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Caring for Cats on the Cheap

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
So I'm a poor college student... and I found two little creatures, both less fortunate than myself, and just couldn't turn them away! Nobody will adopt adult cats, and the no-kill shelters are closed... so what was I to do but keep them?

Baby Girl is a vocal, curious, intelligent tabby who weighs only 8 pounds at the age of 1 1/2. She's paranoid about other cats, and when approached, hisses at them. She used to be the neighbors' cat, but they moved away and left her (after neglecting her for quite a while). Still getting over the effects of worms, mites, and over 100 fleas.

Tiny is a 9 month old male, still unneutered (yipe!--yes, I'm talking to the Humane Society about neutering this week). He's a stray who must've been dumped as a kitten, since he'd evidently lived on the street quite a long time. He will pounce on anything that moves (including feet, and including Baby Girl).

Tiny and Baby have both been vaccinated and vet-checked now. Both are FLV/FIV-negative (whew!) and have their kitten shots. Tiny is on schedule to be neutered through a low-income neutering program from our local humane society.

But the vet care cost me a total of $230, since both had to be treated for fleas, worms, and ear mites... and that's just under half a month's income for me.

Food costs about $7 a month for Purina Naturals. Litter, about $3 a month for the cheap litter Aldi's sells and neither cat minds. They have two scratching pads and a post, three litter boxes, food and water dishes, and some cheap cat toys. Thankfully all those things won't be needed again for a while.

I make cat toys rather than buy them now. Toys are a necessity because Tiny's energy and male-cat hormones will have him trying to wrestle with poor Baby if his energy isn't bled off somehow. Right now Tiny's favorite toy is a fishing-rod I made out of a wooden dowel, some upholstery thread, a button, and some feathers. Total cost, maybe $1.50; and the feathers can be refreshed since I got a whole bag.

The vet bill meant I wasn't able to pay off my credit card this month, and with my interest rate (20% for a "student" card), that's a serious problem.

How do I cut costs? I need to take care of these cats--they haven't got anywhere else to go.

I won't do anything that will hurt the cats. But I would love to hear anything you can suggest that will help me take care of them more cheaply.
post #2 of 22
Call your card company.... see if theyll lower the interest ... Possibley try to get a www.carecredit.com card often they have no interest for a time period ( for the next vet bills)
post #3 of 22
You need to get your male neutered asap. I remember that you're in a rented house and if he starts spraying the landlord will be VERY unhappy. Cat spray is a foul substance and sometimes is impossible to get out of carpet and floors so everything needs to be ripped out and replaced and you'd be charged for that.

Are there any low cost spay/neuter clinics around? I know I'm urging you to spend more money by having him neutered but really those costs will be nothing compared to the trouble you'll have if he starts spraying.

You seem to be managing wel and your costs are much lower than what I spend on my cat every month. (I go at around 20$ for litter and then around 70$ a month for food)

Buying in bulk can help though so if you can get bigger packs of the food and litter you might be able to shave a bit off.
post #4 of 22
If you know anyone with a Costo membership -- I get 40lbs of litter (Freshstep scoopable) for $12. That is a huge bargain.

Also, Costco has canned Friskies for very cheap in bulk. I am not sure if they have dry food because I've never looked. I know Sam's club does sell dry cat food and also has a Sam's Club brand litter. These products seem expensive but you are getting a lot that will last you a long time.

I know that canned Friskies and Sam's Club dry might now be the best food -- but they will thrive and grow and it is much better than the alternative (surrendering the animals).

Good luck.
post #5 of 22
There is discussion about cheap litter in this thread. I pay $4 for 40 lb bags of environmentally friendly litter.
post #6 of 22
I don't know where you live, but if you have a Schnuck's grocery store nearby they sell their store brand litter for $2.50 for 15 lbs. It's dusty, but works in a pinch. We've used it before and it clumps well. We only stopped because of the dust. Also, Hy-Vee stores sell a clumping litter in a bag that is about $5 for 30 lbs. Sometimes Big Lots has good deals on cat litter too. Sam's Club has a 40 lb bucket of litter I've heard is cheap (I never get there so we don't use it).

