The Cost of Owning a Cat

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The Cost of Owning a Cat


Cats can make wonderful pets for many people. Kitten kisses are worth their weight in gold.

Fur Buddy

Best companion

Cats can provide emotional support, improve moods, and contribute to the overall wellbeing of their owners.

♦ Cats give comfort and companionship, especially for older individuals and physically or mentally disabled people.

Being a responsible pet parent carries with it significant emotional and financial responsibilities.

♦ If you’re going to add a cat to your family, you need to be prepared for a long-term commitment. Cats have an average lifespan of 15 years, with many house cats living 20+ years.

Before taking the plunge into parenthood you need to consider the costs and budget accordingly.

• Cats are usually less expensive to own than dogs, still they can put a dent in your bank account.

Besides living longer than dogs, families tend to own more than one cat. A lot has to do with people not wanting to leave their cat home alone while they are working.

♦ The biggest factor affecting the lifespan and total expenses of a cat is whether it lives strictly indoors or is allowed to wander outdoors. An outdoors cat has a much shorter lifespan (5 years).

• A cat that goes outdoors is at a greater risk of injury from other animals, traffic and diseases.

If you plan to let your cat outdoors, you can lower your financial risk by making sure it has been vaccinated against all diseases. You may also want to consider pet insurance to cover potential injuries.

Normally pet insurance is not a good buy but for cats living a risky life it could be a peace of mind for the first 5 or 6 years. Beyond 6 years this insurance usually becomes too costly to continue.

Initial Costs

According to the ASPCA the total first-year cost of owning a cat is around $1,000.

Basic starter costs:

  • Free or Adoption cost $0 to $125
  • Food and water bowls $15
  • Initial medical exam $175
  • Spaying or neutering $145 to $250
  • License $10 to $25
  • Collar $15
  • Litter box $20
  • Toys $15
  • Bed $40
  • Brushes & grooming tools $20
  • Carrying case $40
  • Scratching pad or post $15 to $50

Annual Expenses

Cats can be particular about the type of food or even the type of litter they use. The following ranges give an idea what to expect in the years ahead.

  • Food $120 to $500
  • Treats $10 to $100
  • Litter $100 to $200
  • Toys and scratching post $20 to $75
  • Wellness checkups with vaccines $110 to $500
  • Flea and tick prevention $20 to $200

How costs add up


There is no such thing as a “free” kitten. A friend might give you a cute little kitten but it is your responsibility to make sure it is healthy and has received all its vaccinations.

♦ Free Kitty needs a checkup as soon as possible. An exam is $45 - $65 and vaccines can run $15 – $28. Plan on at least $130 because you will likely go home with some medicine too.

Some weeks down the road, you will need to decide on spaying or neutering at an estimated cost of $250. Speak with your vet about this.


Adoption is often the cheapest option. Adopted kittens typically cost $125, while adult cats usually are less (around $75).

♦ According to the Humane Society more than 25% of all cats owned in the United States were adopted from an animal shelter.

Kittens from well-known shelters and rescue centers often come already vaccinated. It is likely that they have already been dewormed and have had basic blood tests. Most will have been spayed or neutered.

♦ Adopted cats are not perfect. Many have picked up parasites and illnesses from being in close contact with other cats. You must plan on a visit to the Vet right away to get him or her checked out.

These days microchipping is quite common. You will still need to register with the company that provided the microchip and pay a fee. Don’t skip this, especially if your cat will be allowed outside.

• The extent to which your cat has been cared for in the shelter will depend a lot upon how well the shelter is funded. These shelters are usually run by volunteers that rely upon donations.

A Christmas donation made on behalf of your sweet Kitty always brings cheer to the hearts of these volunteers. No pressure … but please think of that.

Litter box or pan

Your cat will need a place to go to the bathroom and preferable not on your favorite rug. You can get a simple litter pan for about $15 at a pet store. Litter pans and boxes can go up to $200 if you really want to splurge. But until you become familiar with your cat and its behavior stay with simple.

♦ What you put in the litter pan is important. Not all cats prefer the same feel and smell of their litter so you may have to experiment some at first.

There are several types of litter on the market, including clay-based, crystal-based, plant-derived and clumping. Read up on these before buying because each has its own advantages. Ultimately it is up to your cat to decide what he or she is most comfortable with. Annual cost for litter is estimated at about $200.

