Published by PETA.

Lately, it seems like everyone is tightening their belts—and not because their pants are too big.

Tough economic times are even forcing some people to make heartbreaking decisions—the animal shelter where I volunteer is overflowing with beloved dogs and cats who were surrendered because their guardians couldn’t afford to care for them anymore. It’s no secret that caring for animal companions can be costly, but here are some ways to lower Toto and Tabby’s tab.

Spay or neuter.

Sterilization greatly reduces or eliminates your animal companions’ chances of several types of deadly cancer that require expensive veterinary treatment. Plus, a one-time fee for sterilization is much cheaper than paying for vet bills, food, and medication for litter after litter of kittens or puppies! Call 1-800-248-SPAY for the nearest low-cost clinics.

Adopt—don’t buy.

Most shelter animals come spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped for hundreds of dollars less than a dog or cat from a breeder. Plus, if you adopt a mixed-breed animal, your new companion will be much less likely to suffer from painful (and costly to treat) genetic conditions.

Groom your animals at home.

It’s less stressful for your animals and much easier on your wallet.

Make homemade toys.

Luckily, to our animals, a toy that didn’t cost a dime is just as much fun as the latest “must-have” pet gizmo—as long as you’re involved in playing with them. A ball of rolled-up aluminum foil or a dangled piece of yarn can entertain cats for hours. Dogs go bonkers for balls or even sticks brought home from the woods. Just make sure your pals don’t get tangled up in these toys or try to eat them.

Walk your dog every day.

Both of you will benefit from the exercise—and it’s cheaper than joining a gym!

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