Becoming a Frugal Pet Owner

Having a pet can be a very rewarding experience but it can also be expensive. A few weeks ago I adopted a cute cat named Emma. She has adjusted well to her new surroundings and we already love her so much.

My new cat! :)

My new cat! :)

I just need to figure out how to mesh my frugality with being a pet owner but so far it seems to be working out well and I’ve tried a few money-saving hacks to keep costs low. Here’s how I added a pet to our family practically for free, spent less than $100 on initial necessities, and will continue to care for my cat on a budget.

Adopting vs. Buying From a Breeder

I think the first savvy move I made was adopting my cat from a local shelter vs. contacting a breeder to purchase a pet. My family has been wanting to add a pet to our household for some time now, but I always figured it would be expensive considering all the initial expenses.

I was out with a few friends one night and I randomly mentioned wanting to own a cat since I had so many fond memories with our family cat when I was growing up. Coincidentally the next day, one of my friends showed me a flier for an adoption event at the animal shelter in our town. According to the ad, all cats and dogs 6 months and older were free while animals younger than 6 months were the regular $90 fee.

I figured I had nothing to lose so my son and I went to the shelter and that’s where we met Emma and chose her. She’s 2 so it was no cost to adopt her and she was also previously spayed which was an extra bonus. The shelter also sent her to an animal hospital for a wellness checkup and to get shots before we could take her home. All in all, I think I spent $12 on a shot when I picked her up from the vet.

Adopting Emma at the shelter was a great choice because it saved me quite a bit of money and my new cat was still properly cared for at the animal clinic. If you’re interested in getting a new cat or dog, I’d highly recommend checking with your animal shelter first to see if they have anyone who might interest you or any upcoming free adoption events.

Shopping for Basic Necessities

I was excited to shop some basic necessities for our new cat but I made sure to keep the list short and to the point. Different pets need specific things so the list may vary depending on which animal you’d like to own, but most pets need food, a place to sleep, tools or supplies for grooming, food and water bowls, and items to pick up their waste.

For Emma, I went to Walmart and the dollar store. No, I didn’t buy any dollar store pet food or litter. I’m not that cheap and do believe quality makes a difference and can go a long way. I purchased small things like her feeding bowl and two toys at the dollar store just to save a few bucks.

Here’s a complete list of what I picked up:

  • Wet Food
  • Dry Food
  • Feeding Bowl
  • Litter Box
  • Litter
  • Bed
  • Toys
  • Scratching Post
  • Treats (that she hated by the way :(
  • Grooming Supplies
  • Catnip


  • Everything came out to around $70 which wasn’t bad. She hasn’t slept in her bed at all so I probably could’ve saved the $10 I spent on that along with the nasty smelling salmon snacks I got her. I also still need to get a carrier, but we haven’t been back to the vet yet so it’s not as urgent.

    Preparing for Future Expenses

    Now that we’ve got basic needs out of the way, I’m planning out how I’ll budget and prepare for future expenses. I’ll be on the lookout for any used carriers and I also plan to do some grooming for my cat at home. The fact that cats already groom themselves pretty well is an added bonus.

    There are just some expenses that I won’t be able to get around though like food and litter. Like I said, I don’t necessarily want to get the cheap stuff and I want to feed my pet healthy and quality food so I just need to budget for it.

    I added about $40 to our monthly budget which will be dedicated to pet expenses. For wet food, I purchased a variety pack for $12-14 and it usually lasts us around a month. I also signed up to receive coupons and offers from local pet stores so I can take advantage of any sales they have on food. Whatever I don’t spend on pet expenses I will start putting into a pet emergency fund because unexpected pet expenses from unexpected family expenses.

    I’m hoping to dedicate a few hundred dollars for emergencies and prepare for future visits to the vet as well for additional shots. When it comes to pet insurance, I’ve done a lot of research on the topic and I haven’t decided if I will go with it yet. I like that you can pay according to risk and according to recent tests, Emma is pretty healthy.

    Deductibles are low and premiums are very small but I want to make sure my money is being put to use should be ever need the insurance to kick in, even if it’s only a small payment each month.

    Overall, a pet shouldn’t cause you to run out and get a second job in order to cover the increased expenses. If you prepare your budget, stick to essentials only, and establish a pet emergency fund, you should be fine and be able to enjoy the companionship of a new furry family member.

    How to Take Care of Your Pet on a Budget

    Do you have any pets? Do you do anything specific to keep costs low? What do you think about pet insurance?

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