Five Things You Don’t Need To Buy To Be A Good Cat Owner
I adopted my cat, Ziggy, during graduate school, when I was basically unemployed and living off my savings. I had envisioned an animal companion to be the perfect addition to my life of study in a new city. My main goal when I signed his adoption paperwork and took him home was to balance giving him the best life I could with continuing to be smart about my finances. I was able to bring him home with no adoption fee (off to a good start), but it didn’t take too long for me to realize that there are a lot of costs associated with good pet ownership.
In the past three years of raising a cat on my own for the first time, I’ve been able to prioritize what purchases I believe are really necessary to ensuring that my cat is happy and healthy, and identifying what products and services are overpriced and don’t add much value to the lives of our feline friends. I’ve compiled a short list of things I think you should seriously rethink purchasing for your cat. (I assume a few of these things may apply to dogs?)
1. Pre-grown Cat Grass
If you’ve been in the checkout line at a big box pet store, you know what I’m talking about. The selection of perfectly green wheatgrass, catnip and cat mint that beckons to you at the last minute, causing guilty thoughts to arise in your mind as to whether you’re giving your cat enough day-to-day enrichment. These usually go for around $6 a pop in my area, which to me is a waste of money. But you can find seed packets of most varieties of herbs edible to cats at any garden center for less than a dollar. From my experience I’ve found that they grow easily in any old potting soil in a windowsill. Plus, you get the added sense of purpose that comes from growing your (cat’s) own food.
Boarding your cat at a facility is expensive and likely only stressful for your pet. Cats and dogs are not created equal in many respects, and their reaction to being away from home is one of them. While many well-adjusted dogs might see a week with their friends at the doggy daycare as a welcome getaway, most boarding facilities that don’t specifically cater to cats aren’t going to be as calming of an environment as your own home, even if you’re not there.
I sympathize that boarding your cat may be the only choice, especially in emergency situations. I’ve had good luck with hiring a sitter from a specialized cat-sitting service to come into my home to spend time with my cat several times a day. It’s also cheaper than boarding him would be. If you’re just going on vacation, a work trip, etc. and need to have your cat taken care of while you’re gone, I would recommend exploring all other options before resorting to boarding, like having a friend come over, or leaving your cat in the home of someone they already know and trust. Stress can lead to all sorts of health problems in cats if it’s severe enough. This could lead to unexpected vet bills down the line as well.
3. Pricey Dry Food
The dry food vs. wet food debate is quite controversial, and one I have a strong stance on. I’ve even written a Medium article on the topic , explaining why I’m now firmly in the Wet Food camp. My argument that high-end dry food is a waste of money is based on my personal experience, having fed my cat one of the most expensive non-prescription dry foods out there for the first two years of his life. His dry-food diet was partially responsible for landing him in the hospital with urinary tract disease. Some cats tend to do well on an all-dry diet their whole lives, and I’m not trying to shame anyone for feeding dry to their pets. But in general, the idea that the price of your cat’s food is proportional to their health outcomes is not accurate.
4. Fancy Toys
This one is likely a no-brainer to long-time cat owners, but fancy, complicated and expensive toys are not necessary to provide entertainment for your cat. Give ’em some string, a paper bag, or a cardboard box and most cats are good to go! I almost always defer to Jackson Galaxy for advice on enrichment. He has a blog post and Youtube video on what toys are best for cats, and how to play with them appropriately. I know it’s hard to not feel guilty when I see ads for fancy cat toys come up on my Instagram feed. But my Ziggy doesn’t seem to care that most of his toys are literally trash!
5. Litter-collecting devices
This one may also be a bit controversial, and as someone who only has one cat’s worth of poop to scoop, I don’t feel the pain that others do. I think these sorts of tools like CatGenie and Litter Robot can be great for folks who have a lot of foster cats, or who are away from home a lot and can’t keep up with cleaning the litter box often. But I believe the average cat owner doesn’t need these expensive tools (that can run as much as $500!) that perform a task that we can easily do ourselves.
Another issue I have with these tools, aside from the cost of practicality aspect, is that they make it easy to never have to pay attention to your cats’…..business. Keeping track of how often your cats visit the litter box is a good way to monitor their health. Often, visible changes in what your cats leave behind (blood in stool or urine, diarrhea, etc.) can be symptoms of an underlying health issue. But if a machine is eliminating these clues before you can see them, you may not be aware that something is wrong. Some of these tools also require you to use a certain kind of litter, which may be expensive and not eco-friendly.
My goal with this post is not to shame cat owners for purchasing these things for their cats. But as someone who is always trying to maximize my savings and reduce unnecessary purchases, I regularly re-evaluate what my cat really needs. This is especially important as we’re considering starting to foster through a local shelter in the next year or so!
Love your cats, but don’t feel guilty for not wanting to shell out tons to keep them happy. They won’t notice the difference.
Originally published at https://shygirlfi.com on September 9, 2020.