I guess that working at a vets, I'd have to say preventative health care is the cheapest way to go. Why wait for your puppy to get parvo and possibly die and cost several hundred $ (at least) when you can just keep him up to date of vaccines for maybe total $200 for a full puppy series (including physical exams)? Why wait for your dog to get heartworms and possibly die and have to treat it for a couple hundred $ when it only costs about $60/year (for a big dog) to prevent it? Why risk rocky mountain spotted fever, hotspots, lyme's disease, all expensive and risky, when just a little TopSpot or Advantage will prevent the fleas and ticks for $100/year (again big dog)? Why wait until your female dog or cat gets a life-threatening (and emergency-surgery cure-$$$$$) pyometra because you never had her spayed? Why wait until your dog's or cat's teeth are rotting so bad that she won't eat and needs emergency dental surgery instead of keeping them clean by brushing or regular cleanings or special dental diets? I just don't see the point.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 9:55PM
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My dogs play with the spent tennis balls from the local tennis courts. The resorts here also save them for me & I give them to our Humane Society for the dogs to play with.

Lots of great (cheap) recipes for homemade dog treats, too.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2004 at 7:15PM
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I'm going to a shot clinic with my dog Sunday.shots are easily half the price of the vets. It's being held at a reputable pet store I frequent almost weekly(have to buy bugs for the gekko ),and they'll trim his long nails for a donation to their favorite shelter.Also, I won't have a vet trying to push unwanted vaccines on me.I can get what I need, then run the stool and blood at the vets later.Sandy

    Bookmark   May 7, 2004 at 10:43PM
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Good thread.. there's two types of dogs.. those who play with toys and those who don't or won't, so you're wasting your money, time or creativity trying on type #2.

Put a tennis or rubber ball into an old tube sock, tie the end and you'll have a great bolero type toy that's easier to throw longer distances if you're not adept at throwing a ball very far.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2004 at 1:17PM
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At work us techs just calculated that treating a 45-pound dog for heartworms just once costs the same as 10 YEARS of year-round brand-name heartworm prevention purchased at our hospital. YIKES! We crunched the numbers for a client who is treating a second dog for heartworms because "the prevention is too expensive." But they love their dog and don't want it to suffer and die, so they will treat this dog too. It would have been soooo much cheaper just to buy the prevention. Talk about a big waste of money! I think they learned this time, the very hard way.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2004 at 8:43PM
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When we had cats, the milk jug rings (as stated above) were the BIGGEST hit. However, we now have birds & a hamster. We've only had the birds (cockatiels) for 2 months, and went through the new pet buying spree, but now I'm ready to put them on a budget w/ the rest of the family. So any bird ideas would be helpfull. The hamster no longer gets regular bedding. He'd just throw it out of the cage anyway. We clean the cage weekly, and give him paper towels, cardboard tubes, and whatever else to rebuild a bed. I figure what else does he have to do? (other than run around on the silly wheel) (and he usually CLEARS a spot of bedding & then pee's on the cage floor, wierd hamster)

I guess my tip on pet savings would be to make sure you get a pet that you like, & likes you, so your money is well spent. I think we've managed to get the nicest hamster on the face of the earth, but we spent an HOUR just picking him out (at the second pet store we tried) Same w/ the birds, only we spent abaout 6 hours looking, holding playing with, etc... But our birds ar very sociable, and friendly to all.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2004 at 11:52AM
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I cut an old futon into pieces to make a couple of cat beds. I still have about half of the futon left. Since doing it, I've heard from people who say that their dogs love old futons too.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2004 at 10:45AM
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Just an update on that revolving clinic.Last years shot package plus one month of revolution was around $120 at the cheapest vet in my town. This years shot pack through a monthly clinic run by the state animal control was $28 for the shots and tag I skipped bortadella because I don't board my dog and we rarely get to the park.Six months of heartworm and six months of advantage were an additional $76 dollars.I can cut those costs even more by ordering the advantage from ebay.That would trim my costs aproximately $20.I did have to stand in line with my pet and several other pets,so for people with unsocialised pets,clinics may not be worth the hassle.The staff was very professional,and I was happy with the experience.Sandy

    Bookmark   July 19, 2004 at 10:31AM
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One of my kitties' favorite toys is my daughter's fuzzy ponytail holders - the fuzzier the better, really, it's an obsession. Another cat loves foam cutouts, the thick ones that stick on the wall at bathtime. And a third plays soccer with little rubber balls.