Friskies goes on sale in a cycle. Most of the time for 30 cents a can. Just watch sales. You can also write or call Purina, I'm sure they would be happy to send you coupons for the dry food.

If you have a Petsmart nearby you could also compare Authority dry food to the Purina Naturals. Authority is the house brand and is pretty good ingredientwise. That could be another way to cut the cost possibly. I've also heard Maxximum Nutrition brand at Wal-Mart is supposed to be good.

When I was dead broke in college, my cats' toys were home-made or out of the clearance bin (after christmas is a great time for deals- I used to LOVE the 4/$1 deals). I also bought them people bowls on clearance from Kmart for their food. At the time we just had 1 litterbox and 2 cats, so a 38# tub of Tidy Cats scooping litter lasted us a month.

The big thing is to watch sales if you can. I watch Petsmart, Petco, and Target for their sales on canned food. Most stores have online sales fliers now, so that helps.
post #7 of 22
Check to see if the humane society in your area does vaccinations. They are usually much cheaper then taking them to a vet. If you keep your cats inside, they likely will not need flea treatment again and are less likely to develop other health problems. Ear mites I'm not sure. But Peaches had ear mites when I got her 5 years ago. I treated her once and she's never gotten them again.
post #8 of 22
I agree that you seem to be doing well. Can you maybe get a little part time job? Or ask your parents/relatives/friends for help?

You're doing a great job, thanks so much for not giving up on these kitties!!!
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Already working part-time. Can't handle any more work.

Major problem: Transportation. I have only a bike, and can't drive a car, and only have one friend who can help me out (and is deathly allergic to cats, so he can't help with vet appointments--meaning I have to take a cab to those). The city has a very limited bus system (a single route through the center of the town every two hours) that does not allow cats.

There is a Sam's Club nearby; but I don't know anyone who has a card... would it be worth it, for cheaper food and litter?

Come to think of it my costs are probably higher than that... I don't think the $3 litter or $7 food lasts a month. Two weeks, maybe? Three?

They refuse to eat wet food... I think that is because both of them (Baby from her neglectful house, Tiny from the streets) were probably never given wet food. So I try to get them good dry food to make up for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Siggav View Post
Are there any low cost spay/neuter clinics around? I know I'm urging you to spend more money by having him neutered but really those costs will be nothing compared to the trouble you'll have if he starts spraying.
Yes--the Humane Society. We are scheduled to talk to them the day after tomorrow. I'll ask about vaccinations then, too.
post #10 of 22
Buy the biggest bags you can for costs savings. Some litters are more economical than others...feline pine is a good one (or try to find those stove pellets). I only used it once but the bag was on sale at Target for like 3.99 and it lasted a month or two.
post #11 of 22
Sam's probably isn't worth it for just litter.

Buying bigger bags will be the best way to save money since they just eat dry. Can your friend drive you to the pet store/other store to get cat food once a month?

As for the litter, I have better luck getting something like Tidy Cats Scoop to last a month. As I said, when I had just the 2 cats a 38 lb bucket lasted us a month in one litter box. It was enough to change it, then add fresh stuff when it got low. It goes on sale for $10-$11 once a month in the big buckets.
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
'Kay, so Tiny upchucked a hairball today... I haven't been flea combing him daily anymore; just once in a while to make sure he doesn't have any fleas anymore, so I guess he licked himself and then had to throw up the hair.

Can I use an extra human hairbrush to groom him? If not, what? He hates the flea comb... and I want to get rid of loose hair, so he doensn't have too many hairballs (or worse, get a blockage)...

