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According to, families should be prepared to spend up to $5,070 annually on a cat for her health and well-being and $10,350 annually on a dog. Given the average cat life expectancy of 15 to 17 years, and a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years for the typical 50-pound dog, you are looking at a lifetime investment of between $76,050 and $113,858.

Make a pet budget. Track your monthly pet expenses, include the costs of pet food, veterinarian bills, litter, collars and leashes, pet carriers, toys and cages. Be sure to also account for special costs like grooming, training and even household damage to floors and furniture. Knowing what you can afford on a monthly basis can help you choose the right pet for your household budget.

Shop around for a veterinarian. Not all veterinarians charge the same price for services so do your research. Check out local teaching hospitals, shelters and branches of The Humane Society, and keep track of vaccination clinics and other specials offered at your vet's office. The Thomas Beath Clinic of Fredericksburg, established in April 2012, assists families struggling to care for their pets with discounted services. The clinic also offers Meals on Wheels for Pets for qualified individuals. Visit for more information.

Keep up with routine preventive care. Never skip annual checkups, flea and tick treatments, vaccinations or heartworm drugs, and brush your animal's teeth daily. Exercise is a necessity for staving off disease. You will save thousands later.

Get your pet spayed or neutered. Puppies and kittens are cute to look at but they are expensive when you factor in veterinarian bills and the costs of finding them new homes.

Slash nonessentials. Skip costly toys and grooming; a good veterinarian can recommend a good quality shampoo and teach you how to trim your pet's nails.

Make your own food and snacks. Make sure to speak with your veterinarian about this first to ensure your animal will get the right nutrients, but you can save tons of money making your own food and snacks, or buying them in bulk.

Buy pet insurance? Not so fast! Before spending money on pet insurance, find out what procedures are covered and the size of the deductible. Then you can determine whether the insurance premium is better off invested in a pet savings account.


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Pouches' Community Corner

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Kids' Race Series


From a small beginning, Cathy Weise of the Ron Rosner YMCA has developed an ambitious three-race series for kids for this summer, with the help of The Great Train Race, Shannon Airport, Dominion Raceway & Entertainment, the Fredericksburg Area Service League and Race Timing Unlimited.

Great Train Race Director Jennifer Taylor was one of the first on board.