The best frugal tip for pet care is, as some mentioned, prevention. And as cats go, KEEP THEM INDOORS. I've always thought it was stupid to pay $50 or more every 6 months on a vet, then let the cat wander out the door where it could get hit by a car, shot with a bb gun, poisoned, catch diseases, fight other animals, etc.

My 4 kitties are all indoor only. They are very happy here and don't even try to sneak out. We no longer take them to the vet, except maybe every couple years for a checkup or if we suspect a problem. If they stay in, there's no need for vaccines. Our only expenses are food and litter. They eat dry food which is better for teeth. Our oldest two are 15 and 13 - crabby old folks, but healthy, knock on wood!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 12:28AM
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"Free beef shank bones from the butcher."

Unless you want some broken and cracked teeth, I wouldn't give one of these to your dog. A hard rubber Kong will keep my dog happy forever. Just don't lose it.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 5:01PM
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I have four parrots. They love fortune cookies from Chinese restaurants. They rip off the plastic, chew the cookie and shred the fortune.

One of my birds has fallen in love with a red bottle top from a 2 liter bottle of coke. I don't know why, but he loves to move it around, pick it up, put it down -- very funny to watch.

They all love to shred paper. If I have a paperback book that I really dislike, instead of tossing it I tear the covers off (dye can be bad for birds) and give it to the birds in pieces. They love ripping it apart. But, at least for me, it has to be a really bad book -- one that I wouldn't pass on to a friend.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 10:35PM
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Don't give them bottled water.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 8:30PM
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BTW, beef shank bones (or better yet, beef ribs) are quite soft when they are fresh. I do take them away after a couple of days when they start getting dried out. My dogs couldn't care less about Kongs, unless they are stuffed. Ditto for other chew-type toys from the pet store. They do get bully sticks too.

Why not bottled water? Just curious. I thought most bottled water was just purified tap water anyhow. I don't give it to my dogs, though.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 8:00AM
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I think the bottled water was meant as a money saving joke. There is in fact bottled water for dogs so like the saying goes a fool and his money are soon parted. I've spent my share on dog and bird toys over the years and you know it's still difficult to pass by those aisles but I'm much better at it now. Only giving in now and then. You see all those parrot rope toys with bits of coconut shells etc knotted into them and think.. geeze I could buy a coconut, eat it, break it up and make my own and save the $15. There's plenty of baby junk as well you can use for small birds that can't break it like a parrot could. I'm a little wary of no name stuff for pets from the dollar stores including the rawhides, although they're much cheaper they come from China like everything else in the store and I don't yet fully trust that they're safe for animals to ingest so I stick with the domestic ones. Things like a leash or collar well that's different and you may as well spend $2 bucks there than $12 at Petsmart

    Bookmark   September 8, 2004 at 7:32PM
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One cat (Ara) doesn't play with much, at least when she likes we are watching. the other cat, Elmo, absolutely loves drinking straws. Can buy 100 straws for a dollar and he is a happy little cat. They also ahve a brush thing I found at the thrift store for $3 ($15 at Walmart). It has a carpeted base and the brush is a good 15-20 inches long, it is curved so that both ends fit intot he base and they can walk under it and scratch. Both like to chew on it and wash their face on the brush. Oh, Elmo also likes to shred cardboad (never seen a cat do that before). My aunt supplies me with envelop boxes to keep him from eating our good boxes.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2004 at 11:14PM
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To REALLY save money on pets ...

... give 'em away.

As far as beef bones are concerned - we used to give lots of bones of various varieies to our barn dogs when I was young - don't ever remember seeing one with a chipped or missing tooth.

Including chicken and turkey bones, back before we heard that was *not a good idea* - and never heard of one of our dogs choking.

As I recently mentioned elsewhere here, something over 50 years ago a yearling beef animal died in our barn and Dad towed it out into the yard, where it lay for something over a year.

