How Much Does it Cost When a Cat Adopts You?

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How Much Does it Cost When a Cat Adopts You?

There are lots of decisions to make before allowing a cat to own you! More than anything else, breed and age will determine the costs incurred for the honor of a feline companion. All kidding aside, obtaining a cat can start at nothing (free-to-a-good-home, an unclaimed stray, or an inheritance) to approximately $50 -100 from a pet rescue, to thousands of dollars for a purebred Persian, Bengal, or Egyptian Mau (among others). And this is just the start - it’s important to understand the costs of care you can expect throughout your cat’s life. Keep reading to learn more!

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Because of their slightly extended lifespan over dogs, and the fact they can be strictly indoors, one study indicates that the bottom line for cat ownership may be $15,000 to $45,000. These estimates will vary depending on the breed, the extras you provide, and the cat’s age. Both younger and older felines may require higher medical expenses.

(Approximate cost range: $0 – 6,000)

Initial Costs of Owning a Cat

Some of the initial medical expenses may be included in your adoption fee or may have already been covered. You’ll need to provide the extras yourself.

1. Vet Check. A very young kitten may simply need a quick exam of their eyes, ears, teeth, heart, and lungs. The kitty’s age will determine when their first series of vaccines are given. Rabies, as well as licensing requirements, are mandated by your locality.

2. Parasite Prevention. Most kittens are born with internal parasites that have been passed along by their mother. Those, along with external parasites (fleas, ticks, and lice) can be eliminated with either topical or oral medication.

3. Viral Testing. Your cat will also require a simple blood draw to check for infectious diseases such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

4. Spay/Neuter. Your vet will also decide when to spay or neuter your cat. This routine surgical procedure can help prevent future medical and behavioral problems as well as control pet overpopulation. There is no medical justification for allowing a female to have one litter. Ask your vet if this is a good time to do a microchip.

5. Food and Supplies. You’ll need essentials such as food and water bowls. Most cats love running water in the form of a fountain.

Your vet is the best person to ask about feeding. They may give you a small sample of cat chow to try, but cats truly are finicky. Less expensive food may seem like a bargain, but nutrition is important for animals too. You’ll save money in the long run, especially on vet bills, if you stick to a high-quality food. You might want to offer both wet and dry, especially if you don’t have a fountain. And although you may be vegan, your cat is a carnivore and will not do well without meat. Will you offer treats as well?

6. Other Kitty Essentials. How about a collar or harness and ID tag? American Humane recommends that even indoor cats wear collars. If you train your kitty to walk outdoors with you, you’ll also need a leash.

A litter box is not so simple anymore, and you will need at least one. For multiple-cat households, you’ll need one for each cat, plus a couple of extras. Spacing them around provides your kitties privacy. You can buy an inexpensive plastic box for about $4 or you can spend $600+ on a deluxe self-cleaning model. Don’t forget a scooper and a bag or box of litter to get started.

The safest way to transport a cat is in a carrier specifically made for that purpose. Most vets require it for visits, and the cost can range from nothing for a simple cardboard box to an airline-approved model for around $200.

A scratching post or mat is not a necessity, but it may help save your carpet and furniture. Cats naturally scratch to sharpen their claws.

Toys can range from a simple string, to ping pong balls, to a $250+ exercise wheel. Felines also love chasing a laser pointer. Please caution children to avoid pointing it at anyone’s eyes.

How about a bed? Does your cat need their own space, or will they be allowed to sleep anywhere?

7. Grooming. Cats instinctively groom themselves, but they may need a little help from a good brush if they have long hair. Baths are not usually necessary, but your kitty will need their nails trimmed, and possibly an ear cleaning or a tooth brushing. Your cat’s coat and temperament will determine if you can perform these tasks yourself. If you’ve never cut nails or cleaned ears, ask your vet to demonstrate before attempting it.

(Approximate cost range: $50 – 1,400)

Yearly Expenses of Cat Ownership

The first year of cat ownership typically requires the biggest investment, but there are annual expenses to consider too. You will still need to feed, groom, and play with your kitty. Toys and scratching posts will eventually wear out, and there are hidden costs to consider.

  • Even though you don’t need to rush home to let a cat out, if you are away for an extended period of time, you’ll need to consider a pet sitter or boarding facility.
  • Will you be traveling or moving with your cat?
  • Will your landlord add a monthly pet fee or raise your security deposit?
  • How much would it cost to replace a ruined carpet or sofa?
  • Medical expenses will add the most to your cat budget. Yearly vaccines, wellness exams, and preventative medication are crucial to your pet’s health. Don’t ignore your cat’s annual visit just because they’re not demanding your attention all the time. Cats hide illness very well, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
  • As your pet ages, extra screening (bloodwork, x-rays, etc.) and chronic health conditions that require lifelong meds can be costly. And unless you can get your kitty to lie still with their mouth open, a simple dental cleaning is going to require anesthesia.
  • Putting away a special fund or purchasing health insurance for your kitty is wise. Accidents happen, and a quote from the ASPCA indicates that at some point in your pet’s life, you could spend $4,000+ for an emergency. Medical advancements have made it such that some human procedures are now available to animals. The price you are willing to pay to save your pet is entirely a personal matter.

(Approximate cost range: $300 – 1,500)

Please note: The Humane Society provides information for those who may need help

caring for their pet.

The Cost of Joy

No matter how much you spend, the payback of emotional and physical benefits infinitely exceeds the cost. You’ll live longer, happier, and healthier. And whether you adopt an energetic kitten or a mellow senior, once you experience that soft, purring ball of fur in your lap on a cold night, you’ll be owned.

Read more:

Adopting a New Kitten

Kitten Proofing Your House

Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Home

Our friends at Hepper have also published an article on the cost of cat ownership that you may find useful.

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s health care costs or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 6/2/2022
Last updated: 2/21/2023
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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