15 Tips for Raising a Cat on a Budget

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Cats are relatively independent animals but count on their human "parents" for nourishment, shelter, care, and attention. Although cheaper to own than many other types of pets, the lifetime cost of responsible cat ownership can reach $20,000, according to Mint. In honor of National Cat Day, we compiled a list of 15 tips to help you raise a cat without straining your budget.

1. Choose a mixed breed.

Mixed-breed cats are the cheapest to own. They are less costly to insure and veterinary fees are often lower than for purebreds. And the genetic diversity in mixed breeds renders them less prone to illness and generic diseases. Plus, mixed breeds enjoy the longest life expectancy in the cat world.

2. Stick with short-haired cats.

Grooming is an ongoing necessity for long-haired cats and an added expense. Many of their owners report that grooming frequency increases with age because older cats struggle to independently manage self-care. Keeping a short-haired cat groomed is rarely a pricey obligation.

3. Home-groom your cat.

Brushing the cat's hair prevents matting, keeps its coat and skin healthy, and affords an opportunity to discover potential health concerns, such as a lump. This cheap cat tip also requires clipping the claws and/or setting out a clawing toy.

4. Opt to adopt.

Rescue shelters offer the cheapest way to acquire a pet cat. Most provide an up-to-date medical history and ensure the animal has received necessary inoculations. Avoid taking in a stray; without information about the cat's past and its current health, the money you think you're saving will quickly fly out of your wallet. A stray cat needs a thorough veterinary checkup and vaccinations.

5. Stay indoors.

The world outside your home poses a slew of potential problems for cats: fleas, ticks, animal attacks, predation, diseases, and car accidents, to name a few. Letting your pet wander the great outdoors might cut life expectancy by two to three years, according to Vet Info.

6. Spay or neuter your cat.

Even an indoor pet might accidentally venture outdoors, where all kinds of adventures await. Also, female cats go into heat periodically and male cats mark their territory -- both situations that may be unpleasant to live with and costly to contain. The operation might seem pricey (figure on about $150), but the ASPCA maintains a database of inexpensive spay/neuter programs.

7. Go for regular vet checkups.

Preventive care is a major deterrent to expensive vet bills and medications. Take your cat to the vet's office for an annual checkup and all the recommended shots.

8. Don't delay treatment.

Health problems are easier and cheaper to treat when caught early, so if you sense something wrong, call the vet immediately. Subtle signs such as behavioral changes, low energy, or lumps in the skin may indicate big problems. Visit the vet during the day to avoid hefty night or emergency fees.

9. Shop around for a vet.

Fees for veterinary services differ by practice, so if a necessary procedure has a high price tag, call around for a cheaper price.

10. Seek out non-profit pet care.

Locate animal hospitals or shelters run by animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, Bideawee, and the Humane Society, for even lower rates on your cat's medical care. There may be other non-profit animal hospitals in your area, as well.

11. Consider pet insurance.

Insurance for your cat provides a type of security that lets you make decisions based on necessity rather than budget. Prices for pet insurance vary, as do provisions, so weigh the pros and cons. It may or may not make financial sense for you.

12. Don't skimp on nutrition.

A healthy diet is absolutely essential for your cat's well-being. Ultra-cheap cat food may hold appeal, but high-quality cat food that's moderately priced isn't all that more expensive. And remember to provide fresh water 24/7.

13. Make time for playtime.

Daily playtime with a laser pointer or toy helps your cat remain vigorous and her natural hunting instincts sharp. Even a paper bag or opened box can serve as a cheap cat toy. When cats, like all pets, don't engage in daily physical activity, boredom and depression can set in, leading to destructive habits and behavioral problems.

14. Clean the litter box.

Scoop the litter box at least once daily and clean with soap and water weekly. Soiled litter can be a breeding ground for disease.

15. Don't forget a collar (and ID).

A cat collar should include your name, address, and phone number in case your indoor cat slips outside. This is a very cheap precaution; better safe than sorry.