Our dog used to love going to it for a snack, almost daily.

It caused him some trouble, though - he got a lot less petting and attention - for he *stank*!

Several neighbour dogs used to like to visit for a snack, frequently, as well.

Sometimes they even lay down on the critter and rolled on it.

Years ago when we took our little dachsie to the beach - she used to like to lie down and roll on the dead fish, drat her.

Took about three serious scrubbings to make her fit to live with!

Enjoy your fall, all.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 4:57PM
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My cats loves to bat around wine corks. Light weight,not noisy, and they travel well across the floor. Only one problem, she bats them around until they go missing, under the sofa or refrigerator. When I clean, I find all the lost ones.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 10:30AM
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Jannie, my cat would like that "travel well across the floor," but NOT the "not noisy" part.

She loves the lids to the saline-solution bottles (esp. the ones withOUT the flip top). They fly fast, but the best thing is, they RATTLE across the floor. Noise is part of the point.

And she deliberately knocks them under the piano. And then she fishes them out again, and under and out.

Eventually, they go too deep, of course.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 12:11PM
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When your pet gets too big, too old, too obstreperous, not clean enough, etc. for you to want to continue to keep him/her, please ...

... please ...

... please ...

don't take him/her out to a rural road and dump her/him out.

A couple of years ago when I spent some time with my old farmer step-uncle after his wife died, he had about 18 cats in the barn, which he fed daily.

Recently he died and I make a 25 mile round trip daily to make the place look lived in, feed the cats, water his (former) relatives' cattle, etc.

Currently down to about 6 - 9 cats (usually nine). Only about three will let me pet them when they're not eating. One swats at me (drew blood a couple of times) even when I pet the cat *next* to her/him.

Plus, a while ago, three kittens. Haven't seen one for a week or so, but two are still around.

And one of the cats looks as though her belly is bigger than befits being full of food - even when I go to the barn to feed them.

A few days ago a second black cat showed up.

Rather diffident - but looked as though it wanted to be friendly.

Oh, Lord - not *another* mouth to feed!

Oh, well - the estate will reimburse me for the price of the feed.

I asked some neighbours (aboriginals, by the way) a while ago whether they needed some cats.

They said that they had nearly a dozen, now.

So - I guess that's where some of Stuart's former gang went.

Please - if you, or someone that you know, doesn't want/can't keep their pet any more - don't dump it in a rural area.

Many get killed on the road.

Quite a few get killed by stray dogs, coyotes, etc.

Or starve. Or die of cold, in winter in northern climes.

Not a pleasant end.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   November 18, 2004 at 7:25PM
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My dogs LUV empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. They go nuts over them.


    Bookmark   November 26, 2004 at 3:16PM
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When we got our puppies I gave the puppy shots myself. Saving the cost of the office call. I will get the Rabbies shots when the boys get fixed saving an extra office call. I get Advantage from Australia at a huge savings. For the mats in their kennel, I cut up an old comforter and got six mats. I have also found the hospital pads at thrift stores for next to nothing. Those fit perfect in the kennel. My neighbor is a pack rat and has found many stuffed animals for the boys. If they chew them to bits no one is out anything. All of them have stuffing, no beans or rice bags. I always discard the small stuff as soon as they destroy one. I never leave toys in their kennel. They are in there to sleep. Our local Target has a dollar section. Got the boys their collars there and a great pet brush.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 11:51AM
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My dogs love stuffed animals. Please be careful with the eyes, nose and any other parts. Remove before the dog does.

Two of my small terriers are therapy dogs. I wanted an inexpensive way for them to have a costume (just to entertain the patients). I found very cute children's t-shirts at the resale shop for .50 each. Those little costumes have brought so much fun to the people we visit.

On top of it, the resale shop benefits a charity. That is where we get the stuffed animais too.

Racquetball is favorite toy for one of my dogs. Can be bought for 3 to a package for much cheaper than official dog toys. They last longer too.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 11:20PM
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We have four dogs. Here are some things we do to save money:

Evaporated Milk: Works well when they are constipated. (The vet told us this). When our lab was a puppy she would eat everything no matter how hard we would try to stop her. She got clogged up several times.

