Pets’ claws threaten bubble of frugality

I’ve cut back on my budget about as much as I can. About the only area where I haven’t yet involves my pets.

But how do you cut back on dog food and cat food when you’re already buying the cheapest brands? You experiment until you find the cheapest brand your pets don’t like and therefore will refuse to eat.

The “feed the food they hate” plan also works well if you are going away for the weekend. Like babysitters, most dogs and cats will scarf down the entire two- to three-day supply of food you left for them before you’ve even backed the car out of the driveway. Giving them a food they hate helps them learn portion control and rationing.

A similar strategy worked for my parents when it came to my least favorite foods, Spanish rice and beets. I can still hear my mom saying, “If you get hungry enough, young lady, it’s going to start looking pretty good.”  It still hasn’t.

In that same vein, I tell the cats, “If you don’t like it, go out and catch a mouse.” And I’m sorry to report, indoor mousing is also an option at my place.

It’s tougher with the dog. What do I say to her? “Go out and catch a cat.”

I’m toying with the idea of bringing her home road kill a couple of times each week. After all, there’s nothing a dog likes more than to get a hold of something semi-freshly dead. I’ll put a special crate on my car’s luggage rack and cruise M-60 for carrion on my way back from Jackson. That’s what falconers do. Aside from the crows and turkey vultures, and unless this practice really catches on among the uber-frugal, I’m pretty sure I’ll get pick of the litter.

Speaking of litter, to save on cat litter, I started locking our two cats outside during the day. I’ve heard some parents do this with their children during the summer months, to ensure they remain fit and don’t send the adults into one. My cats should appreciate the opportunity to play outside, too. Right?

I also figured that because both cats began their lives as strays, and since their favorite pastime is making a break for freedom whenever someone opens the outside door, the forced fresh air playtime wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Boy was I wrong.

As soon as they were intentionally put out, both cats pressed their faces pathetically against the windows of the enclosed porch, loudly protesting their torture. Great. Now I’ve got to purchase more window cleaning supplies, plus earplugs.

When I came home from work that night, a cat lined each side of the porch, meowing frantically as if I’d been gone for days. As soon as I opened the door to the house, I understood why. They shot like rockets straight in the direction of the litter box. They’d become so institutionalized, they’d held it all day.

Wonder what would happen if I stayed away for a few days. Perhaps I would come home to little scraps of cat everywhere from where their bladders had exploded. End of cat and cat litter expense.

No, with my luck, they’d just develop costly bladder infections. So much for reducing my budget. 

Perhaps I could train the cats to use the toilet. While multiple people swear they know of someone (usually the urban legend kind of “friend of the neighbor of my uncle who lives out of state”), whose cat who uses the toilet, I have never witnessed this spectacle. And I’ve seen a lot in my 44 years on this Earth.

Plus, the plan seems full of holes. If I can’t even get my family members to neatly use the toilet, what are the odds of my successfully training a cat to? My kids seem stymied by the flushing mechanism. Would the cats require purchase of a more easily flushable toilet they could maneuver with their paws? And could a male cat be trained to put the seat back down?

I can see this issue requires further thought, which, at least for now, is free.

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