How Much Does It Cost To Own A Cat

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cost of owning a cat

You can care for a cat for as low as $162 per year, but it’s common to spend about $800 annually. Read on for our detailed breakdown of your annual and lifetime costs.

In their oft-cited “Pet Care Costs” publication, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates that a new cat will cost $1,174 in their first year. With the costs of bringing a new cat into the family aside, the ASPCA determines determine that each successive year will cost $809.

How much does a cat cost? We’ve calculated the annual costs of cat litter, food, vet visits, and more, and found that you can keep a cat for as little as $277 the first year and $162 every successive year. Little luxuries like vet checkups, treats, good food, and new toys will add a few hundred dollars to that annual figure, bringing us closer to the ASPCA’s estimate. The most expensive lifestyles will likely add up to a few thousand dollars a year.

But every day expenses aren’t cat guardians’ most serious financial concern. Medical emergencies and illnesses are the biggest expense to budget for, potentially adding $5,000 or more to your cat’s lifetime cost.

Let’s work our way through the costs of owning a cat, estimating both startup costs and the recurring costs that you’ll cover for the rest of your cat’s life.

Bringing Home A New Cat: One-Time Costs

one time cat cost

Free Cats

You’ll almost always have to spend money to raise a cat, but you can often bring one into your life for free. Cats are given away for free every day. Free cats come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Sometimes they wander onto your porch and never leave. Sometimes you find them in trash cans or book drops.

While you won’t have to pay for these cats upfront, they may come with additional startup costs.

For example, you may have to cover the cost of spaying or neutering on your own. If you adopt an orphaned kitten, you’ll have to pay for kitten milk replacer. These kittens are often sick or flea-infested, so it’s likely that you’ll encounter some medical bills along the road to adulthood as well.

Adoption

$25 – $200

How much does it cost to adopt a cat? Animal shelters and other rescue organizations typically charge between $50 to $200 in adoption fees. If $50 sounds like a lot, keep your eyes open for special adoption events. Most rescue organizations run promotions regularly, during which they adopt out cats at reduced prices (some even waive the adoption fee entirely).

Shelter cats have already undergone checkups and have likely been treated for any medical conditions before they’re deemed adoptable. Spaying and neutering are also typically included in the adoption fee which helps reduce your initial cost.

Breeder

$500 – $1,000 on average

If you buy your cat from a breeder, they’ll probably cost between $500 and $1,000, but the cost may be higher if you purchase one of the most expensive breeds.

While most breeders take the time to ensure that their kittens are healthy and in great condition before they go to a new home, they don’t always cover neutering and other medical costs.

Your cat’s breed affects how much they cost, both upfront and over the course of their life.

Some breeds aren’t particularly expensive to buy but have high maintenance costs due to breed-specific health conditions.

Here are some of the most expensive cat breeds and the health conditions they encounter most often:

Breed Name Average Cost Common Health Conditions
Savannah $1,500-$50,000 None
Bengal $1,000-$25,000 Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), eye disorders
Persian $500-$5,500 Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRA), and HCM
Peterbald $1,200-$5,000 None
Russian Blue $400-$3,000 None
Sphynx $200-$3,000 Heart disease, respiratory issues, digestive problems
Scottish Fold $200-$3,000 Osteochondrodysplasia PKD, HCM
British Shorthair $500-$1,500 Hemophilia B, HCM

Mixed-breed cats are typically the most economical option. Not only are they cheaper to buy, but mixed breed cats are less prone to health problems.

One-time Costs That You’ll Need To Consider When You First Bring Your Cat Home:

cost cat info

Total one-time costs for cat care supplies: $115 – $410

  • ID Tag and Collar (optional) – $15
  • Spay/Neuter (optional) – $145
  • Cat X-Ray Cost – $100 – $250
  • Cat Ultrasound Cost – $250 – $500
  • Microchip – $45-$55
  • Teeth Cleaning – $150-$300
  • Bed (optional) – $30
  • Cat Tree (optional) – $75
  • Cat Nail Clipper (optional) – $7
  • Cat Brush (optional) – $8
  • Litter Box – $25
  • Litter Scoop – $10
  • Scratching Post – $30
  • Carrier – $40
  • Food and Water Bowls – $10

Cost Of Cat Ownership—Annual Expense Breakdown

cost of ownership info

Annual Medical Expenses

Veterinary bills can take a big chunk out of your cat care budget, especially if your cat has a serious illness or injury. Here’s a breakdown of both routine and emergency veterinary care costs.