It will be up to you to find a secluded place to put the litter box because cats do value their privacy. You will also need to clean the litter box regularly, because cats also value cleanliness. If the litter develops too much odor sweet Kitty is going to find a new location and you will not be happy.


Kittens are easily amused. They don’t need expensive toys. Small crumpled up paper balls bring a lot of joy. Most parents go way overboard on toys.

• Cats are supposed to be hunters so a simple stuffed mouse toy gets most very excited. Don’t expect Kitty to catch that scurrying cockroach; not that kind of hunter.

You want your cat to have something to entertain themselves with while you’re away.

• When you are home you need to play with your cat. Playing and talking to your cat is part of building trust and showing him or her that they are part of your family.


You need to brush your cat’s hair. Invest $10 to $20 in a real cat brush from a pet store.

Brushing cuts down on tangled knots and shedding. It will keep your sofa clean, a little bit longer.

How often depends on you.

• Your cat will be in heaven if he or she can be brushed every day. Set up a routine and your furry friend will be ready and waiting.

Collar – Chip - Necklace

If your cat is an inside only cat than a collar isn’t necessary. Inside cats these days are often seen sporting necklaces instead.

Many attractive necklaces can be found for under $30 at Etsy.

♦ If your cat is allowed outside then you should invest in a collar and name tag, just in case Kitty gets lost.

Many cats and dogs now have microchips implanted. These chips can help return a lost loved one.

♦ You must remember to register your cat's microchip. There is a small annual fee for keeping the registration up to date but some companies off a lifetime fee which works out better for most people.

• If you move or change your phone number, don't forget to update your information with the microchip company.

Scratching post

Cats have sharp claws and they need someplace to scratch. You do not want Kitty to get into the habit of testing your furniture.

• Depending upon the size of your home you may need several scratching pads or posts. It is best to hurry up and get your cat trained to understand the acceptable place to scratch.

♦ It is also a good idea to slowly start getting your cat used to nail trimmers. Clipping the tips of your cat’s claws can prevent broken claws, which can get caught in carpets and be quite painful.

Do NOT declaw your cat. This surgery involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes and is highly discouraged by the ASPCA.

Wellness checkup

A healthy cat should have a checkup about once a year. Many vets are now pushing for two visits per year. An exam runs around $50 but the visit never ends with just an exam.

You will need to have your cat vaccinated for at least rabies and FVRCP (commonly called distemper). These shots cost about $20 each.

♦ If your cat is allowed outside then he or she will need additional vaccines.

Most vets are now pushing for a fecal test to be done twice a year to look for parasites. There is some disagreement as to whether a strictly indoors cat needs this test every year. This runs around $30.

Vets are now advising blood tests be done every year. The common phrase is "just like you have every year." 

♦ Blood tests can be a big chunk of an annual visit’s cost. Typical blood panels cost $150. As your cat ages, it is very important that this test not be skipped.


Cat licensing laws require owners to register their cat with a government agency. This usually includes payment of an annual fee and requiring a collar and tag.

• Most municipalities outsource this to third party firms who actually collect a good portion of the fees for administration.

♦ Licensing is intended to push owners to vaccinate their pets for diseases like rabies which can pose a risk to humans.

Each community sets their own ways for using these fees. Some use the fees to help fund spaying and neutering. Some use the fees to help support shelters. Some view these fees as general revenue.

Other costs

Emergency care – outdoor cats run a higher risk of having an accident or getting into a fight where emergency treatment will be needed. Costs can range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000. It is best to set aside an emergency fund and hope you never have to use it.

Pet sitting – cats are not socializers like dogs. They prefer their home environment. If you need to be away from home and can’t find a friend to care for your cat you will need a pet sitter. This can cost from $15 to $50 a day depending upon how much time the sitter must spend with your cat.

Professional grooming – Most cats are low-maintenance, but some need extra care. Most cats can be trained to allow their claws to be trimmed. It comes down to trust. The average cost for grooming is $50, claw trimming a little extra.

Money well spent

Most pet parents never think they spend too much on their cat. Most will say, their cat is a wonderful member of their family and shares endless love and affection. Who can put a price tag on that?

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