Biospot: Its for flea, ticks and mosquitoes. ItÂs available from Petsmart for around 12.00 for a 3 month supply. We used a more expensive brand once and it wasn't any better. We also used a cheaper brand and they didnÂt help much. At one time we had several dogs on both sides of our house that had horrible fleas and we never had a problem. As a side note our lab loves to play in water and it appears biospot still works.

Baby Shampoo: (We were told about this from a Groomer at Petsmart) When you bathe your dog use baby shampoo and leave on for 5 min. It will suffocate any fleas that may be on it. This is good to use when the dog is too young for anything else. We do this every time we bathe them and along with the Biospot weÂve never seen any fleas. I told this to our neighbor and she saw some fleas on her puppy. She used the 5 min bath of baby shampoo and it took care of the problem.

Vaccines: For the yearly seven series we go to the feed store. Make sure you know and trust the people and that they keep the vaccine cold at all times.

For their rabies and heartworm medicine we go to snap which is a low price vet for basic things.

Something yall may want to try if yall have a yard is this. If you have a vet that has horses you can relieve them of the manure and compost it for your own use and ask them if they can give you a discount for doing that. YouÂll get free fertilizer and maybe discounted vet care.

Here is something I never tried but I have been told it works. If you have an animal with really bad fleas add table salt to their shampoo and leave on for 5 min.

One more thing (I keep meaning to post this but then I think of something else). If you have a couple big dogs getting a memebership to Costco is worthwhile. They make a dog food that is very high quality. It is 40lbs for about 15.00. I compared it to Nutro and it is just as good but much cheaper.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 5:32PM
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Has anyone baked dog biscuits for your canine children? I found a recipe that included whole wheat flour, baby food meat, garlic, and similar healthy ingredients that the boys loved. (My German Shepherd would do his pointer routine by sitting obediently and staring up at the counter wherever the plastic bag of goodies was placed.) I think they're probably cheaper than store-bought, and I know exactly what the ingredients are. (If anyone would like the recipe, I'd be happy to post it.)

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 7:11PM
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I'd like the recipe.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 1:56PM
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When I had the little dog I saved quite a few bucks and actually had a better product by making a harness from a closeout harness that wouldn't fit him. It was less than a dollar and was some fancy thing that never worked right which I assume is why they discontinued them. I made a few simple modifications, deleted some of the garbage and had a great, simple and adjustable harness complete with quick clips for putting it on and taking it off. He had little patience for the harness when he needed to make a trip outside whether it be for business or pleasure!

And despite GF and sister buying him doggie toys, his favorite was a plain old tennis ball. Cheap. Like me! Pick up a bunch at a garage sale for pennies and he had more entertainment than you could imagine. When he'd get bored in the middle of the night he'd take a ball and go to the top of the wooden steps and bounce the ball down it. It'd go step by step and just before it hit the bottom he'd make a mad dash down the steps to grab it and bring it back up and start over! Although it wouldn't last all that long, waking up at 3 AM to the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP down those steps and the scramble down and up would get a bit tedious!

And always carry a plastic container (like from Cool Whip or cottage cheese) and keep some water and dog food with when out and about, especially on summer days. Inexpensive and would seal up for transit.

And the biggest savings was to forget the groomer. I could clip his claws and got very proficient at giving him haircuts. My friends take their dog to a groomer and I shudder at the cost! Ironically, neither of them will spend that on their own hair! Yes that dog is treated like royalty! :)

Granted, pets are often considered an extravagance, but they're still companionship, entertainment and have been shown to help the health of the elderly. I look at them as an investment in these areas. So the costs are mostly offset IMO. I tend to agree with the Tightwad Gazette's explanation that it's a quality of life thing too. If you're too broke to have decent care for a pet, you shouldn't have one. But I don't think that frugality is a legitimate reason to not have one either. After all, we don't *need* to live in houses, apartments or mobile homes when there's perfectly good cardboard boxes out there and they'd certainly save a lot of money, but I draw a line somewhere! :D