Checkups

$0-$110/year

Taking your cat for a regular vet exam will cost between $40 and $55 per visit.
It’s generally recommended that cats visit the vet’s office once a year until they reach their senior years. Once your cat is somewhere between 9 and 11, most vets recommend that you take them in for a checkup every six months.

Dental Care

$0-$500/year

If you want to keep your cat’s dental care bills low, invest in a cat toothbrush and toothpaste as soon as you bring them home. A toothbrush and cat toothpaste cost around $15 and are a great investment in your cat’s health and your financial future.

Periodontal disease affects many, if not most, middle-aged and senior cats, and it brings with it a sea of other issues. Once your cat’s teeth are covered in calculus, it will take a professional dental cleaning to get rid of it. That will cost you between $150 and $500 every time.

And if you don’t catch it early enough, periodontal disease will lead to organ disease and its multi-thousand-dollar treatment paths.

Cat Vaccinations Cost

$0-$50/year

In addition to your cat’s first-year vaccinations, you may opt for booster shots, which cost between $50 and $150 every three to seven years. Vaccination frequency depends on your personal preference and your cat’s lifestyle. Your cat may need additional vaccines depending where you live as well.

Treatments for Fleas, Ticks, Worms, and Mites

$0-$60/year

If you live in an area with fleas or ticks and your cat spends time outdoors, you may have to treat them with insecticides. Flea and tick prevention can be costly, but it’s not an expense you want to skimp on. Cats who eat wild prey may need dewormers. These treatments aren’t necessary for most indoor cats but are highly recommended for outdoor cats.

Emergency Medical Expenses

$0 – $10,000+

According to Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, expensive emergency medical bills are something worth preparing for. She says that “owners will likely incur at least one $2,000 – $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime.”

Here’s A Breakdown Of How Much It Might Cost To Treat Common Conditions.

breakdown of how much it might cost to treat common conditions.

Continuing Medication For Extended Or Chronic Illness

If your cat develops cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or another serious illness, you can expect to spend a lot of money on continuous treatment. Those expenses will be a way of life for a long time, presumably for the rest of your cat’s life.

Continuing Medication for Extended or Chronic Illness

Long-term cost estimates from Trupanion’s breakdown of actual claims and veterinary costs for various conditions.

Pet Insurance

$0-$583/year

The big variable here is whether or not you have pet insurance. If you buy pet insurance for your cat early in life, your annual medical bills will probably be relatively low even with a serious condition at play.

That being said, there’s no guarantee pet insurance will help you save money. You’ll have to pay your premium every month and meet certain deductibles – if you never use the plan, you’re paying for nothing.

Pet insurance rates depend on how old your cat was when you took out a policy, where you live, your cat’s breed, and a variety of other factors. In general, it costs about $10-$20 a month to insure your cat for accidents and illnesses. Comprehensive wellness plans that include preventive care may cost $30 or more.

If you want to learn more about insuring your cat, read our comprehensive guide to the best pet insurance for cats.

Cat Food

$90 – $2,520/year

The type of cat food you buy affects your lifetime costs in a number of ways.

One, there’s a wide variety in the prices of cat foods and brands. You could pay $7 per day for some of the most expensive cat food or $0.25 for a grocery-bought kibble. Theoretically, this discrepancy in food cost alone means the difference between $1,368 and $38,325 over your cat’s lifetime.

Food has a deeper impact, though—it’s an investment in your cat’s health. While many cheap foods are just as nourishing as the expensive ones, others only appear to be a good value in the short term.

A financially motivated decision to buy a low-quality food could end up costing you thousands in vet bills down the road.

Put food quality before price but remember that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good food. Some of the highest-quality food is quite economical and some low-quality foods are more expensive than you might expect.

Check out this price chart showing the different costs of cat foods. The chart is based on averages of popular products sold on Chewy.com.

different costs of cat foods. The chart is based on averages of popular products sold on Chewy

Kitty’s Bathroom – Litter and Supplies

$72 – $240/year

One cat will typically use about 20 lbs. of clay litter each month, but litter usage varies based on your cat’s health, the type of litter you choose, and your scooping efficiency.

Silica gel-based litter will cost between $10 and $25 per month, while clay litter costs between $2.50 and $6 each month. Biodegradable products are priced all across the price spectrum but are typically more expensive than clay.

Your costs will go up if you include additional litter box accessories like litter mats, deodorizers, and a dedicated garbage can.

