How Much Do Cats Cost, Actually?

Written by Dayva Segal
Updated: October 9, 2022
Image Credit Diana Golysheva/Shutterstock.com
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Getting a furry feline friend to keep you company is always a great idea. However, before you make the final decision, it’s important to make sure you’ll be able to provide everything that your cat will need to lead a happy, healthy life. So, you must consider all the costs involved before pulling the trigger and bringing a cute little furball into your life. Keep reading for an estimated cost both for the initial cost of getting a cat, and then the ongoing needs a cat has throughout its life.

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Cat?

The cost to get just a cat depends on where you get your cat. It can range from zilch to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the situation.

Animal Shelters

Many animal shelters allow you to get a cat for less than $200. The adoption fee covers all the expenses for the cat while it was under their care. Adoption fees can be as low as $50 at some shelters. However, you can also keep your eyes peeled for special events. When shelters get overcrowded, they may have special adoption events with lower adoption fees or sometimes even no fees at all.

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Breeders

If you want to buy a cat from a breeder, the cost depends on the breed. For example, a Savannah cat can run you up to $50,000! Other breeds like the hairless sphinx can run up to $3,000. However, purebred cats may also be more expensive to care for over time due to health issues from problems with the small gene pool used for breeding.

Free Cats

Once in a while, you can get a cat for free. However, it isn’t usually planned. You may befriend a feral street cat, find one in your neighborhood, or see an ad for someone giving away a cat. I actually got my cat for free through a friend of a friend. Their family member had to move and would not be able to keep their cat with them in their next home. It was very lucky for me because my cat is amazing!

One Time Cat Costs: Medical

When you get a cat, you may have to pay to have it spayed or neutered. This usually costs around $150. You may also choose to have the cat screened for any health issues. So, you may opt for x-rays or ultrasounds to make sure everything is going OK with your new pal. X-rays for cats cost anywhere from $100 to $250. Ultrasounds cost between $250 and $500.

You may also choose to get a microchip put in your cat. That way, if it ever gets lost, it will be even easier to get your cat back quickly. Microchipping usually costs around $50.

One Time Cat Costs: The Must-Haves

When you get your cat, there are a few things you will need to buy right off the bat. If you’re strapped for cash, you might be able to find these things for free or low cost on neighborhood marketplaces like Craiglist or Nextdoor.

Litter Box & Scoop

A litter box could be as simple and inexpensive as a plastic tub. However, many pet owners find that trying a high-sided litter box or getting a furniture enclosure for the litter box help with the smells and mess that can come with the litter box. Don’t forget to get a litter scoop, although if you get a self-cleaning litter box you won’t need one! Litter boxes range in price from $7 for a simple pan to $150 or more for an automatic self-cleaning litter box. Scoops, if not included with your litter box purchase, run anywhere from $2 to $15.

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Cat Carrier

You need to have a way to transport your cat. Most cats aren’t as eager as a dog to go on a leash and go out into the world. So, an enclosed soft or hard carrier is best. Some cat carriers are designed like shoulder bags and others are more like backpacks. There are even strollers designed for cats! Don’t skip this item – it is essential if you ever need to leave in an emergency or take your cat to the vet unexpectedly. Cat carriers start around $20 and go up from there.

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Collar and Tag

Even if your cat will only stay indoors, it should still have a collar and a tag. The tag should include your name and contact information. That way if your cat does sneak out, you will be more likely to get it back. The cost of a collar depends on the style. There are luxurious designer cat collars that can run you several hundred dollars. However, the average cat collar costs between $10 and $40.

Food and Water Bowls

If you’re on a budget, you can just use some bowls you have lying around the house. Cats don’t usually need anything special when it comes to bowls. However, if you want to have something cute and especially for them, there are some specialty bowls that are designed with your cat in mind. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $10 to $50 on a cat bowl.

Scratching Posts

Cats need toys and scratching materials to be happy. If they don’t have a scratching post, they will likely scratch up your furniture instead. They have a natural instinct to scratch things in order to trim their claws and leave their scent on things in their living spaces. Get your cat a scratching post to save your couch. You can find simple cardboard scratching posts for $5 or less. However, there are also beautifully designed scratching posts that look like modern art available for several hundred dollars.

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Toys

A bored cat might be more likely to get into mischief. So, you need to provide them with some cat toys. If you don’t have much to spend, a shoelace, piece of yarn, or a cardboard box can give your cat hours of entertainment. However, there are also engaging toys on the market that can keep them busy. They range from a small fake mouse they can bat around to interactive and electronic cat toys that move. Cat toys cost anywhere from $5 to $30.

