15 Tips for Raising a Cat on a Budget

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PAWS TO THINK

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 -- an average 15 years -- can still range from $8,000 to $11,000. In time for Adopt-A-Cat Month in June, we compiled 15 tips to help raise a cat while keeping costs under control.
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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. The genetic diversity in mixed breeds also renders them less prone to illness and genetic diseases, and they enjoy the longest life expectancy in the cat world.
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OPT TO ADOPT

Rescue shelters offer the cheapest way to get a pet cat. Most provide an up-to-date medical history and ensure the animal has the needed 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 likely be spent anyway. A stray cat needs a thorough veterinary checkup and vaccinations.
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STICK WITH SHORT-HAIRED CATS

Grooming is an ongoing necessity for long-haired cats, and an added expense. Many owners report that the need increases with age because older cats struggle to manage self-care on their own. Keeping a short-haired cat groomed is rarely pricey, though.
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STAY INDOORS

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

Female cats go into heat periodically and male cats mark their territory, and both 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 and someday you'll likely be grateful. Even an indoor pet might accidentally venture outdoors, where all kinds of misadventures await.
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GO FOR REGULAR VET CHECKUPS

Preventive care is a major deterrent to expensive vet bills and medications. Take cats to the vet's office for an annual checkup and all the recommended shots.
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DON'T DELAY TREATMENT

Health problems are easier and cheaper to treat when caught early, so if you sense something wrong, call the vet as soon as possible. Subtle signs such as behavioral changes, low energy, or lumps in the skin may indicate big problems. Make a planned visit to the vet and avoid hefty night or emergency fees.
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SHOP AROUND FOR A VET

Fees for veterinary services differ by practice. If a necessary procedure has a high price tag, call around for a cheaper price.
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SEEK OUT NONPROFIT PET CARE

Find animal hospitals or shelters run by animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, Bideawee, and the Humane Society, for even lower rates on cat medical care. There may be other nonprofit animal hospitals in the area as well.
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CONSIDER PET INSURANCE

Insurance for a cat provides a type of security that allows 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.
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DON'T SKIMP ON NUTRITION

A healthy diet is essential for a cat's well-being. Ultra-cheap cat food may hold appeal, but high-quality cat food can be found for moderate prices. And remember to provide fresh water 24/7.
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MAKE TIME FOR PLAYTIME

Daily playtime with a laser pointer or toy helps a cat stay 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.
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GROOM AT HOME

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. Grooming includes clipping the claws and/or setting out a clawing toy.
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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.
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DON'T FORGET A COLLAR (AND ID)

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