A cat playing with dollar bills

How much does it cost to own a cat?

I’m honestly glad you asked, because far too many people rush to buy themselves a pet each year without carefully considering their decision. In order to prevent future disappointments (for both the owner and the new pet), it is probably in your best interest to do some research and figure out what you’re getting yourself into. Being a cat parent is fun, but it can also cost quite a bit of money. How much, though? Let’s find out!

The cost of adopting a kitten

Prices for kittens can vary widely depending on the breed and the individual breeder. Some breeders try to charge top dollar for purebreds and rare specimens, whereas in other situations the person may have had an “unplanned” litter and would be happy to give you a kitten for free.

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $100 for a single kitten, but certain popular breeds like Maine Coons can easily go for $200 or higher. Extremely rare purebreds like the Sphynx are sold for thousands of dollars.

You can also adopt a stray cat

We always love to hear about people adopting cats from their local shelter. These places are highly crowded during summertime and you are really helping the world become a better place for animals by providing a warm and loving home to these shelter cats. Shelters charge a lot less, but be sure to verify that your cat has been properly checked for any illnesses.

Microchip

The microchip is a worthwhile investment

While not entirely necessary, we’d recommend getting your new cat chipped. Microchips are not very expensive, and they can be very helpful should your cat ever get lost. Placing the chip is painless, and your cat won’t even be aware of its existence! Expect to pay about $40 for the injection.

Spaying or neutering

Spaying and neutering are the feline equivalents to sterilization. Again, these are not obligatory, but you certainly don’t want to end up with unwanted litters (unless you are confident in your abilities to take care of them).


One-time investment:

  • kitten: $50 (average)
  • microchip: $40
  • spraying & neutering: $100

Recurring expenses

Cat food and litter will be your biggest recurring expense as a cat owner. Prices vary for cat food, depending on the quality of the food and whether you can buy in bulk or not. The cheapest food will set you back about $5 per bag, and you will need roughly 2 bags a month for a single cat. However, the cheapest is not always the best option: you may want to spend a little more to get a better product, as your cat will be much healthier when she is getting the right nutrients in the right proportions.

Other essential supplies

When looking at the cost of adopting a cat, we also have to consider some early investments that need to be made at the start. Fortunately, once these are done, the recurring costs relatively low. So what supplies do you need to start with?

Scratching post

You’ll probably want to prevent your new cat from scratching up your furniture, so a scratching post will come in handy. You can easily pick one up for around $30, but be sure you choose the right type and place it in a strategic spot. We actually have a guide for that!

Litter and litterbox

Next, your cat needs a place to pee and poop. The litter box is a one-off purchase of around $20. In order to keep it fresh, you’ll have to buy a bag of cat litter every now and then. B-grade litter comes cheap, and will only set you back about $10 per month on average (again, that’s not to say isn’t a bad idea to invest in a better quality product).

Your cat will also need some simple food and water bowls, which should not cost more than $10.


  • Litterbox: $20
  • Scratching post: $30
  • Feeding bowls: $10
  • Cat litter: $10 per month
  • Cat food: $10 to $30 per month

Healthcare and check-ups

While calculating how much it costs to own a cat, we would be foolish not to factor in healthcare. If you adopt a cat, that means you are also taking on the responsibility of looking after her health. Sadly, this is a crucial aspect that new pet owners often forget to consider.

Illness or accidents can turn into nasty surprises. The worst scenario is when people are forced to return their pets to the shelter because they aren’t able to afford bills from the vet.

We would hate to see you forced to return your new kitty to the shelter, so we think this is one of the most important things for potential pet parents to consider. Let us mark it in red:

Please consider the possible cost of future health care before you decide to buy a cat!

So how much does cat healthcare cost on average?
Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) estimates the average cat owner will spend about $20 per month on essential healthcare. This figure accounts for vaccines, flea treatment, ticks & worming, and treatment for the occasional illness or accident.

Of course, medical care for cats can be a lot more thorough. Cat parents who can afford to spend more will often want to include other things like yearly or quarterly checkups (which are crucial for early detection of CKD), oral cleaning, treatment of gingivitis & periodontal disease, annual blood and urine tests. Some people also opt for a pet insurance policy. According to Joanna, these would roughly add up to about $60 per month.

  • Min. cost: $20 per month
  • Average cost: $60 per month

Now to add it all up..

Infographic that shows all the various costs involved for keeping a cat

So we bought our cat, got her chipped, and spayed/neutered. We also bought some basic supplies that allow us to take care of her, and we’ve also accounted for future healthcare costs. But how much does it all add up to..?

If we take an average price of $50 for the new cat, your total starting investment would be around $250. This gets you a cat, treatment for spaying or neutering, a microchip, a standard litter box, food/water bowls, and a basic scratching post. You can obviously pick up additional toys and other useful things like catnip and a nice safe breakaway collar, but those are not essential. In fact, it’s easy enough to make your own toys out of cardboard boxes and other things lying around the house.

Once you’ve invested in some startup items, the recurring monthly costs for food, litter, and vet bills in this article add up to about $40 per month for the bare essentials. Owners who want to go the extra mile with better quality healthcare and supplies can expect to pay somewhere between $50 – $100 on average each month.

Cost per month

ASPCA calculated the average cost at $809 per year, which in our opinion is a pretty good estimate.

Total cost in a lifetime

How much does a cat cost over the course of its life? Various estimates have been published. According to Petcoach, the total cost would lie somewhere between 7000 and 13000 for a cat that lives 9 to 15 years on average:

As most cats live an average of 9 to 15 years, this becomes an average lifetime cost of $7,646 to $12,500.

Petcoach

According to the PDSA, the average cat will cost you at least $14.000 over a lifetime. But their article mentions this figure can easily increase two-fold or even higher, depending on the amount of added healthcare and luxury supplies you want to buy for your cat.

Looking at these figures, we can safely conclude that the total costs for a cat during an entire lifetime will probably be in the five-digit range. Cats are lovely companions that we can recommend to everyone, but this is a serious sum of money. Are you prepared to part with such an amount? You owe it to your future pet to think about it carefully.

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