  • Litter box liners – $18/year
  • Deodorizing spray or granules – $20/year
  • Vacuum for litter box area – $35
  • Dedicated trash can – $30
  • Litter mat – $25

Additional Resources:

Fun and Games

$0-$200/year

Every year, you’ll probably buy your feline friend a few fun items. This category includes toys, cat furniture, cute costumes, adventure gear like harnesses and leashes, and cat treats.

Total Annual Cost Of Owning A Cat: $162 – $3,872

Let’s see what goes into keeping a cat on both extremes of this huge spending spectrum.

The low budget doesn’t involve any pet insurance, nor does it involve a single vet visit. The cat is fed a cheap—probably dry—cat food and uses a low-cost clay litter. The cat may have some nice things like a cat tree, scratching post, and ID tag, but these were bought when he came home and they don’t add up to recurring costs every year.

Because this cat doesn’t have pet insurance, a serious illness or accident will be his guardians’ sole responsibility.

Our ultra-expensive feline has a vet checkup twice every year, uses a spot-on flea treatment in the summer, goes for regular professional dental cleanings from an expensive vet, and receives booster shots every three years. She doesn’t have pet insurance, so all of these vet visits are charged to her guardian’s credit card.

She eats a top-of-the-line organic, raw, or human-grade commercial food, possibly subscribing to a meal delivery service like Nom Nom. Her litter box is filled with Pretty Litter crystals or a high-end biodegradable litter. She gets toys, top-of-the-line scratching posts, and new cat trees on a regular basis.

Owning A Cat On A Budget

Sometimes a furry friend wanders into your home and heart before you’ve had a chance to fit cat food into your monthly spending plan. What then?

If you don’t have enough money to lavish your cat with fine foods and gifts, please don’t think that you’re a bad cat guardian. Almost everyone can afford a cat and can afford to raise them well.

Here are a few tips for people who want to keep their cat care budget low.

Know the difference between giving your cat the best and buying things because they makes you feel like a good cat owner.

There’s a whole world of cat care products that only exist to make people feel like they’re doing something good. These items can be fun, but they’re certainly not necessary and most of the time, they are more enjoyable for the human than the cat who’s receiving them.

  • Most cat toysToys are fun, but most cats are perfectly capable of finding their own toys around the house.
  • Cat beds – Cats are just as happy sleeping in a blanket-lined cardboard box as they are snoozing in a sherpa-lined cat tunnel.
  • Organic cat food – If you can afford it, spring for organic meats and foods, but if you can’t, remember that non-organic species-appropriate food is much better than organic food that doesn’t honor your cat’s carnivorous needs.
  • Store-bought treats – Most cats would be just as happy to eat a chunk of fresh chicken and it would be healthier for them.

Consider Alternatives To Traditional Cat Litter.

Cat litter expenses can add up quickly, so optimizing your litter situation is one of the most powerful areas for improvement.

One of the most economical litter box solutions is swapping out traditional litter for woodstove pellets—also marketed as horse stall bedding. These sawdust pellets are ultra-absorbent and appear to work just as well as popular brands of pine cat litter. The best part is that they cost a tiny fraction of the price of traditional cat litter.

While the average clay litter costs around $0.40 per pound, standard wood pellets cost about $0.17 per pound.

Also Read: Best Cat Litter: Choose the Perfect Litter for Your Cat

When safe to do so, don’t be afraid to give your cat things that don’t have the word “cat” on the package.

It might seem clean and easy to exclusively buy your cat products “made for cats”, but in reality, no cat has a problem using generic products that don’t have pawprints on them.

Until I finally bought a set of food bowls that would look good in photos, my cats ate from vintage metal and ceramic bowls we bought at a thrift store. They still drink water out of an old pot.

Cat-specific food and water bowls and cat water fountains, like many other items in the pet store, are sold at a “love-of-a-pet” markup.

Don’t let your love for your cat delude you into believing that any cat is happier with bowls, beds, treats, and toothbrushes sold specifically for pets. You can find generic versions of many of these products in thrift stores, on Amazon, and anywhere else you might shop for high-value items.

Feed Your Cat Well And Keep Them Safe

Emergency vet bills and taking care of a sick cat are two of the biggest expenses you’ll encounter. It’s impossible to ensure that nothing will ever happen, but you can reduce your cat’s likelihood of getting sick or hurt.

A species-appropriate diet is the single easiest and most affordable means of discouraging obesity, diabetes, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Cats need a high-moisture diet rich in bioavailable protein and minimal carbohydrate matter. If you’re not sure what this means, check out our article on the best cat food.

