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The Cost of Owning a Cat

The Cost of Owning a Cat

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?


  1. Shevonne

    That sounds about right. We paid $100 for the adoption fee, and that included all of her shots and spade. We paid about an initial $200 for things like a litter box, litter, cat food, carrier, and toys. Every month, I think we pay about $75-100 on cat food and litter. The vet is about $150 a year. It’s definitely cheaper than having a dog, and I can still run around and have a life knowing that when I get home, my cat will be there.

  2. David Leonhardt

    There should be no cost for the initial purchase – thousands of cat owners are advertising “free kittens”. In our case, we found two young barn cats, just a couple months old, and adopted them. But then a third appeared a month later, sickly, and didn’t last a month. When one of the two original kittens started looking sick, we managed to run up almost $2000 in vet bills, plus a couple hundred for the other one who also started showing signs of illness (feline distemper, which kills most cats that catch it). The two kittens (almost cats, by now) are doing great and our girls’ hearts are not broken. But there is this huge nuclear bomb crater in our wallet.

  3. Saro

    Do not get your cat ‘spade’ please! Spayed is the way to go here. 🙂

    As for cost, I think you’re missing one very important thing, a lesson learned the expensive way. Consider pet insurance, or create your own pet insurance by putting away a little extra each month when the cat is young and healthy to cover the potential increased healthcare costs of their older age.

    We had a lovely cat for 15 years who was diagnosed at about 8 with diabetes, and at 13 with Chronic Renal Failure. While your estimates were quite accurate for years 0-8, costs increased significantly as the years went on. (And by then you love them and they’re part of your family!)

    One last thing to be aware of- outdoor cats generally have much shorter lives and higher vet costs due to injuries from fights, accidents, exposure to disease from wild/other animals, and vaccines not required by strictly indoor cats.

  4. Melissa

    I have a cat and she’s totally awesome. Well worth the cost. I got her as a little tiny kitten and paid only $80 for her, and she came with her first set of shots (which would have cost $80, so she was basically free.)

    She is so cheap and low-maintenence, which is the best. I buy her generic brand food from the grocery store, instead of the fancy stuff, which the vet says is more than fine for her. (Will probably switch to the nicer stuff in a few years when she becomes a “senior cat” around the age of seven or eight.) So instead of $300/year on food, I probably pay about $90. And then I buy litter in bulk at Costco, and an $8 box lasts me about three or four months, so that’s cheap as well.

    I didn’t bother with pet insurance, because I thought it sometime of a scam. Instead I just put money away for cat-related emergencies. But she’s an indoor cat, so for the time being, there’s not much trouble she can get into. Despite what the poster above said, I DO spring for all of her vaccines every year, even though she never goes outside. It’s more of a bit of an insurance policy in case she does get out, or if something else gets in!

  5. Paula @

    Vet visits for vaccinations, checkups, etc. is the biggest cost. Cat food + litter doesn’t cost that much.

  6. Sandy Macdougall

    In addition to the costs you listed in the article, you had better pray that the cat stays healthy because without the public health plan for humans that we enjoy in Canada, vet bills for illness or injuries suffered by your cat will certainly place a huge strain on your budget.

  7. Max C

    I have 4 cats
    No vet bills at all for now (been ~7 years)

    About 35$/month in food, 20$/month in litter, 20$/month in litter bags for all 4 cats

    So roughly 75$/month

  8. Invest It Wisely

    That’s a lot cheaper than a kid! 😉

    I’m not sure about the poster above who says they buy cheap generic food even if the vet says it’s ok. My childhood friend died of a cancer in the throat, 🙁 and I’ve recently done some research about the “stuff” that goes into most pet food, and you really don’t want to be feeding that to your pets, any more than the cheapest grocery stuff full of corn syrup and what else is not that good for you, either.

  9. Greg McFarlane

    I don’t know if Canada has any nationwide veterinary chains like Banfield in the U.S., but if you can, get your cat a wellness plan. For a flat monthly fee you get checkups, shots, and a depository of all your cat’s medical records. I have a couple of adult cats whom I got on plans as kittens. Neither one of them has had major health problems, but even taking care of their skin infections and bouts of constipation would have cost hundreds upon hundreds of dollars more without wellness plans.
    By your own blog’s calculations, a cat costs about 5% of what a child costs. And will be more adorable, better behaved, quieter, cleaner, easier to amuse, and easier to leave unattended without violating any laws.

  10. Michelle C

    Another thing to consider is cost over time. Cats can live 20 years. So the monthly expense is not high, but it can add up. My last cat cost approx $10,000 over her life (19 years). When I get a new kitten I picture a $10,000 price tag on them before bringing them home. 🙂

    Also, some cats can be destructive, which is an additional expense.

    Cats/kittens from shelters/rescues that have shots, neutering, etc included are often cheaper than getting a “free” kitten and paying for all of that yourself.

  11. Jane

    I have a 20 yr old himalayan/siamese mix. Mostly indoors, long rope when he goes out, in nice weather.
    I have regular basic vet checkup yrly $109, w shots(rabies every other yr), no special tests for elderly cats to boost my bill.
    If he is sniffly, sneezing, not eating, i give him Colloidal, or Ionic Silver, liquid antibiotic, which has saved tons of vet bills when kitty is under the weather, and saved a few friends cats lives, that were borderline. All animals deserve love.

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