Your Feline Companion

by W.R. Shaw

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Those sweet eyes. That woefully bedraggled fur. The hungry mew. Who can resist that kitten on the doorstep? But taking proper care of her often costs more than we expect. Some aspects of cat care, such as high quality food, and routine vaccinations, should never be compromised. But there is no need to fall victim to the outrageous cost of cat toys to keep your new companion happy and entertained. Try these cost saving measures. Your cat - and your wallet - will thank you!

Avoid the "made just for your cat" trap, and take a good look at what's behind the pet store labels. Cat toys sold in shops are often identical or equivalent to items sold elsewhere for less than half the price. A three-pack of small fuzzy balls sells for $3-$4 in a pet shop. A package of thirty or more craft pompoms sells for about a dollar at any "dollar store" or discount craft shop.

The large soft rubber "jacks" made for small children are another good example. Similar "jacks" are sold in pet shops for about $4 for a package of three. Pick up the child's version in the grocery store for about $1.39, and you not only have a lifetime supply of the jacks, but a small rubber ball as well. The ball would have been another $2.99 in the pet aisle! Search the bargain aisle for soft plastic insects, fish or reptiles. Although fellow shoppers might give you odd looks, you can also find great cat toys for a quarter or fifty cents in those department store machines that dispense small toys in plastic eggs. As an added bonus, the plastic eggs are great fun to bat around! Try putting a dry bean, or a little clean gravel inside to add a sound dimension.

If you must buy "real" cat toys, try hitting the big pet emporiums after a major holiday. Large chain pet suppliers often make toys in holiday themes. After the holiday, you can often find these themed toys for half price or less on the clearance table. Your cat isn't likely to be offended about the impropriety of receiving a catnip-stuffed Christmas stocking for Valentine's Day.

No budget at all for cat toys? No matter. Drop a single uncooked pasta shape on a smooth surface, and watch the fun! Other favorites are large paper sacks, empty cardboard boxes, twist ties, large beads, or any small to medium sized ball. A ping pong ball in a dry bathtub is especially exciting!

Whatever bargain treasures you find for your feline companion, your budget can be stretched even further by keeping in mind that enrichment research has shown that when a toy is removed from the environment for several weeks, and then returned, it seems to regain some of its novelty. So, rotate the available supply every few weeks to add novelty and interest without adding expense.

W. R. Shaw is a freelance writer living and writing in the Pacific Northwest. She credits her knowledge of entertainment on a budget to 16 years of working with five friends who just happened to be chimpanzees, and to her Norwegian Forest Cat, Finn, who has tirelessly field-tested the ideas presented in this article.

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