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 11:34PM
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I get the cheapest brand of the dog chow I can find that's high protein, then I pour some bacon grease on it and stir it so that my dog likes it better. It's still good for him since it's high protein, and he actually likes it now, too. He has nice fur, too. BTW he's an outside dog, not inside. It works for our picky cat, too, if we get some kind of feed he decides he doesn't like any more.
Guinea pigs need vitamin c, so I give ours table scraps whenever we have tomatoes, strawberries, etc. But the feed we give them is horse sweet feed. When we supplement that with the table scraps, they do fine. If we don't have leftover scraps like that, we give them part of a vitamin c supplement (chewable) to eat that we get at the $ store.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 3:25PM
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my kitten likes hair scrunchies with thin ribbons tied to them. she frays the ends and i replace them every other day. so far anything plastic is a totalbore to her, but she is not 4 months old yet.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2005 at 10:46AM
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My cat Pierre likes an old washcloth -- he attacks it, chews it, etc. He's done this since he was a kitten. I thought he might be "teething" back then, but at 9 years old he still will attack any washcloth left lying on the floor.

I would caution anyone who's thinking about getting a pet: You never know what you are going to get. My other kitty Lola is 9 and she has developed inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and cholangiohepatitis. This will be with her for the rest of her life, and she could have many years to go (we hope!) She has become very expensive. But so long as we treat her, she remains active and enjoys a good quality of life. She now requires frequent blood tests, lots of pills, etc., and she has been hospitalized twice in the last 14 months including a surgery to take biopsies (so that we could get a firm diagnosis.) But when I see her charging around the house, or in a playful mood, I think to myself "how could I not give her what she needs?" A good month for us is only $150 to $200 in vet bills and medication. Pets may start out not costing very much, but then they capture your heart (completely) and then at some point they may require a lot of money. I can't say no to her. Or at least I choose not to.

The funny thing is that when Lola and Pierre were kittens we received information from our vet concerning kitty health insurance. We laughed and said "what on earth would we need that for?" Next time we get a kitten, we'll be taking a closer look at that idea. . .

    Bookmark   January 1, 2006 at 12:15AM
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While my tiel does like some store-bought toys (he loves his mirror and his bell), it's the cheap or free stuff that he can play with for hours. I got a very cheap small wicker container from IKEA that he loves shredding and which keeps his beak trimmed. Brown paper is excellent for shredding, and while there were two of them (the other one moved out with my brother), they loved to play "nest" in brown paper bags and empty breakfast cereal cartons - much safer than having them crawl under the pillows on the sofa.

Another thing you can do to save money is to grow your own bird food. While the seed you get at the pet shop is quite good, it is even better if you can get them onto fresh seed. Just plant some of the store seed and let nature take its course. The seed is full of nutrients and is much healthier served fresh off the plant, plus they love picking it off the ears. (Just be prepared for little surprises: there is hemp seed in most seed mixes and while it has been treated so it can not sprout, a few seeds always seem to escape and will sprout.)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 8:08AM
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Being a dog owner most of my life, I've learned of many ways to save $$$. My family now have 2 chiuwawas, one 2 years old, the other 6 weeks old. I've learned many things over the years. Here are a few.
1. I use Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash my dogs. Vet told me that its a better flea killer than the ones you can buy at the pet store. (Although we havent had any flea problems, just a precaution.) Have heard Dial antibacterial bar soap works just as well.
2. Please do vaccinate your pets. Parvo is a terrible way for your pet to die, and it is highly contagious to other pets. I have had friends who have lost beloved dogs from this. My grandparents just paid almost $500 for their chocolat lab, to get rid of heartworms. They didnt use a heartworm preventative. It's much cheaper to take care of these things before they become a problem. Call around and find a vet that you can afford. I drive 45 minutes to a cheaper vet, but I make sure I have other chores to run at the time so I don't waste gas. My dad vaccinates his dogs himself. He buys vaccine at the local feed and sead store. My childrens school has a vet come out yearly to do rabies shots for $9 a shot. This is how my parents do it.
3. Having three kids we have lots of toys they outgrow. If they do not get handed down to my neice and nephews, the dogs end up with them. They absolutely love stuffed animals. The ones that come in happy meals are by far their favorite, because they are small enough for them to carry around. The puppy has decided he likes my oldest sons army men. Oldest son not very happy about it but... they shoud be picked up off the floor.
4. Do not give dogs chicken bones. I learned this the hard way many years ago when dear old dad gave my rock puppy one. They do splinter and the dog will choke. Thankfully the neighbor had some vet experience and she fixed it although I can't remember how, (I was very upset.) I do give ham, pork chop, pork ribs, and steak bones to them. Never had a problem with them splintering.
5. I do not use the Frontline that you apply to the neck. I buy the Frontline spray. It was around $24 I have had the same bottle for a year and plan to use it on the puppy when he gets old enough.
6. I do buy name brand puppy chow for both dogs, but at a local discount store for only $2 for a small bag which last us a while, cause the dogs are small. Can't beat that.
Bottom line is, if you care for your pets they will live a long and healthy life. My dogs can live to be 20 years old.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 3:55PM
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Sorry, I realize I am raising this thread from the dead,but this was the most appropriate thread I could find. Does anyone have any ideas about making or getting cheap parrot toys? I have an Amazon who destroys toys and they are so expensive from the pet store...haven't been able to find toys suitable for birds at the dollar store. Any ideas welcome!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 3:17PM
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Yes on the cheap bird toys, and saving money on diet, too! :D


