Over the years, I’ve rescued far more cats than I care to recall, so I stay on top of ways to use my credit cards and other discounts to save on kibble, cat litter, toys, treats and flea medication.
Last summer, I found two mommies who had been dumped near my house, and then discovered they had six tiny kittens. A couple of years before that, it was three feral kittens that my friends and I trapped and tamed.
At rescue: Terrified feral kittens Tuxie, Blackie and Spitfire, in my bathroom.
As someone who never knows how many mouths I’ll have to feed (I’m currently caring for nine cats), the last thing I can afford to do is walk into a supermarket and pay full price for a can of cat food.
Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, a ferret person or have other pets in your home, saving on the care of your animal family can give you more money to spend on back-to-school supplies for your kids, vacation getaways or just a little extra cash for your emergency fund.
Here’s how I keep my cat care costs under control:
1. Stack savings with sales, apps and cards
I recently saw Target had my cats’ favorite litter brand on sale for $3 less than it costs at the grocery store, so I ran out and bought a couple of boxes. A week later, Target still had the litter on sale but also was giving a $5 Target gift card for buying two boxes. So, I headed out to stock up again.
On top of that, with Target’s Cartwheel app, there are discounts on a revolving array of pet supplies. Right now, my litter is 20 percent off with Cartwheel, so that means another trip to Target.
If I had a Target Redcard credit card or debit card, I’d save an additional 5 percent on each purchase, plus get free shipping on those pet products.
When I’m getting food for my brood at Target – and paying for nearly everything else, too – I use my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. With each dip or swipe, I’m earning points for travel. With card-linked offers from American Express, I can sometimes save on cat food at a big-box pet store, too.
How this all adds up: My cats’ favorite wet food is usually 10 cents less per can at Target than it is at the grocery store. If I feed them even five cans a day, that makes for nearly a $200 savings (credit or debit card, Cartwheel app, sales and gift cards) over the course of a year if I buy their food at Target using my AmEx card.
2. Comparison shopping and free shipping saves money, time and gas
Depending on the brand of kibble, and even the day of the week, my gang’s wet and dry food might be cheaper at Target, PetSmart, Amazon or Chewy.com, so I’m constantly comparison shopping. Sometimes I don’t even have to go out to the store to get their food. There’s a lot to be said for ordering on online, which saves a car trip, steps and oftentimes money.
Seven months later: Blackie, Tux and Spitfire (with Ambassa, my elderly cat who recently died) at home on the couch.
For example, my elderly cat, who recently passed away, was on a grain-free diet. His cat food was far cheaper on Chewy (which was acquired by PetSmart in April) than it was at the big-box pet store, plus there’s a 5 percent to 10 percent discount on many products that are automatically shipped on a regular basis. With orders of $49 or more, you get free shipping, and if you pay with a cash back credit card, you’ll get a little back for feeding your feline (or canine) family.
3. Pet store loyalty cards cut costs even more
If you pack your pet store’s loyalty card in your wallet, have the fob on your keychain or the store’s app on your phone, you can save money, too.
With PetSmart’s PetPerks, you can regularly save on a whole range of pet products, and you’ll also get coupons delivered to your inbox.
With Petco’s Pals Rewards program, you earn $5 in rewards dollars for every 100 points you earn and get personalized discounts and coupons, and free shipping on items that are ordered repeatedly.
4. Cutting costs for vet care, flea treatments … and giving a bit back, too
When you live in Florida, as I do, flea treatment is a must. Many veterinarians’ offices sell flea protection products, but they aren’t cheap – especially if you’re buying for more than one pet. I find comparison shopping for flea protection is another way I save.
Over the years, I’ve ordered from 1-800-PetMeds, which regularly offers discounts and coupons, as well as free shipping on orders of more than $49, and from Amazon.
But I also shop with our local clinic, Animal Coalition of Tampa (ACT), which provides low-cost spay/neuter services and vet care, and sells pet care products. Flea medication from ACT is often cheaper than it is at other vets’ offices.
I’ve also signed up for AmazonSmile to provide support for ACT. With AmazonSmile, 0.5 percent of the purchase price of any of the products you buy on the AmazonSmile website will be donated to the charity of your choice.
It’s a chance to not only save money on purchases for your own pets, but to help support other animals in need.
See related: 5 tips for saving money on pet costs, Cover sudden pet bills with emergency card, 7 things you never budget for (but need to)