The True Cost Of Cat Ownership (What To Expect)

cost of cat ownership

From the moment you decide to get a cat, you’re committing to a range of expenses that are both expected and unexpected.

The Initial cost of owning a cat ranges from $900-$4250, depending if you choose to adopt or shop.

The on-going cost will range between $1570-$5460 a year.

Optional cost can be between $1310-$2830, depending on how much you wish to splurge on your cat.

Whether you’re a first-time cat owner or looking to better manage your expenses, this guide will equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate the financial aspect of cat ownership.

Initial Costs

These costs cover everything needed to welcome your cat into your home and ensure it is healthy, safe and comfortable.

Adoption Fee$150-$300
Buy From Breeder$1000-$3000
Vaccination $500-$600
Litter Box$20-$100
Food And Water Bowls$10-$50
Total (Adopt)$900-$1550
Total (Shop)$1750-$4250

Adopt Or Shop

The very first decision you have to make even before getting your cat is whether you will adopt or buy one.

Adopting a cat is often seen as a more cost-effective and option. Adoption fees at shelters and rescues are generally lower than the cost of buying a cat from a breeder or pet store.

The average adoption fee for a cat can range between $150-$300.

These fees usually cover initial veterinary care, vaccinations, spaying or neutering and sometimes even microchipping.

By adopting, you’re not only giving a rescue cat a forever home but also potentially saving on initial expenses if you were to buy a cat.

Some new cat owners will buy a cat if they are interested in a specific breed. But this will come with a higher price tag.

Buying a cat will set you back between $1000-$3000, depending on the breed. It can even cost up to $25,000 for a very rare breed like the Savannah.

Breeders often charge premium prices for purebred cats, which doesn’t typically include the cost of initial veterinary care, vaccinations, or spaying/neutering.

Always buy from a reputable and licensed breeder to prevent backyard breeding.

Vaccination Cost

cat getting injection

Cats require essential vaccinations to guard against common diseases. Your vet might suggest additional, non-mandatory vaccinations depending on your cat’s lifestyle.

The core vaccines that most cats will need are for:

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
  • Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV)
  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1)
  • Rabies

Several shots are required per core vaccine until your cat turns 3 years old. One vaccination shot costs between $30-$50.

You are looking at about $500-$600 for the entire course of vaccines.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella
  • Chlamydia

Non-core vaccines are given annually when required.

Related Article: Essential Vaccines For A Healthy Cat

Sterilization Surgery

If you are not a registered breeder, you should seriously consider spaying or neutering your cat. This helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and other health issues.

Your cat can be sterilized once it turns 5-6 months of age.

The cost of neutering a male cat is about $150 and spaying a female cat is around $400.


Microchipping your cat is a simple procedure that can have a great impact on its safety and your peace of mind.

A little chip that is about the size of a grain of rice is implanted under your cat’s skin just between its shoulder blades.

It will cost between $70-$100 to microchip your cat and it lasts forever.

Don’t worry, this process isn’t painful for your cat. I’ve done it for all of my cats at the vet.

The microchip will contain important information such as your contact details and your cat vaccination status.

This allows your cat to be easily identified if it gets lost and brought to a shelter. The staff will be able to read the microchip with a scanner.

Litter Box

Unlike dogs that can do their ‘business’ almost anywhere, cats prefer to use a litter box.

The humble litter box has evolved from just being a big open container to a wide array of models.

The more common models are:

  • Open litter boxes
  • Covered litter boxes
  • Self-cleaning litter boxes
  • Top entry litter boxes
  • Sifting litter boxes

You can get a decent litter box for $20-$100 depending on the type. But if you are looking to splurge on your cat’s toilet throne, some self-cleaning models can hit $700.

Cat Owner Tip: When buying a litter box, get one that is big enough for an adult cat even if you have a kitten. This way, you don’t have to buy another one when your cat gets bigger. I’ve been using the same litter box for 10 years.