Get a 1 qt. stainless steel bucket (google for it) on the web for less than $5 and it will last forever and go in the dishwasher for cleaning. Hang it where he won't go potty in it, and cross your fingers. 1 qt. is a fine size for an Amazon.

The big macaws and such can do a 2 qt. bucket.

Just use the SS, no other metal, as other metals can contain zinc, which is toxic to birds.

For a little bird like a 'tiel or 'keet, you can use a clean yogurt container, cut vertical slits in the side, and fasten it to the side of the cage with an electrical cable tie.

Then fill the bucket with his "used" safe broken toy parts, new toy parts, smooth cleaned beach rocks he can pick up but not swallow (fun to drop on the cage floor for the noise), and SAFE branches, flowers, leaves, and pinecones from the yard. If you don't know which plants and trees are safe for birds, you can google for the info. If it's not nesting season, you can also put in balls of wadded up paper... but don't do that during nesting season.

If your bird loves to undo screws with his feet (cockatoos love this), get some stainless steel washers, nuts and screws and thread them through a small block of wood, or some plastic disks. That'll keep 'em busy. They're expensive to buy, but they last forever.

At night pick up the toys off the cage floor and wash them (I put the plastic stuff in the dishwasher, but not the wood or rope), then return them in the morning. My birds all LOVE their buckets. I love them because I don't have to string a bunch of stuff.

Another toy my birds love: grab a few drinking straws, cinch them in at the "waist" with a cable tie to form a pompom. My 'zon also loves those plastic easter eggs, but watch hard plastic as it can be sharp if broken. You can hide goodies in those plastic eggs, too.

I also buy plastic chain at the hardware store and run it through the dishwasher to sterilize. Then I cut fleece in 1/2" to 1" wide strips. Don't make the strips long enough to wrap around a little neck. Thread the fleece through the chain, knot it once, and tie beads, blocks, Mirabella beads and hoops, and bird toy parts on the ends of the strings. It's very colorful, very interesting, and the fleece and chain are indestructible (provided you use heavy enough chain for the bird in question). You can replace the toy parts when they're chewed off.

I save a ton of money by going to the bird fairs and buying toy parts there. Never take your bird to those places, and carefully sterilize everything you get there before giving it to your bird. If you have any local parrot stores or breeders, they can probably tell you where and when the shows are, or watch your local newspaper in the classifieds in the Birds For Sale column.

If there are no bird fairs in your area, watch eBay and you can pick up bargains there. Again, sterilize everything that might have come from where other birds are.

To sterilize things, I use Avicine (google for it), since it's recommended by the top avian disease researcher in the country.

There is also a great section called "The Toymaker" at But use your head, as there's no guarantee everything there is safe for every bird.

