Many simple household items make excellent pet supplies. Perhaps the most straight-forward example is the re-use of the common plastic grocery bag. Learn to leave a plastic bag beside your doggie's leash so you will remember to take one along every time you go out on your walks, because a plain plastic bag makes a splendid pooper scooper (dare I say it? A “super duper pooper scooper"). When your dog has done his business and it's time for you to clean up the droppings, simply put your hand into the plastic bag and pick it up. While holding onto the waste through the bag, turn the plastic bag inside out, and tie it up. Then, tidily tote it home or to the nearest trash can.
Most of us know about the deodorizing properties of baking soda and we keep a box in our refrigerator to absorb the odors there. But what about the pet bed? A liberal sprinkling of baking soda shaken into the bedding will absorb odors there as well. Or you can slide a scented fabric softener dryer sheet underneath the bedding for a fresh scent without an extra expense.
A generous dose of baking soda in the bottom of that kitty litter box will help there, too. In other lore, coffee grounds mixed into the litter box is reported to reduce the smell, particularly the odor of ammonia.
Speaking of kitty litter, there are some interesting uses for kitty litter beyond the box. This adds a whole new dimension of meaning to the old expression, “thinking outside the box" - in this case, it's the kitty litter box. Of course, kitty litter is a wonderful pick-up for spills on the garage floor, from motor oil to antifreeze. Just spread some kitty litter on the spill and wait a few minutes, then sweep it away and discard. But a more creative use of kitty litter requires a pair of knee-high stockings (old ones are OK with runs but not holes). Fill the knee-high stockings about halfway full of kitty litter and tie them tightly closed at the top. Slip these two “feet" into some smelly athletic shoes overnight and the odors will be gone by morning.
Kitty would just love a few carpet scraps and remnants. Nail a piece of carpet to the wall, keeping it fairly low to the floor so kitty can get at it easily. This makes a great scratching pad and costs a lot less than a commercial scratching post or a new couch. Another neat trick is to build a frame with a horizontal ledge just the right size to fit around the litter box. Tack carpet scraps to the ledge. Kitty might use the carpet scraps for scratching, or not, but the carpet will catch and hold much of the litter that kitty tracks out of the litter box.
If you have a number of old pantyhose, don't discard them. Re-use them with your pet. One leg cut from an old pair of pantyhose will make a perfect temporary muzzle in an emergency. But if you have three pairs of pantyhose (or more), try this homemade dog toy: Cut the legs off three pantyhose and tie the six legs together at one end. Then braid them (three strands of two legs each) into a tight braid and tie them securely at the bottom. Your dog will love to play with you and this new tug toy. Larger dogs may need nine strands or more, but the process is still the same.
A crumpled up ball of aluminum foil will delight your kitty for hours, batting it about, chasing and pouncing. Another easy trick is to place a penny or a pebble in an empty spice bottle or other small container. The rattling noise will catch your cat's attention and hold her interest for hours. Tying a length of string between a stick and a small toy can provide hours of “fishing" fun with your cat.
In these times of tightening budgets, there are many ways to reduce the costs of keeping pets. There are no substitutes for the basics, such as food and regular trips to the vet. There are many adorable pet toys on the market today, but many simple playthings can be made from common household items. The toys offered in pet shops are cute, clever and colorful. But a careful look around your house may give you other ideas for how to make the most of the items that are already there. Your pet certainly doesn't know or care what the price tag said. Many of the favorite toys and enduring memories can come from reusing the things you already own.
Ann Wamack is a freelance writer with Caitlyn's Two Paws Up Pet Site. Please visit the site at http://www.c2paws.com for monthly pet care tips, articles, games, freebies and pet supplies.