In addition to keeping your cat healthy with a good diet, you should consider their safety. Prevent accidents by keeping your cat indoors or go for supervised outdoor adventures with a harness and leash.

Owning A Cat Isn’t Cheap, But It’s Not Necessarily As Expensive As Some Suggest.

The cost of keeping a cat ranges from under $200 a year to multiple thousands of dollars annually. Your actual costs will depend on which breed you choose, your cat’s health, the type of food you buy, where you live, your lifestyle choices, and whether or not you invest in pet insurance.

Raising a cat is just like raising a human. There’s no single figure for how much it costs to keep a child healthy and happy—it all depends on what you can afford, what you’re willing to pay, and how good you are at making wise buying decisions.

Your cat’s quality of life hinges less on dollars spent and more on the amount of energy, intelligence, and love you’re willing to give.

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About Mallory Crusta

Mallory is the Head of Content at All About Cats. Having produced and managed multimedia content across several pet-related domains, Mallory is dedicated to ensuring that the information on All About Cats is accurate, clear, and engaging. When she’s not reviewing pet products or editing content, Mallory enjoys skiing, hiking, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She has two cats, Wessie and Forest.

10 thoughts on “How Much Does It Cost To Own A Cat

  1. ed

    The age of the cat also matters. Young cats seldom get sick, but just as with humans most of the medical bills happen in the last year of life so be prepared for that.

    Reply
  2. Serena

    Cats are the best. I was trying to see how much caring for a cat would be. My roommate is worried a cat will cost too much. Now, I have enough evidence to show her that cats can be inexpensive.

    Reply
  3. Lindsey Goff

    Some of your costs were over, but vet costs were definitely underrated. Maybe it’s the area you live in, but here in FL, vets are more expensive than human doctors. They will run test after test, running up bills that take senior citizens years to pay off. Even though the owner knows the cat is dying, the vets keep running tests, giving the owners false hope. Been there, done that. Paid almost $2000 to “save” my cat, which anyone with any sense would have known wasn’t going to make it. But the money was more important than being honest with the owner and letting the cat die peacefully. The “treatment” prescribed was starving my cat to death, until I realized what was happening. I then fed him some of his favorite home made food to stop him from starving. I asked for a partial refund from the three vets that treated him. Didn’t hear back from two of them, the other one said I wasn’t a “good fit” for her practice. The pain these vets caused me only added to the sorrow of losing my beloved Tucker. They simply didn’t care. A few years ago, I was at a vet’s office with my sick cat, and his wife, who worked there, was on the phone talking about her purchase of $60,000 in kitchen cabinets. I didn’t make that much money in three years, yet they had no qualms about charging me well over $100 practically every time I took one of my “boys” there. And insurance is worthless, for the most part. They won’t cover “pre-existing conditions, which most cats have unless the insurance is purchased when they are kittens. And I have yet to find any insurance for $20 a month. So, just know, pets are expensive, period. Don’t get one if you can’t afford to care for them properly.

    How these companies can charge what they do for the small cans of cat food and various sizes of bags of dry food is beyond my comprehension. Even Ellen and Rachel have no problem gouging their “fans” to make them rich. Some “natural” and/or “organize” merchants charge $22 – $25 for a small bag of their food. Seriously????

    I try to give my “kids” (now a male and a female since Tucker passed away) the best care I can. As a senior citizen on a fixed income, I read the labels and what benefits are in the product for them. I buy what I can afford. I can buy a can of tuna for less than a can of wet cat food. Again, seriously???? No, I don’t give them tuna on a regular basis because of the mercury content, only as a treat.

    Just like other professions, the pet care industry is a racket. They play on people’s emotions. Pets used to be just that—pets. They stayed outside all year and we kept them warm and fed. They didn’t want to be inside.

    I hadn’t planned to go on like this but, once I got started, I found myself unable to stop. People have got to stop buying into what these people are selling. Just like our government, they are taking us for a ride. Hang on!

    Reply
  4. Lindsey C Goff

    Correction: not “organize”, I meant “organic”. I think “auto spell” filled it in incorrectly.

    Reply
  5. Joann Martino

    I live in Michigan..it cost over $450. To spayed a cat ..lab bills are $400. At least..vaccines

    ,with visit over $250..nail trim every month 10 to $20..cat food $ 4.00 per day plus for good we quality.., then litter, probiotic, Lax gel for hairballs 60$ per month plus grooming..revaluate ur prices..please

    Reply
    1. Mallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Joann, thanks for sharing and suggesting that we reevaluate the expenses mentioned in this article. We’ll keep it on our list of articles to update.

      Reply

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