How Much Does a Cat Cost?

Before you adopt, paws and reflect on the fees of owning a feline.

How much does a cat cost? Well, like most good things in life, a lot of cats are free. According to the American Pet Products Association survey of 2018, approximately 32 percent of adopted cats were stray animals before their owners took them in. Though many families do find their feline friends on the street, adoption costs that include necessary testing and vaccination costs still have the potential to add up. The price of cat adoption fees can be as low as $50 for older cats, or thousands of dollars for pure-bred “designer” cats from breeders.  

How much does a cat cost to neuter?

To ensure that you don’t end up with grand-kittens, it’s important to spay or neuter a new cat. According to Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM, the cost of spaying or neutering your pet can put you back between $100 to $300. With a quick cost-benefit analysis, it’s easy to see that this procedure will cost less than raising a brand new litter of kittens or paying vet costs for a pregnant pet. 

How much does a cat cost to chip?

Many cat owners find peace of mind in microchipping their pets, knowing that if their cat escapes, it can be identified and brought home safely. “Many shelters and rescue organizations include microchipping in the cost of their adoption fee, which can make the cost of the microchip even less than $50,” says cat behaviorist Marci Koski of tuftandpaw.com. Adoption fees may also cover the cost of spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, and other expenses. It really is more economical to adopt from a shelter and have all of those things done at once.” Some leading microchip brands charge a membership fee for their services, with one leading brand charging $19.99/year. Here’s what to do if your pet goes missing. 

How much does a cat cost to vaccinate?

When it comes to your cat’s health, an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. “Your cat will need yearly vaccines which will run around $200 or more depending on the area you live in,” says Dr. Ochoa. “If your cat goes outside, they will need flea, tick, and heartworm prevention.” Dr. Adam Christman of Brick Town Veterinary Hospital agrees, stating “Having a cat on monthly flea and tick prevention such as Revolution-Plus helps minimize intestinal parasites (roundworms and hookworms) as well as fleas, ticks, heartworm, and ear mites,” A parasite-prevention medication such as this can cost around $60 for a six month supply, or $120 per year. 

The costs of indoor vs. outdoor cats

The life of a wayfaring outdoor cat seems enticing and adventurous, but all adventures have their risks. Dr. Christman wants cat owners to know that their outdoor pets are more prone to injuries and infections. “The most common cat injuries I see in practice include abscesses, puncture wounds, fractured limbs, and dental disease,” says Christman. Because of the unpredictable nature of the wild, wandering cats are in far greater danger than cats who live inside, and can even have traumatic experiences with “catfights, fights with other animals, being hit by cars, toxicity, and infectious diseases,” Christman notes. “These injuries are relatively inexpensive.  However, if fractures are involved or anything requiring surgery is warranted, then the cost to repair their furbabies can be easily over $1,000.” Though indoor cats are likely to stay safer and be healthier, know about these hidden dangers for your pets at home.

How much does a cat carrier cost? 

Since cats are natural wanderers, it doesn’t seem fair that an indoor cat should be stuck inside all day without a chance to see the world. It may look silly, but walking a cat on a leash can be beneficial to a cat’s happiness, according to feline behaviorist Koski, who believes that using a harness with an indoor cat can provide a “fun and safe opportunity for enrichment that both cat and human can enjoy together.” If this activity isn’t right for your pet, owners might consider a fun cat backpack or a traditional cat carrier for $40 

Beautiful tabby cat sitting next to a food plate placed on the wooden floor and eating wet tin food. Selective focusVeera/ShutterstockHow much does it cost to feed a cat? 

How much does a cat cost to feed? It depends. A healthy feline diet supplies the necessary nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins that will keep your pet in tip-top shape. The ASPCA estimates the yearly cost of feeding a cat to be $224, but the price of cat food will vary greatly between each cat owner. Pet parents are increasingly likely to feed their animals as they would themselves, whether it’s on the less expensive side, or from brands that use organic ingredients Regardless of these variables, one thing is for sure: cats need meat. As obligate carnivores, they need to eat meat to survive and don’t derive much nutrition from vegetables and grains, or from these other human foods you should never give your cat. In general, buying from pet food brands with a long company history and nutritionists on staff is the safest bet for your pet. 

How much is a vet visit?

The price of a cat’s healthcare will vary in each individual pet, due to factors such as breed, genetic predispositions to disease, and even whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor pet. If you adopt a purebred cat, you can expect some added medical costs along with them. Veterinarian Dr. Adam Christman notes that some breeds of cat are more prone to health issues, so it’s important to do your research. “It’s always advisable to consult with your veterinarian first before purchasing a purebred cat.  Do your homework and research so you know what you may be getting yourself into both financially and emotionally.” In 2018, The Humane Society estimated the yearly cost of feline veterinary care to be $890. 

How much does cat litter cost? 

Litter boxes are probably the most necessary cat accessory, and their purchase price is usually between $20 and $30. On most merchandising sites, 40 pounds of cat litter costs $25 and will have to be purchased four times per year with typical usage.  Is your kitty litter not enough? Find out ways to get rid of that cat pee smell.

How much does it cost to keep a cat happy?

Once your cat is safe and healthy, you can spend on the fun stuff. Koski recommends scratching posts because they “allow a full-body stretch to help cats stretch and condition back muscles.” Dr. Ochoa recommends this $25 scratching post with a hammock—she even has one for her own cat! Ochoa also likes to feed her cat Greenies Treatswhich are good for preventing tartar and will run you $10 for a large box. According to the American Pet Products Association, cat owners spend $56 per year on treats.   

Add it all up: how much does a cat cost in total?

So, how much does a cat cost? We estimate at least $1,749 in the first year, with an added initial price for more expensive cats, or possible medical emergencies. It’s clear that owning a cat is a substantial financial responsibility, so it’s important to think about the commitment you’re making before you adopt your wise, playful companion. Ready to adopt? Follow these tips for giving your pet a long and healthy life.

Dani Walpole
Dani Walpole is an Editorial Intern at Reader's Digest. She is a senior at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she is completing her degrees in Digital Media Production and English: Creative Writing. At SUNY, she works for WFNP 88.7 and writes for The New Paltz Oracle and The Teller Magazine. She is passionate about travel, rock music, and being employed after graduation.