My Frugal France: Caring for our adopted animals

PUBLISHED: 10:23 24 February 2021 | UPDATED: 10:23 24 February 2021

Chicken in the barn and tomcat Ralphy

Chicken in the barn and tomcat Ralphy

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Pet owners know that their beloved animals give far more than they take – but paying for their food and vet care can be pricey. Luckily, Laura Harley has discovered a few tips for keeping costs down

Like so many others, since we moved to France back in 2018, we seem to have been accumulating animals at our French home – to the point where the furry and feathery heads now comfortably outnumber the human ones.

As a writer, I am privileged to work from our rural home, affording me plenty of time to spend with our numerous pets. I love being able to sneak in a stolen cat-cuddle or picturesque dog-walk between the more structured moments of bringing together the final chapters of my first book.

Lucky too, since a diabetic cat, a complicated rescue dog, a rescue kitten and six rescue hens really do take up considerable space in my diary. And that’s fine by me, because now the resource which I have in abundance is time, and they deserve all the attention and love that I can afford.

But one thing that sometimes doesn’t come as cheaply in France is feeding those pets. I was shocked when we first moved at just how much pet food can cost here – even at the bigger supermarkets. Bulk offers are less common where I live, so one of the ways in which I adapted was to become adept at sourcing my pet food online from specialist French retailers. By using websites offering bulk discounts and free delivery like Zooplus.fr, I’ve been able to keep the cost of feeding our pets low without sacrificing the quality of their care, which with a diabetic pet is extremely important.

Eggs from the chickens, Margot the dog, and Percy the rescue kittenEggs from the chickens, Margot the dog, and Percy the rescue kitten

Another element to consider is the cost of vet care. Pleasantly, I have found vet care in France to be less costly than in the UK. Our tomcat Ralphy has lived with diabetes for the last five years, so it was a relief to discover that the cost of his insulin, needles and check-ups is very reasonable – mostly either the same or less expensive than they were previously. Similarly, upon adopting our French rescue dog, Margot, we found her associated medical visits to be very affordable.

The quality of vet care has been excellent – our rescue kitten Percy was recently sterilised, with the entire experience costing around €70.

The cheapest (and dare I say most productive!) pets of all have been our six rescue chickens – Buffy, Willow, Oz, Cordelia, Giles and Xander – which we adopted during the first French lockdown in early 2020. In their early lives they were free-range organic egg layers but, at 18 months old, they were due to be slaughtered since laying frequency is expected to drop at this age. National association Poule Pour Tous (poulepourtous.com) rescue these birds and sell them on to rescue homes for around €7 each, so while tackling our lockdown to-do list we rehomed the ladies with the expectation that they may not often lay but would have happy retirements. As it happens, we couldn’t have been more wrong for every day these adorable little characters repay us with five or six enormous brown eggs! They are also inexpensive to keep – if you have a reasonably sized secure living area then their needs can be very minimal beyond shelter and food. Pellets and occasional treats cost around €25 a month, so they really can pay for themselves!

This column was first published in French Property News. Subscribe to the magazine for more real life stories about living and buying a property in France.

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