September 28, 2019 12:00 PM PT

Cost of Owning a Cat

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It costs as much as $1,174 to own a cat, and that's before you even buy one. After you get through the first year, the annual cost of caring for a cat falls to an average of $809. Read on to learn why getting a cat can be so expensive.

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Costs in the First Year

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The first year of cat ownership typically costs the most, especially if you buy your cat from a breeder. Keep reading to find out what costs you can expect within the first year.

Cost to Get a Cat

Adoption expenses vary depending on whether you adopt your cat from a shelter or buy one from a breeder.

Adoption from Shelters
Adopting a cat from a shelter typically saves you the most money. Shelters include various services for free, including:

  • General exam by a veterinarian
  • Spay or neuter services
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Distemper combination vaccines based on the cat's age
  • Flea/tick treatment
  • Deworming medication (if necessary)

The average cost to adopt a cat from the Humane Society ranges from $32–$270.

Buying from Breeders
A cat from a breeder typically costs much more. Some cats cost as little as $200 to adopt, while others may cost several thousand dollars. Doing research on the average cost of the breed you prefer can help you find the right breeder and make sure you are not overcharged.

Whether you adopt from a shelter or purchase from a breeder, the price varies depending on the breed, age, and health of the cat.

Initial Vet Visit

An initial checkup with a vet tends to run around $45–$55. Any vaccinations or special treatments the cat needs will cost more.

If your cat hasn't already been vaccinated, it will need the one-time rabies vaccination and the Feline Distemper Shot, which vets administer in a series of three shots. On average, the series costs $60.00.

You can also opt to pay for optional vaccines, such as Feline Leukemia, Chlamydia, and Immunodeficiency vaccinations—each of which costs between $15 and $45.


Cats need basic supplies such as a bed, food/water bowls, and a litter box. If you buy all of the supplies, budget for an average cost of:

  • Bed: $10–$200
  • Litter box: $10–$250
  • Bowls: $10–$60
  • Scratching post: $10–$150
  • Cat crate: $20–$350

You can save money by using items you already have around the house such as bowls, a few comfy blankets, and a cardboard box.

These basic supplies and services will help you get set up for cat ownership. Keep reading for additional fees that will affect your initial purchase of a cat and also the repeating costs throughout the cat's life.

Cost of Cat Toys
The average cat owner spends around $25/year on toys, according to the ASPCA. Most cat toys are interactive, and help you, the owner, bond with your cat.

However, unlike other animals, cats easily amuse themselves with items lying around the house, such as paper bags or cardboard boxes.

Cost of Cat Food

The average cat owner spends $224/year on cat food. Of course, the size of the cat will determine how much food your cat eats, but most veterinarians suggest cats eat between 24 and 35 calories a day.

  • Dry Food
    Prices range between $2 and $7/lb.

  • Canned Food
    Prices range between $0.50 and $2.50/can, depending on the type of canned food you prefer for your cat.

An average 7-pound bag of dry cat food provides 28 servings of ½ cup each day. This means dry cat food would cost you $14–$49 per month.

Cost of Litter

You'll find cat litter for as little as $0.40/lb and as high as $2.50/lb. The average cat owner goes through 25–40 lbs. of cat litter per month and spends $165/year.

The exact amount used depends on the number of cats you own, the type of litter used, and the size of the litter box.

The least expensive and most common types of cat litter are clumping and non-clumping litter. The most expensive cat litter is Crystal litter, which tends to last longer per pound.

Cost of Vet Visits

A trip to the vet can be expensive. The price varies depend on the purpose of your visit.

Routine Care
This includes a physical exam and any necessary vaccinations. Your cat may also need heartworm tests, and need to receive medication for heartworm and tick prevention. The average cost for routine vet visits is $165.

Many county departments and private veterinarians offer low-cost vaccination clinics several times a year. Ask around in your area to see if this is an option to help you save money on the vaccination costs.

Spaying/Neutering Your Cat
If you go to a private practice veterinarian, the average cost to fix a cat is $14. Keep in mind, though, female cats are more expensive to fix than males.

Many areas have low-cost spay/neuter clinics, though, which can cost you an average of $50–$100.

Cost of Emergency Vet Visits
You can expect to pay $2,000–$3,000 for emergency vet visits. The price jumps to $4,000–$5,000 for visits that require surgery, according to Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA.

Pet insurance can help cover the cost of routine and emergency vet visits. The average cat owner spends $175.00/year on pet insurance for their cat. The exact amount you will pay depends on the cat's age, breed, and overall health.

Cost of Care While Traveling

Unlike dogs, cats don't travel well, so you'll probably need to find someone to care for your cats while you are away.

The two most common care options are:

  • Using a Kennel
    Costs approximately $15.00–$20.00/night, depending on the accommodations/services provided and your location.

  • Hiring a Pet Sitter
    Having someone come to your home can range from $15.00–$40.00/day, depending on what you ask of the sitter and your location.

Bottom Line

Taking in a cat is an investment. Knowing how much it may cost ahead of time can help you budget appropriately. Even a "free" cat costs money to care for each year, so choose wisely before taking on a new family member.


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Best Cities for Pets

Why Pet Owners are Better with Money


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