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One Time Cat Costs: Optional

Some things are optional for cats, so if you’re trying to keep your wallet happy, you might want to skip them or find a budget option.

Cat Bed

Cats love to curl up in a bed that is just for them, but they are usually just as happy to snuggle on a fuzzy blanket. There are several different types of cat beds including enclosed cat beds, elevated cat beds, and themed cat beds. If you really want to spoil your feline friend, get them a heated cat bed. They won’t want to leave the warm and cozy spot. There is so much variety out there! Cat beds have a wide price range. They start at around $15 for the most basic models and can cost as much as $300 for something more luxurious.

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Cat Cam

If you want to keep an eye on your cat while you’re away, a cat cam is a great way to do that. Some cameras even let you talk to your cat from afar to comfort them. Pet camera systems can cost anywhere from $35 to $200.

Cat Brush

Experts say that brushing your cat a couple of times a week will help them to maintain a healthy coat. Even though they clean themselves, if you brush them, they will have fewer hairballs and will shed less all over the furniture. A brush specifically designed for a cat will run you $5 to $15.

One Time Cat Costs: Overview

So, if you go the cheapest route and get a free cat, and buy the least expensive cat items, it could cost as little as $50 or $60 right off the bat. If you do all of the medical checks and get your new cat spayed or neutered, you may be looking at $400 or $500 as a first-time expense for your cat. However, it only goes up from there. If you get a designer breed from a breeder and go with luxurious cat products, you could be spending thousands of dollars. There is a cat for every budget. As long as you have enough for the basics and a loving heart for a kitty, you’ll do great.

Recurring Cat Costs: The Must-Haves

Once you’ve bought your cat all of the things they need in the beginning, there will be recurring cat costs to consider.

Cat Food

Different cats need different kinds of cat food. There are foods specifically for kittens, adult cats, and senior cats. There are also special cat foods for kitties that have certain health conditions. Ask your vet about what type of food would be right for your cat. If you go with the most basic grocery store food, you may expect to pay around $150 per year for cat food. If you go with an all-natural cat food, or if your cat requires a prescription cat food, you will be paying $300-$500 or more per year on food.

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Kitty Litter

There are several different types of kitty litter, and they all have different costs. Clay-based litters are usually the most affordable and will run you between $30 and $75 per year. Silica-based litters are a bit more expensive and can cost you $120 to $300 per year. There are other types of litter like pine, walnut shell, and wheat litter. However, clay and silica litters are the most popular.

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Healthcare

This cost is a bit unpredictable. At the very minimum, you should take your cat to the vet once a year for a check-up. This will cost you around $100, or perhaps a bit more depending on where you live. However, your cat may have emergency medical expenses come up at any time. Emergency care for a cat can cost several thousand dollars.

Some cat breeds are prone to medical conditions, but other cats just get into trouble. For example, if your cat eats a bobby pin, you could end up spending around $3,000 on a trip to the ER.

Additionally, over the years, your cat may require treatment for fleas, which is around $50, or vaccination booster shots, also around $50. If your cat goes outside and eats wild animals, they will also need worm prevention medication.

So, How Much Does it Really Cost to Own a Cat?

After the initial purchase which starts at around $50 and goes up from there, it costs anywhere from around $300 per year or $25 per month to own a cat if you’re sticking to a low budget. However, the sky is the limit. If you want to spoil your cat, there are always luxurious or high-end options for everything from cat food to cat furniture. Make sure to save an emergency fund in case your cat needs emergency medical care, because that is the most expensive part of owning a cat, and you never know when that is going to happen.

If you have a cat and no longer have enough money to care for them, don’t despair. There are organizations, like the Humane Society, that can connect you with resources to afford essentials like food or healthcare for your cat. Their goal is to keep you and your cat together while getting them the care they need.

how much do cats cost
Gray fluffy cat is sitting in the green grass.
Diana Golysheva/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer who has been working in the field of content creation and digital marketing for more than seven years. My favorite topics to write about include health, animals, fitness, and nutrition, though as a professional content provider and ghostwriter, I can easily write about pretty much anything! I love all animals and have been some form of vegetarian or vegan for over 10 years. My favorite animals are cats, dogs, and chickens, especially my own cat, Tula.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Cat?

After the initial purchase which starts at around $50 and goes up from there, it costs anywhere from around $300 per year or $25 per month to own a cat if you’re sticking to a low budget. However, the sky is the limit. If you want to spoil your cat, there are always luxurious or high-end options for everything from cat food to cat furniture.

What is the average annual cost of owning a cat?

It costs anywhere from around $300 per year or $25 per month to own a cat.

How much is cat food monthly?

If you go with the most basic grocery store food, you may expect to pay around $150 per year for cat food.

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