I strictly avoid all cotton rope for my 'zon as he gets too into his toys, and he once got his foot caught in it. We were lucky he wasn't hurt. He snaps bird-tanned rawhide immediately in two, so that's no good for him either. But they can't bite the fleece in two, and the fleece doesn't unravel dangerous threads.

You can also sometimes find cheap baby toys at the thrift shop, but be careful they're safe, and clean them well.

My birds LOVE their buckets! I think it satisfies the need for them to forage as they rummage through the contents trying to get to the bottom. You can switch the toys out to keep it more interesting. One set is being washed, so you use a different set. I swap buckets between my 'zon and RFM, and also between my G2 and TAG. But I don't give the medium sized bird's toys to the big birds or they would destroy them in a heartbeat.

I usually soak the dirty toys in the bucket in water for a while, then hand scrub them with a stiff brush. Then I soak them in Avicine water for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly. I don't soak the toys in Avicine first, as I want them to absorb water, not chemicals.

BTW, if you're handy with a saw, you can pick up chunks of 2x4 (pine or fir) free out of a burn heap at a new building site, but ask their permission before you take anything. With wood stuff, you can sterilize it by baking it in an oven at 200 degrees for 1/2 hour -- but double-check me on the temp and time, please, by googling for the info (that's just from my memory). Then cut it into suitable sized chunks and drill holes in it if you want to string it, or just toss it in the bucket. NEVER give them treated lumber, as it will poison them. Or, just buy a 2x4 at the lumber yard. You don't have to dye the wood.


Seeds are not good for birds; but if you sprout the seeds they're one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Invest in a decent sprouter (I love my EasySprouter). Learn safe sprouting methods. If you only feed organic, there are mixes you can buy on the web. If you can't afford organic, there are lots of safe things in a good health food market bulk department that will sprout -- ask the clerk. You can sprout lentils from the grocery store (very cheap). You can sprout pigeon mix from the feed store (my birds get these every night). That is very inexpensive! You can sprout parrot seed, but it's expensive and it often contains other junk you have to pick out like dried fruit, nuts, and pellets -- no good.

Feed the sprouts when the tails are still just teensy nubbins, don't let them grow long. That's the optimal nutrition, and the longer the tails, the more bitter the sprout. The birds just snap the tails off and drop them anyway. Birds LOVE sprouts -- that's mostly the way they eat seeds in the wild, if they can.

Of course, they need fruits and other veggies, too, so shop for bargains. Do feed organic if you can; otherwise wash very well and peel most stuff (they peel their own grapes). And your 'zon needs the equivalent (in size) of two peanuts (out of the shell) in nuts per day. More than that can give him fatty liver disease. I vary which kind of nut my birds get every day -- all UNsalted and preferably raw. You can sprout raw nuts, too. Just soak them over night and rinse well. They don't grow tails. Macaws need more nuts than other birds. My RFM (mid sized macaw at 1 lb and 2' long) gets about 6 nuts a night. Almonds, btw, are loaded with calcium, which Greys need.

If you're nervous about sprouting, just soak your seeds overnight in hot (bath temp) tap water. Then drain them in the morning, rinse well and refrigerate. That is vastly better for your bird than seeds that aren't sprouted. The old farmers used to always soak their chicken feed in a bucket overnight. They knew!

On diet, your bird also needs a wee bit of cooked egg or meat every other day or so. My 'zon gets 1/2 HB egg.

I slice and dice fruits and veggies for my birds every morning. They get sprouts and frozen veggies at night... plus anything healthy and not salted that I'm eating. I thaw frozen mixed veggies in a strainer run under hot tap water for a few seconds. Don't nuke their food. Forget the dairy, as they're not mammals -- but a wee bit of yogurt every few days is okay.

I also sprinkle just a wee bit of powdered health food store vitamins over their breakfast each day, just to make sure they're getting their nutrition -- you know, the kelp, barleygrass, powdered carrots, etc. type mixtures. Like lightly "salting" their food with the vitamins.

Remember, variety is the ticket to good nutrition, and it's better to pay the grocery store than the vet (and cheaper). A good vet will tell you that about 90% of a bird's longevity is in good nutrition and in cleanliness.

I hope this helps the bird owners out there. :D

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 6:23AM
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