Thrifty Thinking

Occasionally money can get a little tight from time to time, no matter whom you are or what your situation. For those of us that own pets, we want to still make sure that they are not neglected and remain in good care during these times when we are looking for more thrifty pet care options.

This poses the question: Are pricier products worth the extra dough?

As consumers we want to make sure that we always get the best bang for our buck even when shopping for our pets.  Whether it be food, toys, or training supplies, which ingredients/materials are most important when trying to go with a more cost-conscious or generic brand?

“If you are referring to any general product, I would have to look at quality versus monetary value,” said Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“For any pet owner it is an individual decision to feed kibble, canned diets, semi-moist, all-natural, or homemade food and I recommend input from your veterinarian,” said Crist.

Numerous different ingredients are required for a puppy, kitten, dog, or cat’s wholesome health, and it is important that these are provided for them so that they continue to grow and thrive.

“If one is unsure of what to feed then it is best to remain with the big commercial name-brand manufacturers because most of these companies have used feeding trials to test their foods,” explains Crist.

The best foods are usually tested in actual feeding trials and not by nutritional analysis alone. Crist explains that one can look for the words “complete and balanced nutrition” on the product, which is a statement that explains that the food has been tested “for all life stages” of the feline and canine.

If you are a dog owner, chances are you have figured out by now that your pup most likely prefers the deliciousness that canned food has to offer, however, dry kibble is usually the less expensive choice as well as being easier to handle.

It can also be a good idea to try to buy in bulk and search for any possible coupons or sales that are going on.

“It is very important that a feline’s diet contains taurine because research has linked taurine deficiency in cats to fatal heart disease,” said Crist.

Crist explained that commercial name-brand companies do usually provide higher quality grade ingredients but it is still important to read the label and make sure that it reads “complete for all life stages” and has the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which helps to govern quality control.

When looking for cheaper alternatives, when you are low on cash, or when you are simply too lazy at the moment to go and pick up some food for your pet; some people are tempted to share their food with their animals in place of pet food.

“It is important to go easy with ‘people food’ and one has to be mindful that these cannot replace the balanced diet of the cat or dog,” said Crist.

Foods made for cats are formulated to contain the vitamins, mineral, and amino acids a cat needs for good health which is why it is important to feed them cat food. But if one is looking for an occasional delicacy for their cat, Crist recommends trying small bits of cheese or cooked tuna, chicken, fish, or liver.

“Carrots are a snack that sometimes we humans enjoy that can be fed to a dog, along with broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and zucchini,” said Crist.

If you have a picky or more pampered pooch and would like to try out some homemade recipes: and are two websites that have some great ideas.

recipe 1

“I do have a quick recipe that I use to make quick and easy cookies for some of my canine patients, they are fun, very easy, and dogs love them!”

“A quick kitty recipe that I have used that has been passed around is this kitty recipe. It is very “fishy” but cats like them.”

Going green for your pet is another thrifty pet care alternative when looking to save a few bucks.

“Catnip makes a fine low-calorie feline treat that most cats will love,” said Crist.

recipe 2

Both catnip and “cat grass”, which is essentially a cereal grass similar to wheat or oats, are easy to grow in a sunny window or purchased from a store either dry or fresh.

“Always be sure that the plant you are offering your furry feline is safe for them but do not be alarmed if your cat regurgitates the kitty grass that can be bought in-stores;  some will do this and it is nothing to be alarmed by,” said Crist.

If your cat is in fact regurgitating the kitty grass, the catnip should suffice.

If any questions arise about the safety of a plant, please refer to the ASPCA’s website for more information or follow this link

If it is believed that that the feline or any other animal might have eaten a dangerous plant, call your veterinarian immediately, or contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Another good tip for dog owners might be to cut down on the number of unnecessary treats given throughout the day. Instead, try ice cubes or bones that will last longer than a treat. This will help save you money as well as help any canines who are a little overweight.

So if you find yourself in a period where you are pinching pennies, remember that there are always thrifty pet care alternatives and options that can help keep you and your pet healthy and happy.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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