Frugal pets

New Zealand is a nation of pet lovers, with 64% 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!

man with dogAccording to the New Zealand Pet Food Manufacturers Association:

  • 44% of NZ households own an average of 1.8 cats. That’s a total of 1.1 million cats.
  • 28% of households own at least one dog with 683,000 pet dogs in New Zealand.

That all adds up to a big additional cost in 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.

cat foodThe 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% of all cat food sold is in cans, which is expensive, compared to 13% for dogs. About 42% 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.


Homemade dog biscuits

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.


  • 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)
  • 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, then 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.


Homemade dog treats

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.

dog treatsIngredients:

  • 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 tablespoons of garlic granules
  • 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.


Natural supplements

Egg shells

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.

Veggie scraps

Kaye from Te Puke says, “When feeding puppies or younger dogs, boil up all your veggie scraps (potato skins and carrot peelings etc.), then when soft, mash them up…. they really love it and it’s great for them.


Use lavender to keep away fleas.

Rub freshly picked lavender – along a dog’s back, to keep away fleas.


Cat or Dog Food Recipe


  • 3kg of fish scraps from a fish shop
  • Water


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.


Do you have any other pet tips? We’d love to hear them, share your tips in the comment section below.


By Frank and Dr Muriel Newman.

Read more Oily Rag articles here.

You can contact the Oily Rag community via the website at or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.