As a child, I had some really bad allergies. I don't remember it being strange or weird, because it was the only thing I ever knew. I just accepted it as normal to always have trouble breathing, always have a runny nose, and always be carrying around some tissues. I was allergic to a couple of different things. Springtime was especially bad, but even in the winter I would get allergies from dust collected around the house or in the heating system. I was especially allergic to cats. As soon as I would go into a home that had some cats, I would instantly feel itchy eyes, my nose would start to run, and it would only get better as soon as I left the house.

So it should be no surprise that whenever, as a child, I was asked if I liked cats or dogs better, I would always say dogs. Cats were trying to kill me, it seemed. Fast forward 15 or so years, and I don't have nearly as many allergy problems. I don't have to worry about springtime, I don't react to dust build up, and I never seem to have a problem in houses that have cats. Cats, it seemed, are actually pretty cool. So we got one.
Having never owned a cat, I had no idea just how much cats cost. So in the process of finding and adopting a wonderful adult cat from our local pound, I learned a lot about the cost of owning a cat, not only to purchase, but also future expenses. Here's what I learned.

The Initial Purchase

Cats are surprisingly inexpensive to purchase. Depending on where you go, we found adult cats to range between $50 and $200. Compared to the cost of kittens ($200+) and dogs ($250+), cats are a downright bargain! Of course, there are a few things to watch out for other than the basic price of the cat when you are going cat shopping! First and foremost, make sure that you like the cat. No matter how cheap your new feline friend might have been, if you end up hating the cat you will not have made a good purchase. Don't choose the cat based on price or on colour, choose the one that has the personality that you want to have in your home.In our case, the cat that we took home was very proactive about wanting to come home with us. When we walked into the room he started to meow at us, and when my wife set down her purse he walked over, sat on it, and made himself comfortable. Almost as if to say, “hey lady! take me home!” So, of course, we did.

Second, check with the adoption agency what is included with the cat. Some places, like SPCA, will do all of the cats vaccine shots, as well as spay or neuter the cat. Other places, like the pound, will take care of the reproductive organs, but do not do the shots. Therefore you will have to do those shots yourself, meaning that your initial purchase costs go up. So don't just check the purchase price, make sure that you know if you need to purchase anything else before you can take the cat home.

The Required Equipment

You can't (shouldn't?) just take a cat home and expect him to eat off your table with the rest of you. You need to be sure to have the right type of equipment for your cat at home. You may already have some things from a previous pet, but if you're like me and have never owned a pet, you'll need to purchase a few things the first day you bring your cat home. You'll need to get litter and a litter box, a poop scoop, food and food dishes, a cat carrier, and at least one toy for the cat to play with. All together, these things aren't terribly expensive. We got everything for about $80. We are actually just using some dishes that we already had for the food dishes, so we didn't purchase those in order to save a few dollars. If you want specific ones for your cat though, check your local dollar store. The food dishes at pet stores are ridiculously pricey for what they are.

As a side note, you'll want to have a litter box even if you are planning on having your cat be an outside cat. It's a good idea to acclimatize your cat to their new home for a few weeks before they are let outside. In addition, most adoption agencies use litter boxes, so it will help ease the transition by ensuring that the place they poop, at least, is the same. On the same note, try to bring home some of the food that the cat was already eating. Make their food transition slowly so as to not upset the cat's stomach.

The Maintenance Costs

So you already purchased some food and litter, but they won't last. Your cat will eat, and then your cat will poop, and both of those are going to need replacing. It depends on the size and appetite of the cat, but the SPCA has a guide to approximate how much your cat is going to cost you over a year. I would expect to pay about $300/year on cat food, and another $100-150 on cat litter. Unfortunately, there are also a few other annual costs, like yearly vet checkups/vaccines. For us, it will cost about $100/year for the checkup and vaccine. So we're budgeting about $500/year for the cat.

All in all, our cat really won't cost us that much. After the initial purchase (about $260 including shots), our cost of owning a cat will be a little less than $50/month to keep fed, clean, and healthy. Based on how awesome he is already, however, that is money well spent. Do you have a cat? How much does your cat cost?

About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.

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