When it comes to spending hard-earned cash these days, people are still willing to spend more on their pets than on themselves.
Last week's Global Pet Expo, in Orlando, FL, was proof that the booming pet industry is managing to swim in a sinking economy. American Pet Product Manufacturers Association president Bob Vetere announced that industry spending in 2008 hit $43 billion, as projected. And in 2009, he predicted, it would grow by another few billion dollars.
Author Michael Schaeffer of the Daily Beast was on the expo floor where hand-stitched parrot clothes, glow-in-the-dark mice and the ubiquitous gourmet freeze-dried bison treats were among the thousands of products making their debut. He says while chew toys are selling, people are spending less on vet care and grooming, but services like dog-walking are up. Read his story here.
I've never been one to scrimp on my animals; a box of freeze-dried treats, a cat nip banana and a fleece squeaky toy often end up in my bag with the kitty litter. But these days, cutting back is definitely in order. I'm still more likely to buy them a pricey treat than replace a lost glove but have taken some steps to cut back without feeling guilty or compromising their health. I've switched brands of cat food; Trader Joes is the best deal in town charging only 59 cents for a can of food that doesn't list any by-products. Home-cooked meals of meatloaf, and roasted chicken and vegetable dinners for my dog Ruby turns out to be cheaper than buying canned food - and despite what most vets say, much healthier. And it only takes a few minutes. I always grab a few bags of the free kibble samples at my local holistic pet store. Toys are more creative too; a paper bag for the cats; Ruby has taken to chasing a knotted sock, or a Trader Joe's brand dental bone in lieu of the high-priced Greenie.
Consider the following cost-saving tips:
- Compare prices using online resources, such as shopzilla.com, pricegrabber.com or googlebase.com.
- Buy pet food in bulk. If you don't have a car, find a store that offers a delivery service, to avoid buying from the closest store out of convenience.
- Shop around for pet insurance. Many policies will discount if you pay in full for a year. If you don't want to invest in a plan, consider PetAssure, which offers a 25% discount on all care from participating veterinarians.
- Use low-cost spay/neuter services at the Humane Society of New York (www.humanesocietyny.org), which charges $75, or the ASPCA's free spay/neuter mobile van, available to eligible participants (aspca.org).
- Don't be shy: Ask around for discounts and specials. For example, Biscuits and Bath's offers free Monday night playgroups for small and large dogs (www.biscuitsandbath.com).
- Adopt, don't buy a pet from a breeder or pet store.