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How Much Does Owning a Cat Cost?

How Much Does Owning a Cat Cost?
Written by Elizabeth Italia, UW-AAB
—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸

Anytime you take on a new responsibility, it’s a good idea to make sure it aligns with your budget. 

Adopting a pet is no different. Obviously, there’s the cost of the adoption itself, but you have to add in food, litter, and toys, along with medical expenses or insurance (if you choose to get it). 

While costs will differ depending on where you live, especially for veterinary bills, we’ll provide you with the basics on everything you’ll need to do for your feline friend, so you can make sure adopting a cat is the right decision for you and your financial goals.

Adoption Costs

Where you get your cat from makes a huge difference: 

Option 1: Breeder: $300 - $1,500 (or more).

If you buy a cat from a breeder, you’ll pay top dollar, but it’s very dependent on the type of breed you want to buy. A good breeder will make sure your kitten is up to date on all vaccines and is dewormed, so those medical services will be covered in the cost.

Option 2: Shelter or Rescue: $25-100.

Many shelters or rescues are nonprofits, so you’re paying a low cost for services, and sometimes they even waive fees for special events or holidays. Another nice thing about rescuing a cat from these organizations is that they’ve done all the basic medical care for you, so you won’t incur the cost of:

  • Vaccinations.
  • Dewormers.
  • Microchip: You may have to pay a registration fee with the microchip company.
  • Flea preventative.
  • Combo test: Tests for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Sometimes, it’s a triple and also tests for heartworm.
  • Spay/neuter surgery: If a kitten or cat doesn’t come altered, the shelter or rescue may give you a voucher to use with certain local veterinary practices to get the surgery done at a discounted rate.

Option 3: Beware of “Free” Kittens: $300-700 (in medical expenses).

You’ve probably seen signs or ads for free kittens. While someone may be giving the kittens away for free, the cost of vetting the kitten falls on you. You’ll need to pay for everything listed above and the vet visit, making your kitten far from free.

Option 4: Rehoming Situation: Varies.

Social media is full of people who are trying to rehome a pet for whatever reason. If you decide to go down this road, make sure you can get vet records, and it’s still a good idea to take the cat to your vet for a check-up. 

People rehoming a cat typically don’t charge, but you will still have the expense of a vet visit at a minimum.

Option 5: Just Found: Varies.

You’ll be incurring all of the expenses to vet a cat that you found. This includes everything listed above, along with anything additional that could be found from a cat living on the street, like illness, injury, wounds, chronic illness, dental disease, etc.

Basic Care Costs

Of course your cat needs the basics to live and survive. We’ll review what they need and how much you can expect to spend.

  • Bowls: $5-15.
  • Dry food: $20-40/month.
  • Wet Food: $35-60/month. 
  • Keep in mind, if your pet requires a prescription diet, your food costs will increase.

  • Treats: $5/month.
  • Water Fountain: $15-60.
  • Water Fountain Filters: $20-60/year.
  • Litter box + Scooper: Depends on size, materials, and features, but expect to spend $10-40.
  • Litter: $15-40/month.
  • Bed: $15-30.
  • Toys: $40 is plenty to spend for a new kitty. From then on, it’s really up to you on how frequently you want to rotate toys.
  • Scratcher: $10-40.
  • Brush: $10-25.
  • Collar + ID Tag: $20.
  • Cat tree: $50-200.
  • Basic Medical Costs

    Let’s review the costs associated with basic medical care. 

    Remember, many shelters and rescues usually handle initial vaccinations, combo test, dewormer, flea preventative, microchipping, and spay and neuter surgery before you adopt. 

    You’ll pay out of pocket if you adopt from an individual or save a cat from outside. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, research your area for low-cost vet clinics and animal shelters that offer services to the public at a lower rate than listed below.

    Vet Visit: $50.

    The cost for the actual visit itself averages around $50, making a fair range of $25-75. During the first year, your kitten will need more visits, but then your adult cat will need visits annually until they’re about 10. At that point, some vets recommend semi-annual exams. 