Food And Water Bowls

cat food and water bowl

Don’t just use any bowl at home for your cat’s food and water. There are certain things to consider when buying your cat’s bowls.

Bowls come in various materials, including plastic, stainless steel, ceramic and glass. Stainless steel and ceramic bowls are durable and easy to clean.

Plastic bowls are cheap but tend to smell after a while and can harbor bacteria.

Some cat owners prefer to use an automatic cat feeder. This is usual when you need to be away for most of the day.

You can get a normal bowl for $10-$50. But if you want an automatic cat feeder, that can cost around $100 for a good model.

Cat Owner Tip: Cats prefer bowls that are wide enough to avoid whisker contact with the sides. Whisker fatigue occurs when cats feel stressed or uncomfortable because their whiskers keep touching the sides of a narrow or deep bowl.

On-Going Costs

Ongoing costs for owning a cat are the regular, recurring expenses necessary for the care and maintenance of your feline friend throughout its life.

ItemCost Per Year
Cat Litter$200-$250
Cat Food$1200-$4800
Grooming Tools$30-$80
Dental Care Products$20-$30
Cat Toys$20-$100
Vet Check$100-$200

Cat Litter

You need cat litter inside your cat’s litter box to complete your cat’s toilet. The cost of cat litter depends on the type that you buy.

Cat litter can come in the form of:

  • Recycled paper pellets
  • Clay
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Silica crystals
  • Walnut

Some cat litter can clump together to make cleaning easier while others don’t. It ultimately depends on what your cat likes

You can expect to pay about $200-250 a year for cat litter to keep your cat’s toilet smelling like roses.

Please do not use dirt from your garden as cat litter as it contains a lot of pathogens.

Cat Owner Tip: I would recommend that you start with clumping litter first as it’s easier to clean and absorbs fluids and odors better. But if your cat has respiratory issues, non-clumping litter will be better as it has fewer dust particles.

Cat Food

Nutrition is important for your cat’s health, longevity and overall well-being. The cost of cat food can vary widely depending on several factors, including the quality of ingredients and the type of food.

Quality vs. Cost

High-quality cat food contains whole protein sources and minimal fillers. They tend to be pricier but are much healthier for your cat and potentially lower veterinary bills in the long run.

On the other hand, more affordable options might be cheaper in the short term but could contribute to nutritional deficiencies or health issues over time.

Type Of Diet

Dry food or kibbles is the most common type of diet due to cost and convenience. But they also tend to contain a lot of carbs and low-quality ingredients.

Wet food is generally more expensive than dry food but the extra hydration is very good for your cat’s kidneys.

A growing trend amongst cat owners is the raw meat diet which mimics a cat’s natural diet. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they need animal protein as their main fuel source.

Cost Each Month

If you are just feeling dry food, you can expect to pay between $100-$200 each month. Wet food will be between $200-$400 as top-quality canned food can be expensive.

All my cats have always been on a raw diet and it costs me about $200-$300 a month. If you want to only feed your cat organic meat, then that will be a lot more expensive.

Related Article: Guide For New Cat Owners

Grooming Tools

cat hates grooming. what can you do about it

Grooming tools are an important aspect of maintaining your cat’s health and happiness. While grooming tools might seem like a one-time cost, you will have to replace some of them over time.

Here’s a breakdown of the essential grooming tools and their role in your cat’s care regimen.

Brushes And Combs

Regular brushing helps prevent matting, reduces shedding, and can be a soothing activity for your cat. Different types of fur require different types of brushes.

You can get a decent brush for $20-$50.

Over time, you may need to replace these tools as they wear out or as your cat’s grooming needs change.

Nail Clippers

Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed prevents damage to furniture and your cat. Nail clippers specifically designed for cats should be sharp and comfortable to use.

They may need to be replaced if they become dull over time.

