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Total cost of cat ownership

Choosing to share your life with a cat can be an incredible bonding experience. Don’t get caught off guard with cat ownership costs. Here some budget items to consider before bringing your feline companion home.

Total cost of cat ownership

You’ve decided it’s time to get a cat and we congratulate you! While owning a cat is a lot of fuzzy snuggles and playtime, their wellness is a priority. Beginning with a visit to the veterinarian, their care is your responsibility, and it continues with finding the supplies including a cat box, litter, toys, food, and treats.

The first year of cat ownership is estimated to cost $1,070, and about $500 per year, thereafter. Here’s a breakdown of those costs.

Cat Health And Wellness

During the initial months of cat ownership, it is recommended that your new pet get a basic veterinarian exam along with vaccinations. A basic exam for cats is estimated to cost $145, plus an additional $70 for vaccinations. Consider the following vaccinations: feline distemper, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, and rabies. Vaccinations begin at 4 to 6 weeks of age, with boosters occurring annually. Here are critical feline vaccines and their schedules.

At 8 weeks to 6 months of age, spaying and neutering are commonly performed, with the procedure cost averaging $145. Municipalities and veterinarians have programs for financed, discounted, or even free procedures—so it’s worth your time to research. Sterilizing your cat can reduce the risk for diseases—including certain types of cancer—and minimize unwanted behaviors, like spraying.

As your cat ages, annual wellness exams are important for ensuring your cat is healthy. Early detection of illness—by notating eating/drinking habits, physical abnormalities, behavioral or mobility changes—may increase treatment options and effectiveness. Also, you may have to adjust your budget to account for treatment costs related to chronic or senior illnesses or injuries, later in your cat’s life.

Cat Food And Treats

If you are welcoming a new cat into your home, you will need to make a one-time investment in food and water dishes. The cost of these items depends on whether you choose to invest in high-tech pet food products—like an automatic food dispenser and water fountain—or if you want to keep it simple with (non-tech) dishes. Dish materials, colors, and size vary, and costs can range from $2 to $50. According to Petco, if you go the high-tech route, water fountains can range from $35 to $125.

It is recommended that you choose a cat food that is formulated for the cat’s age (kitten vs. adult/senior), and as a basic guideline, choose a food that lists meat before carbohydrates and fillers. Cat food cost may vary based on formulation and special dietary needs (bland diet, prescription food for chronic health issues, etc.), but the average cost is estimated to be $145 per year per cat. Cat treats—again, varying in ingredients and quality—are an additional cost.

You may opt to make homemade pet food—the cost of this will vary based on ingredients and effort. If you decide to go the DIY pet food route, be sure to check with your veterinarian on important nutrients and ingredients to include. A common deficiency found in homemade cat food recipes is a lack of taurine—a critical amino acid for cats.

Cat Grooming And Supplies

When it comes to grooming your cat, the least expensive route is to care for them at home. Grooming supplies including hypoallergenic, shed control shampoos start at $5 per bottle, and brushes average the same price and last for years. (So, your annual investment could be less than $2 per bath.)

If you choose to take your pet to a professional groomer, the cost for cat grooming can range from $40-60 depending on hair length, package selected, and special services (ex. flea bath, sanitary shaving, etc.). Note: A professional groomer will likely require current vaccinations.

When it comes to choosing the cat box and litter, your feline’s preferences will factor in greatly. The least expensive alternative is a tray from a home improvement store or online vendor for $6-15, in contrast to a self-cleaning cat box option—like the Litter Robot III Open Air (with a price tag of $449). In the middle of the spectrum, you’ll find myriad (non-tech) options for covered, filtered, and open litter boxes in a variety of colors and sizes.

Litter is a separate, ongoing cost based on the material (clay, cedar, recycled paper, etc.) and amount utilized. Generally, it averages $200 per year.

Other Cat Care Considerations

Here’s a brief list of miscellaneous items to consider when planning your cat’s care:

  • Toys. Annual cost for toys is $25-55, scratching post ($15) and miscellaneous expenses at $30-45. Save money with frequent buyer programs and online specials.

  • Carrier. Not only that, but you will need a carrier to transport your cat and those can range in cost from $100-200.

  • Identification.The cost of a collar ranges from $10-20 (depending on size, decoration, etc.) and the identification tag is an additional cost. It is recommended that you microchip your cat—averaging about $45—to increase your chance of finding them if they become lost.

  • Boarding and Pet Sitters. If you plan to travel for work or pleasure, you may need to board your cat. You may also opt to hire a pet sitter to make house visits during your travels.

  • Pet Deposits. If you rent your home, you may want to discuss deposit requirements with the owner or management company. Some rentals may require a one-time, non-refundable deposit, others may add an additional fee to the monthly rental cost.

Cat Health Insurance

Pet insurance can ease the burden of unforeseen health care expenses. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average premium for a cat insurance policy was just under $28 per month in 2017. Most pet insurance plans cover catastrophic events—new injuries and illnesses—and some companies offer additional wellness and routine care options.

Be sure to research all pet insurance products to find an insurer that meets your pet’s health care needs and your budget expectations. Customer and product review sites are useful, but keep in mind, some pet insurance review websites accept membership fees from providers in exchange for placement on their site. Also, it is important to read the contract terms thoroughly, as dissatisfaction often stems from misaligned expectations or misunderstanding of coverage terms.

Note: Figo’s interactive calculator allows you to estimate the costs of cat (or dog) veterinarian bills, deductibles, and out of pocket expenses—with and without pet insurance.


Making the decision to get a cat shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re thinking about getting a cat, consider the first-year costs of approximately $1,000, plus ongoing annual costs of $500. Start by reviewing your current family budget and estimate the monthly impact of pet expenses. Once you have a routine for veterinarian visits, daily care, and grooming, you and your cat are sure to enjoy a happy life together!

Anne McAuley Lopez is a professional blogger and the founder of Blogging Badass. Since 2010, she has worked with clients to create content that tells the story of their business and connects them to their target market. It could be argued that she knows entirely too much about termites, retirement planning, court reporting, Alaskan fishing and mining, and social media—which makes her a great blogger and trivia night partner. When she’s not showing off her mad skillz, Anne can be found spending time with her husband, watching romantic comedies, eating tacos, or walking her dog.

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