reducingpetcosts.jpgWhenever the weather turns as hot and sticky as it did this past week in NYC, I can’t help but think about how my cats are faring in the heat while I’m at work. So when I get home, I often subject them to my own ideas about cooling down cats in the heat: giving them ice cubes to play with, sprinkling them with cold water, and refrigerating their wet food. I’m sure none of these are particularly effective, because, like my partner Grace reminded me, cats are not people!

However misinformed my actions are, they are not misguided: we all like to be able to do something special for the animal members of our family once in a while. For this week’s Reducing Pet Costs post we move on to a much happier topic: the little extras we indulge in for our pets. From spa treatments to clothes, here is a list of ideas for pampering your pets at a fraction of the cost of traditional luxuries. You might even save enough to get yourself a pedicure!

The advantage of having high-end pet spas cropping up all over the country (you think I’m kidding?) is the fact that information about the services they offer is more readily available for replication. You can find out what they offer, and provide the same experience for your pets at home, just by doing a little homework. You’ll be surprised, as I was, at how much helpful and interesting information can be found at your local library and with a quick internet search.

Admittedly, it sounds a little silly, but giving your furry pet a massage has proven to reduce stress, increase blood flow and range of movement, and help with behavioral issues. Basically, it can have the same effect a massage has on us humans. You can find licensed practitioners for animal massage through a variety of schools and professional associations, but you can also learn a few easy techniques in your own home and slowly introduce it to your pets. Massage may not be for all pets, but it can provide you and your pet another opportunity for bonding and relaxation. I picked up a book at the library about cat massage when my kittens were smaller and now they respond with great pleasure at the few techniques I picked up. Take a look here, here and here for a start.

Having your pet professionally groomed can be a costly endevor. Many of the typical services a groomer offers can also be done in your own home for a fraction of the cost. Most animals will respond positively to grooming if it is introduced slowly, and with a great deal of positive reinforcement. Nail clipping, bathing and brushing should all be introduced in small doses; we spent two weeks putting Hammel’s paws in water before he was ready for a full-blown bath. However, this build-up pays off – you can eliminate the extra costs of grooming and turn a potential aniexty producing experience for your pet into another relaxing time to bond. Just make sure you do your research beforehand in order to avoid any problems…especially with nail-clipping! Now Hammel loves his baths, even going so far as to stick his paws in any glass of water you have laying around, and is always happy to be brushed and clipped.

Providing Comfort
While being woefully uninformed about how to help my cats through the heat wave, a quick Google search turned up a bunch of great suggestions: rubbing them down with a damp towel, dropping ice cubes in their water, giving them a pillow of frozen peas. If your pet is uncomfortable in any way, an internet search or a quick call to your vet can give you some great tips for how to deal with the situation. I was going to continue with my own crazy ideas, until I realized that I’m not the only one out there with cats who are hot. A good realization in general- that you’re not alone in your situation- that’s applicable in all parts of life.

In my Brooklyn neighborhood, Park Slope, there is a fancy bakery/boutique that specializes in animal treats, toys and clothes. They bake up “pup-cakes” and have cookies with animal-friendly ingredients in the shape of fish and bones. You can do this too at home if you have a lazy afternoon and can stand the smell of cooking liver. It would also be a great gift for pet-loving friends. And I can’t imagine any pet that wouldn’t be excited by a birthday treat made especially for them. Also, if your pet has a wardrobe as big as yours, there are a bunch of websites that offer free patterns and step-by-step sewing intructions for a plethora of different outfits.

With some extra time and research, it is easy to provide a little luxury to your pets. Do you do something special for your pets you want to share? Are there other suggestions for inexpensive pet luxuries? My cats are hooked on massages now…!