Caring for your small pets on a budget
As the cost of living rises, the ongoing expense of keeping rabbits and small pets can be a worry for owners. Our member Blue Cross has put together some changes that you can make to help cut costs on your beloved small pets’ care, without compromising on their welfare or happiness.
Cutting costs of your small pets’ food
A healthy diet plays a large role in the overall health of small pets. Think about what they actually need from their diet and focus your costs there – it will help you to avoid unnecessary vet bills in the future.
Pellets and nuggets
Small pets often only need a small portion of pellets each day so they don’t put on unnecessary weight, or develop health conditions with their gut and teeth in the long run. Try weighing out the recommended amount of feed on the packet of your small pets’ pellets – it may surprise you.
When shopping for dried food, remember:
the best pellets aren’t always the most expensive ones – shop around and look for a brand that suits both your budget and your pets’ needs
- the best pellets aren’t always the most expensive ones – shop around and look for a brand that suits both your budget and your pets’ needs
- if you have the means to buy your pets’ pellets in bulk, it can work out as better value for money, but don’t forget to shop around for discounts, too – you may be able to find pellets at a cheaper price by shopping in places other than commercial pet shops
Changing your small pets’ food
Sometimes, changing over to a cheaper brand of pellets can be helpful when trying to save money. This is something you can do, but you’ll need to do it slowly and safely. Changing small pets’ food too quickly can cause an upset tummy, so it’s best transition over a few weeks. You can do this by mixing a small amount of new pellets with their old food, adding more new food and reducing the old each day until they are fully transitioned. Keep an eye on your small pets during the switch – if they seem unwell, speak to your vet for advice.
With the price of vegetables going up, it can be an expensive ongoing cost for small pet owners. While you shouldn’t be tempted to cut vegetables out of your small pets’ diet, you can try to cut costs by:
- checking you’re feeding the correct amount – fresh vegetables are often only a small part of most small pets’ diet, so don’t forget to double check how many veggies your pets need each day. If you find that you’re overfeeding, you may be able to cut down
- shopping around – creating a list of safe vegetables for your small pets and taking it on your grocery shopping trips will allow you to shop around and pick vegetables based on supermarket deals. Don’t forget to look out for ‘wonky’ vegetables too, as they’re often cheaper
- growing your own herbs – herbs are often a firm favourite among small pets and they can be easy and quick to grow at home. You can also collect safe forage itemsfrom your garden
- planning their vegetables around your home meals – it might sound obvious, but feeding your small pets safe fresh veg that are already part of your weekly shop can reduce waste
- remember to take a look at the reduced vegetables in supermarkets – as long as they’re fresh, you may be able to find something tasty for your small family members
Hay is a crucial part of rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus‘ diets when they don’t have free access to fresh grass, and they need a substantial amount each day to keep their gut healthy and their teeth short. It isn’t something you should be tempted to cut down on, even in the short term, as doing so will likely cause health complications and expensive vet bills later on. There are, however, ways of making the ongoing expense of hay more cost-effective.
There are lots of different types of hay available, some more expensive than others. As long as your small pets have 24-hour access to plenty of good quality hay that is sweet smelling and dust free, it’s OK to opt for a cheaper variety.
Timothy hay in particular can get expensive, but you can make it last longer by mixing it with a cheaper hay. Your small pets will enjoy the foraging fun, too!
If you’re looking for hay that is cheap in price, purchasing small hay bales from a local farm or farm shop can be a good option. Bales of hay are often cheaper and they’ll provide you with more hay for your money.
When looking for bales of hay, you will want to make sure that they’re sweet smelling, dust free and free from damp. Small bales can be stored in a secure outdoor container that is free from damp, or in a dry spot indoors contained in a large box or an old duvet cover. You could also consider sharing a bale of hay with friends or family who also own small pets.
Fresh grass and forage
While dried forage makes a tasty addition to your small pets’ diet, it is expensive, and it isn’t essential when you’re on a tight budget.
For those small pets that benefit from freshly picked greens, fresh grass and dandelion leaves from your garden are just as tasty, they’re beneficial for their health and they’re free! Make sure that you can identify any safe plants before feeding them, and introduce fresh foods slowly to avoid upsetting their tummy. Anything you pick should be free from weed killer, and freshly cut grass should be avoided altogether as it’s toxic for your small pets.
Saving on your small pets’ bedding
Keeping your small pets’ home clean is a crucial part of their care, but keeping up with the expense of their bedding can be a challenge. Here’s our tips:
Look for value for money – you may be able to buy your pets’ dust free bedding in bulk. Some farms or farm shops supply big bags of bedding and they’re often cheaper than buying smaller bags.
Add cardboard tunnels – for those small pets that love to dig, adding cardboard boxes or empty toilet roll tubes can be a great way of reducing the cost of your supplies, while providing them with lots of enrichment
Reduce waste – make use of your cheaper hay to fill up litter trays or bedding areas that you need to empty regularly, and place feeding hay in hay feeders
Shop second hand – using fleece items as part of your rabbits’ or guinea pigs’ bedding can be an expensive up front cost, but it can be a good way of saving on the ongoing cost of dust-free bedding for rabbits or guinea pigs living indoors. Keep an eye out online for pet owners who may be selling their supplies second hand or think about reusing old fleece blankets that you no longer need.
Keep on top of your cleaning routine – an unclean home can cause health problems for your small pets, so keeping them clean and removing wet bedding daily can help prevent an unplanned vet visit. This is especially important in the summer months when small pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits are at risk of fly strike.
Cheap toys for your small pets
Keeping your small pets busy with enrichment and toys is great way to prevent boredom and stress, but doing so doesn’t have to be expensive. A cardboard tunnel is just as fun for your small pets as a store bought toy. Take a look at some of our small pet enrichment ideas to get some inspiration.