He's shorthair. So's Baby.
post #13 of 22
see if the local pet shop is willing to help by giving you a better discount. my family and i often have special rates for people involved in rescue or people who take in and neuter strays. may be a long shot but worth a try.
post #14 of 22
yup, soft bristle brush will work fine. I've used them on my shorthairs in the past...might not work as well as some, but it'll do something.
post #15 of 22
Depending on where you live, there are warehouse priced pet stores that is much cheaper and on top of that, they carry more litter selection in generic brand, which is even cheaper. I'm in the bay area so I often go to pet club. I know a lot of rescue animal shelters in the bay area shops there.

As for food, depending on what you want to buy but seriously the commercialized brand isn't that cheap compared to the premium brand. Make sure you calculate the cost per pound.

As for brush, either Walmart or Target has cheap cat brushes that pushes out to get all the fur stuck on the brush. I bought one from Target and it has been doing very well for my two cats for almost a year now. I think it was less than $5. I also bought a furminator, which is kind of pricy but I highly recommend it. It really gets rid of the undercoat fur like you would not believe.

Look online to see whether there are any local pet stores: sometimes they will even deliver if you buy at certain price. I would search for any local cat coalition group to see whether they can provide you some assistance both financially and transportation.

Best wishes~~ They are blessed to have you. You are their angel~~
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
The Humane Society lady that I talked to about Tiny's neutering just gave me a catalog called Foster & Smith with pet supplies in it. She says they are cheaper than Wal-Mart (and more specialized). I am going to look through it just as soon as I finish this Sociology essay Im' working on... (yecch!).
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Callista View Post
The Humane Society lady that I talked to about Tiny's neutering just gave me a catalog called Foster & Smith with pet supplies in it. She says they are cheaper than Wal-Mart (and more specialized). I am going to look through it just as soon as I finish this Sociology essay Im' working on... (yecch!).
Prepare to be disappointed.
post #18 of 22
Yeah Fosters and smith catalog is the same price as the pricey store s here
post #19 of 22
It's fun looking through catalogs. It's about the only entertainment I can afford these days.
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 
All right. Sociology paper on the changing role of America's First Ladies has been completed... a whole 15 minutes before the due date!

Hehe Yes, their kitty pictures are cute!

I guess the pet stores around here cost more than most places... the prices are about the same. The only place that has a lot of pet supplies and is nearby enough for me to bike to is Wal-Mart; I have to get a cab for pet stores, and that costs about $15 a ride.

And the selection is way better than Wal-Mart... I'd love one of those carriers that you can wear like a backpack--I could walk or bike down to the vet that way, and not have to take a cab. Considering that in six years of bike use for primary transportation I haven't ever had an accident that's caused me to fall on my backpack, it should be pretty safe. A $20 carrier would pay for itself within two vet visits.

I'm going to check into administering vaccines myself--if I can pop a pill down a cat's throat, surely I can give an injection! (Will have to ask the vet for a tutorial, though. Don't want to poke anything I'm not supposed to poke.) If I can save on booster shots, that'll be good. Although I'm seriously considering not getting them vaccinated after their kitten shots--they'll be indoor cats and may not need it. What do you think?
post #21 of 22
I have to agree with everyone else, Dr Foster & Smith is pretty pricey. Although I do use them for buying Frontline. Usually they are the cheapest for me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Callista View Post
I'm going to check into administering vaccines myself--if I can pop a pill down a cat's throat, surely I can give an injection! (Will have to ask the vet for a tutorial, though. Don't want to poke anything I'm not supposed to poke.) If I can save on booster shots, that'll be good. Although I'm seriously considering not getting them vaccinated after their kitten shots--they'll be indoor cats and may not need it. What do you think?
Here is a link to the latest protocols. My cats are inside only, they get their distemper boosters every 3 yrs and rabies vax annually because Purevax Rabies vax is only available in annual boosters. I don't do my own vaccinations, 2 of my cats have had allergic reactions to vaccinations. We need a vet to administer antihistamines before they get their distemper shot.
http://www.cfa.org/articles/health/v...ecommendations
post #22 of 22
Dr. Foster and Smith is high priced. Here are a few of the online places I prefer to shop:

http://www.valleyvet.com/
http://www.revivalanimal.com/
http://www.petedge.com/home.jsp
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