Frugal pets

New Zealand is a nation of pet lovers, with 64 percent of households owning at least one companion animal. Our total pet population of 4.6 million outnumbers people, giving us the second highest rate of pet ownership in the world!

According to the New Zealand Pet Food Manufacturers Association, cats are New Zealand’s most popular pet with 44 percent of households owning an average of 1.8 cats. That’s a total cat population of 1.1 million. There are 683,000 pet dogs in New Zealand with 28 percent of households owning at least one dog. That all adds up to a big additional cost on the weekly budget.

Those living off the smell of an oily rag may need to think twice or thrice about how much they spend on pets – and be imaginative in ways they can reduce the costs, while still enjoying the pleasures of their pets.

The first thing oily rag pet owners can do to figure out how much their pets are costing is to keep a record over the next month. One of the biggest costs will be food. Cats eat less but their food is twice as expensive because they tend to be fussy. About 51 percent of all cat food sold is in cans, which is expensive, compared to 13 percent for dogs. About 42 percent of dog food is sold as dog sausage.

The oily rag community has come up with lots of ways to keep the cost of pets to a minimum.

Irene from Kerikeri recommends a recipe by Annabelle White, which she says is more like a treat than a dog biscuit. She adds that these biscuits are no substitute for a good doggy diet.

For this recipe, you will need: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 large eggs, 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or plain) and 1/2 cup water.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Lightly grease a couple of baking trays, or line them with greaseproof paper. Mix the flour, rolled oats, parsley, milk powder, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles sawdust. Add the eggs and peanut butter – the mixture will be crumbly. Add the water to bring the dough together. Roll out the mix to about 5mm thickness then cut into shapes. Bake for about 40 to 60 minutes. Variations include adding leftover bacon pieces or grated carrot.

Another reader suggests that making peanut butter dog cookies is a good way of introducing into a pet’s diet extra ingredients for good health – like fish oil for a good coat or garlic granules to deter fleas. The ingredients are: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/2 tablespoon of fish oil, 2 table spoons of garlic granules, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Mix the flour and oats together. Pour in one cup of water and blend until smooth. Add in the peanut butter, honey, garlic granules, and fish oil. Mix well. Add the remaining water and mix until a dough-like consistency. Roll the dough until it is between 5 and 10mm thick and cut into shapes. Bake for 40 minutes.

For good doggie dental health try egg shells – they are full of calcium which is good for white teeth (so they will not have to go to the dentist so often!) and bones. Dry the egg shells in a warm oven then crush into a powder and sprinkle over their food.

Margaret from Whangarei adds linseed to her dog food to give them a shiny coat. She buys dog biscuits in bulk from a rural wholesale outlet, and cheap reject cuts of meat from a butcher, which she then freezes.

Kaye from Te Puke says, “When feeding puppies or younger dogs, boil up all your vege scraps (potato skins and carrot peelings etc), then when soft, mash them up…. they really love it and it’s great for them. Also rub lavender – freshly picked – along a dog’s back, to keep away fleas!”

Here’s a cat – or dog food – recipe. Use about 3kg of fish scraps from a fish shop. Place in a stainless steel pot and add water to cover. Bring to the boil until the flesh has cooked. Mash it all up with a potato masher and remove the bones. Put into containers when cool, and freeze. Leave the water in as it forms into a tasty jelly.