I usually use a normal nail clipper which you can buy for cheap. But if you want one that’s designed for cats, it will cost about $20.


Although cats generally keep themselves clean, there may be times when a bath is necessary.

Cat shampoos usually cost between $10-$20.

Make sure to only use cat-friendly shampoos to not damage the skin.

Dental Care Products

Many cat owners regard feline oral care as optional but trust me, you will want to make it compulsory for your cat.

Cats are prone to dental diseases such as:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Bad breath

All you need is a cat toothbrush and toothpaste. Make sure to only use pet-friendly toothpaste as human toothpaste is toxic for cats.

A toothpaste and toothbrush set will cost between $20-$30.

Cat Owner Tip: I prefer using a finger brush as it allows me to brush my cat’s teeth more easily. And most cats tend to struggle which makes a toothbrush much harder to control.

Cat Toys

Let’s just say that you don’t need to spend a lot on cat toys for your feline friend. Many cats are happy playing with boxes, strings and toilet rolls.

That said, it is fine if you want to spoil your cat with a cool toy every now and then.

Get something that activates its natural hunting instinct.

You can expect to pay between $20-$100 for cat toys each year.

Vet Check

Cats are known to be masters of hiding their pain and discomfort. Your cat can go from being completely fine one day and sick the next.

You should make it a point to take your cat for its annual health check regardless of its age.

Each visit should cost between $100-$200.

Optional Costs

Optional costs for owning a cat can vary widely depending on your lifestyle, your cat’s needs, and preferences. Here’s a comprehensive list of potential optional expenses.

Pet Insurance$30-$50
Grooming Session$30-$100
Pet Sitting Or Boarding$50-$80
Dental Check Up$400-$600
Emergency Vet Visit$800-$2000

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance offers a financial safety net for unexpected veterinary costs. While not mandatory, it provides peace of mind for many cat owners.

Pet insurance plans vary widely in coverage, deductibles, premiums and reimbursement methods.

It’s important to compare plans and read the fine print to choose the pet insurance that best fits your needs and budget.

On average, it costs about $30-$50 a month to insure your cat.

Grooming Session

Even though you can groom your cat on your own, some cat owners prefer to send their cats to a professional groomer.

This usually happens if you have a long-hair breed as they do require some grooming effort.

You can expect to pay between $30-$100 per grooming session depending on what you need done.

Pet Sitting Or Boarding

If you need to be gone for a few days, you will need to get someone to look after your feline master.

The good news is that your cat doesn’t need to be taken out for walks but someone still needs to come by to feed and clean its litter box.

A pet sitter will cost between $20-30 a day.

If you need to send your cat for boarding, it will cost between $30-$50 per night. The more bells and whistles, the higher the cost.

Dental Check Up

I will strongly advise you to bring your cat for frequent dental check-ups if you can afford it.

More than 50% of cats over the age of 4 suffer from some form of dental disease.

From my personal experience of owning cats, cats who are FIV and FeLV positive are more prone to dental issues.

Dental cleaning is costly due to the effort involved and with your cat having to be put under general anesthesia.

One dental cleaning session for your cat can cost between $400-$600.

Emergency Vet Visit

While we all hope never to need urgent veterinary care, accidents and sudden illnesses can happen.

I once had to rush my cat in the middle of the night to the pet hospital when he started vomiting non-stop.

The cost of emergency veterinary care can vary widely depending on the nature of the emergency.

Minor emergencies might cost several hundred dollars to resolve. Cases that require surgery or overnight hospitalization can quickly escalate to thousands of dollars.

You can expect to pay between $800 to $2000 if emergency treatment is required for your cat.

End Of Life Budgeting

I know that it sounds rather depressing and morbid to be thinking about your cat’s eventual death but it will happen someday.

And it does require some finances to ensure everything is properly catered for.

Euthanasia can cost between $150-$500, depending if it is done at the clinic or at home.

Cremating your cat will cost between $70-$150.

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