    If your cat gets particularly stressed out at the vet, they may recommend less frequent visits. Talk with your vet about the schedule that works for your personal situation.

    Vaccinations: Kittens $70-140/1st year, Cats $50-100/year.

    The most common vaccines are FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia) and rabies. Sometimes the feline leukemia vaccine is recommended as well.

    Kittens receive vaccinations every three weeks from when they’re one pound/four weeks old, until they’re 16 weeks. They can receive their rabies vaccine once they reach three pounds.

    The average cat receives FVRCP and rabies vaccinations at their annual wellness exam, so you can expect to pay for shots once a year, or once every three years for three-year FVRCP vaccines. Three-year vaccines are more expensive than a one-year. The cost above is based on a one-year FVRCP vaccine.

    Combo Test: $20-40.

    Snap tests are designed to detect FIV, FeLV, and sometimes heartworm. If a kitten tests positive, they’ll likely need a retest when they are a little older. Sometimes the mother’s antibodies, which are found in her milk, provide false positives.

    Flea Preventative: $10-100 (at least 6 months of coverage).

    There are three different ways to prevent fleas. Each has a different cost:

    1. Spot-on (topical):
    • Non-prescription, 6-month supply: $55-65.
    • Prescription, 6-month supply: $130.
    • Flea collar: 2-8 month coverage: $10-60.
    • Oral: 6 months: $100.

    Dewormer: $10-70.

    If a stool sample is required to determine the type of parasite you’re dealing with, you’ll be paying $25-50 for a fecal test.

    All dewormers are pretty inexpensive, $10-20.

    Microchip: $20-80.

    It’s always a good idea to microchip your cat, so if they ever go missing, the microchip can be scanned and your cat will be returned to you.

    There is a wide price range for microchipping because sometimes registration is included, and sometimes it’s not. If registration isn’t included, you may need to pay an additional charge to register your cat with your contact info.

    Spay/Neuter Surgery: $150-400.

    Blood Work: $140-300.

    Once your cat hits 10, you’ll want to get a senior panel done on an annual basis.

    Pet Insurance: $21/moth.

    Of course your premium is very dependent on your personal situation, but the average is above. Keep in mind you’ll also have to pay a deductible, most likely at least $500, if anything happens.

    End of Life Costs.

    None of us ever want to think about our pet leaving us, but it is a cost you’ll have to be prepared for at some point. The costs all depend on the choices you made around euthanasia and aftercare.

    Euthanasia, In-Home: $200-400.

    Euthanasia, In-Clinic: $50-150.

    Group Cremation: $35-100.

    Private Cremation: $100-300.

    The prices above do not include an urn or any memorial items, although many in-home and in-clinic euthanasia services include a paw print.


    We’ve covered all the common costs through your cat’s life.

    Any accidents or medical issues come with added expense, and while those can happen, there are plenty of cats who don’t have any problems and live a pretty calm life.

    It’s impossible to prepare for everything, but it’s smart to make sure you cover the basics and have a little saved just in case anything unexpected happens. Surprises alone are stressful, and it’s better if you don’t have to stress over the cost too.

      Click here to expand the infographic

    Cost of Owning a Cat Infographic

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    The averages were collected through Google searches and researching retailer, veterinary clinic, and nonprofit pricing around the country (The US).

    Allen, Meredith. PetCareRx, Reasonable Pet Vaccination Costs.
    CostHelper, Cat Vaccination Cost and Buying a Cat Cost.
    Croll, Maxime. Value Penguin, Average Cost of Pet Insurance: 2021 Fact and Figures.
    McLeod, Belinda. The Cake Library, Cat Cremation: How It Works, Cost & Laying a Cat to Rest.
    Mitchell, Sandra. PetMD, What Is the FVRCP Vaccine?
    Cats Meouch, Putting a Cat to Sleep: Everything You Need to Know.


    Article by  🙋‍♀️
    Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist

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