Cost of Owning A Cat: A Helpful Guide to Estimate Cost

By Hannah Baker May 23, 2019

While the decision to own a cat may turn out to be one of your best choices ever, it does not come without cost. More often than not, the cost of owning a cat can be higher than what you expect. In addition to the one-time expenses associated with having a cat, being a cat parent means taking on several recurring expenses. However, if you go into being a cat parent with an understanding of all the expected and unexpected costs, then you can make an informed decision about bringing a new lifelong feline friend into your life. After all, we certainly think that the benefits of owning a cat will outweigh the costs (by a longshot!) Expenses will vary based on various factors such as the type of cat, where you live, the health condition of the cat, and so much more. To help you estimate the cost of owning a cat, we compiled a general guide broken down by different types of expense.

Total Cost Of Owning A Cat Calculator

We know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to estimate cost for every individual person. In order to make estimating the cost of ownership easier, we created a calculator. All you need to do is input the low cost estimate and the high cost estimate for each expense item to get a total cost range. You can download the cost calculator as an Excel spreadsheet by clicking here.

Now let's explore the different costs.

One-time Expenses Of Owning A Cat

When first adopting or buying a cat, there are several expenses that you will incur right away. Again, this depends on various factors, but general one-time expenses that you should be aware of are adoption fees, vet services (spaying/neutering, checkup. etc.), microchipping, first vaccinations, initial supplies (litter box, bedding, collar), as well as your first round of food, litter, and other supplies that will become recurring expenses. These first expenses are very important for the health and safety of your cat. Having your cat spayed or neutered is necessary for reducing the overall population of cats without a home. Vaccinations are absolutely crucial to protect your cat from common diseases like rabies or feline leukemia. Microchipping is important in case your cat gets lost - this way, if they are found, you can be easily reunited.

To give you a general idea of costs, here is a typical list of initial one-time expenses:

  • Adoption Fees: $0 - $150
  • Spaying or Neutering: $0 - $500
  • Initial Veterinarian Exam: $0 - $100
  • Microchipping: $0 - $50
  • Initial Vaccinations: $0 - $200
  • Litter Box: $10 - $30
  • Collar: $5 - $15
  • Cat Bed: $10 - $40
  • Initial Litter and Food: $25 - $50
  • Initial Cat Scratching Products: $10 - $300

Wondering why some of these expenses start at $0? Most cities now have low-cost or even free initial veterinary services for dogs and cats. These services can include anything from spaying and neutering to full-service checkups, vaccinations, microchipping, and the whole nine yards.

In Austin, TX, for example, a nonprofit called Emancipet offers low-cost veterinary services year-round. In addition, they have a completely free traveling mobile clinic that sets up shop at different locations around the city on certain days of the month. On these days, you can bring your pet to the mobile unit for free spaying and neutering services as well as a free rabies vaccination. While you are there, you are able to add on deeply discounted services like microchipping, flea/tick treatment, and other necessary vaccinations. With services like Emancipet operating all around the country, these nonprofits are making it easier than ever to adopt a new pet by reducing some of the impending initial cost.

Recurring Expenses Of Owning A Cat

In addition to the initial cost of getting a cat, you must also factor in expenses that will happen once a month, once a year, or even more frequently. Depending on the specific needs of your cat, these can vary from inexpensive to expensive. For example, some cats will need a special diet that costs much more than your basic cat food. Likewise, some will need a specific type of litter, more frequent vet visits, and the like. When estimating the cost of your new pet, a good idea is to err on the side of caution. Estimate high - just in case. Recurring expenses are more in your control than necessary initial expenses and unexpected expenses. As a cat parent, you can choose if you want to buy dry food or wet food (slightly more expensive), shampoo to bathe your cat, pet insurance, and much more.

Here is a general estimation for the recurring expenses of owning a cat:

  • Food: $15 - $25 / month
  • Litter: $5 - $20 / month
  • Toys and Treats: $5 / month
  • Flea and Tick Prevention: $15 / month
  • Grooming Supplies: $25 / year
  • Vaccinations and Veterinary Checkups: $50 - $100 / year
  • Cat Scratchers: $0 - $100 / year 
  • Pet Insurance (optional): $175 / year

With recurring expenses, you are able to control your own budget for your cat. Some options to keep your recurring expenses low are buying food and litter in bulk, visiting low-cost veterinary clinics, making homemade toys and treats, and focusing on keeping your cat healthy and clean to avoid any diseases and infestations. Buying better quality food for your cat, buying litter that doesn’t clog up their system, religiously treating them with flea and tick prevention, and keeping up with their vet visits are all ways that you can keep your cat healthy in order to reduce any unexpected expenses down the line. Another way to ensure that unexpected expenses down the line do not ruin your wallet is to take out pet insurance. While this would add to your recurring expenses, it will protect you and your pet later down the line.

Additional Expenses Of Owning A Cat

There are several different expenses that you may encounter when owning a pet which depends on your personal living situation, career, and so much more. For example, if you rent an apartment or home as opposed to owning your own house, you may find that you have to pay a pet deposit or even pet rent. Usually a pet deposit ranges from $200 - $500 and pet rent can range from $10 - $30 a month. If you travel often, you may need to either invest in a cat carrier to bring your cat along with you (and pay additional fees wherever you stay) or pay for somebody to pet-sit your cat while you are away. If you work long hours, you may need to consider paying somebody to feed your cat breakfast or dinner. For those looking for a unique challenge, some cat owners train their cat to go on walks! This would be an additional expense for a harness and leash. However, this would be a great way to let them go outside and be active without being an outdoor cat (thus saving you money in unexpected costs of cat fights, infestations, and disease).

Unexpected Expenses Of Owning A Cat

In the unlikely and upsetting scenario that your cat needs medical attention, you may find yourself in a financial bind. Emergency veterinary services can be quite costly, especially if it’s something major. Because of this, it’s important to have a rainy day fund for your pet just like you do for yourself. Emergency surgeries can range anywhere from a small low-cost procedure to a surgery that costs multiple thousands of dollars. Another unexpected expense to consider is infestation control. If your cat tracks fleas inside the house and you find yourself with a full-blown case of fleas, then you may need to spend up to several hundred dollars to get it under control. This means flea medication, flea shampoo, bug bombs for the house, flea home spray, and sometimes even professional services like pest control and dry cleaning.

Although any cat owner would agree that cats are tiny angels, it’s no surprise that they can sometimes cause destruction. Cats like to scratch. Male cats sometimes spray to mark their territory. For this reason, you may want to consider the unexpected expenses that a cat can cause from damaging doorways, carpet, draperies, furniture, and other breakable items inside the house. It’s important to consider these unexpected expenses when owning a cat so that you are not blindsided if a situation like this occurs.


We know how costly it can be to own a cat. However, the benefits from having a forever friend should outweigh any number. If you don’t believe us, then read our article about the 13 benefits of having a cat. But if you are not ready to be a cat parent just yet, then try fostering instead. To learn more, then read about one cat parent’s fostering experience.

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