Owners know that caring for a pet comes at a cost. Other than veterinary bills, the largest hit to your wallet comes from buying pet supplies. Pet beds, toys, bowls, foods and more will quickly add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year. But a creative and motivated frugal pet owner has many ways to save.
In our previous infographic on 80+ ways to save money as an owner on a variety of standard pet expenses it was made clear how easy it is to save simply by doing most things yourself instead of hiring a professional. To cut your pet ownership costs even further, here are some DIY ideas for frugal pet owners on the many things you can do yourself for very cheap or even free to avoid buying expensive toys, beds and other commonly required pet products.
MORE IDEAS: 6 Best DIY Project Ideas for Dog Owners in 2018
33 DIY Ideas for a Frugal Pet Owner
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Bottle Spinner Puzzle Game
Pierce several plastic water bottles through a metal rod, grip the rod horizontally on a wooden frame, and place pet food inside.
Interactive Feeder Toy
Get a short piece of PVC pipe. Plug both ends securely and drill several holes in the pipe. Fill it with treats and let your pet get those out.
Plastic Bottle Plush Toy
Wrap a plastic bottle in a towel or blanket and secure it with rope. Allow some rope out of the bottle’s neck. You can also put something rattling in the bottle.
Throwing Tug Toy
Get a tennis ball and pierce it from both sides. Put a thick rope through the ball and knot it into a handle. You can use this as a ball, as a throwing toy, or as a tug toy.
Get a cup holder for 12-20 cups. Place food at the bottom of 2-3 of the cup holes. Fill all the holes with tennis balls and let your pet look for the food.
T-shirt & Ball Tug Toy
Tug toys are all the rage among canines, but can be expensive. Instead, put a soft ball in an old t-shirt and tie it in. Cut and knot the rest of the shirt into several tug ropes.
One of the favorite toys for both dogs and cats, this one is very easy and cheap to make. Tie several ropes into a ball with their ends sticking out like spider’s legs.
Throwing Rope Chew Toy
Tie several ropes together into a Y or X shape – it’s great for throwing and chewing, and you can skip buying all the expensive dog toys that serve the exact same purpose.
Put several tennis balls into a fluffy sock and tie it between each ball. This toy works perfectly to entertain dogs and cats, but felines seem to enjoy it more.
Drill a pin into your ceiling and put a rope through it twice. Attach a big pillow to the rope and you’ll have a hanging pet bed.
Pet “Fishing Pole”
Put a string on the end of a stick and attach a toy to the other end of the string. This is the standard cat toy, but many pet owners found that dogs enjoy this as well.
Wine Crate Condo
It's no secret that dog beds can be expensive. To save, arrange several wine crates into multiple pet beds and “rooms”. Add some pillows and blankets for extra comfort.
Cardboard Pet Den
Get a suitable cardboard box and put an old t-shirt over it with the neck matching the box’s opening. Tie the sleeves and the bottom of the t-shirt and put a pillow in the box.
Both cats and dogs love a hanging pet bed. Arrange several PVC pipes into a sturdy shape and attach blankets onto them to form a hammock.
Strong chewers are most difficult to find good toys for, and especially make those toys yourself. But try this: tie a long rope in the shape of a thick bone for your heavy chewer.
If you're a cat owner that wants to avoid buying a cat tree, simply nail some planks to an empty wall in the shape of stairs for your pet to climb on them.
Yard Agility Course
Dog agility kits are the most expensive item. Skip buying commercial ones, and using wooden planks, PVC rods and anything similar that’s disposable, make an obstacle course for your dog in your own backyard.
Bird Play Stand
Here's something for bird owners: arrange several steel or PVC pipes into a tall construction. Add branches on the top, a trash tray at the bottom, and a bird toy.
Saw a towel into a rectangle mitten with only one opening. Put your pet’s dirty paws in the mitten one by one to easily clean them.
Tennis Ball Treat Dispenser
We all love KONG toys, but buying them over and over can be expensive. Slice an X shape into a tennis ball and put treats inside of it. Let your pet have fun getting the treats out.
Slice a piece of old denim jeans and tie it into a thick knot for your pet to have a fight with. It's literally free if you're using materials you were about to throw out anyway.
Treats Cereal Box
Another idea for your dog's or cat's puzzle toy – place treats into a cereal box and tape it shut. Your pet will have to destroy the box to get them out. Make sure to supervise.
Frozen Sock Knot
Tie an old sock into a knot, drench it in water and put it in the freezer. Dogs love to play with frozen balls or anything icy, and with hot summer days already here this will be perfect.
DIY Pet Tree
Nail thick branches vertically onto a wooden platform. Nail horizontal wooden planks onto the branches at different levels and warp them in fabric.
Another idea for upcoming summer days – freeze your pet’s toys into a big popsicle. Let your pet lick and nib at it to release the toys.
Tennis Ball Foxtail
Drop a tennis ball into an old pantyhose, saw it to one end of the pantyhose and saw the other end shut. Your dog or cat won't know how much it cost you to make this.
Greased Empty Jar
Get an old empty jar of a suitable size and swirl some bacon grease at the bottom. Let it harden and give that to your pets – they will love you more for this one.
DIY Pet Bed
Making your own DIY dog bed or cat bed is surprisingly easy and cheap. Use an old big pillow, a blanket or towel, and something solid for the walls. No need for anything fancy.
Brush Scratching Installment
An important item for cat owners – nail a couple of (clean) old brushes to the leg of a table or a chair, and your pet will love to scratch on them (instead of your couch).
Ex-shelve Pet Palace
Here's another idea to avoid buying expensive pet beds. Using an old wooden shelve, cut it into a multi-level pet palace and put fabric on each level for extra comfort.
Chips on a String
If you play or used to play poker, then string together several old poker chips you're not using anymore, and hang them somewhere for your pets to play with. This is mostly for cats but I recommend testing this with dogs as well.
What works for poker chips works for popsicle sticks as well. Do the exact same thing with the DIY Popsicle sticks I've mentioned above.
DIY Scratching Post
Last idea for a cat owner: using a wooden post, nail it vertically on a wooden plank and glue some pieces of carpet or rope on the entirety of the construction.
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