I have two cats. They are old man cats now, turning 13 this month. I’ve never really thought about what they cost me per month or per year. So I decided to sit down and do the math.
I lucked out and got these two cats for free – they were strays who were being taken care of by people who couldn’t keep them. But if you’re looking for a cat at a shelter, be ready to pay anywhere from $50-$150 in adoption fees. Younger cats are typically more expensive. And you have to remember that those adoption fees cover a lot of medical care for the cat. Most shelters won’t adopt out a cat that hasn’t been spayed or neutered, for example. Those surgeries can cost $200 or more if you’re paying them on your own. So in many ways, a shelter cat is a “bargain.”
Of course, these are up front fees, so you’ll have to factor them in for the first year of owning your cat.
My old man cats eat special dietary food. I order the dry food online, and it costs me around $60 every three months. Not so bad. I also supplement with canned wet food. That runs about $15 a month, give or take. Let’s say I also spend $5 a month on treats. Because they are spoiled cats. And they deserve it. This adds up to $480 a year, or $240 a year for one cat. I would take an educated guess that if you don’t need special food, you can probably spend about $150 a year.
I spare no expense when it comes to veterinary care for my cats. Since my cats aged into “senior” territory, my vet recommends annual bloodwork to make sure they’re staying healthy and to catch any medical issues early. It’s optional, but I believe it’s a worthwhile option. I take them to the vet together, so I get somewhat of a break for the visit itself, but this is still a major part of my annual cat budget.
Last year, my total vet expenses were $875. And this was a healthy year. No medical issues, no teeth cleanings, just an annual visit and some bloodwork, plus the various fees to the county. I am aware this is high, partially because of the area I live in and partially because I choose the optional extras. If I just took them in for exams and required vaccinations, things would be cheaper. And again, I’m doing the math for two cats. So for one cat, let’s call it $440 (because I’m not sure how big of a discount I get for the double visit).
Of course, if your cat gets sick, you will have additional medical expenses and it’s something to be prepared for.
Cat Litter and Other “Stuff”
Cat litter easily costs $200 a year. It’s an annoying expense, but well, I’m not going to go without it. And trust me, you don’t want to cheap out on your cat litter. You’ll just end up buying more of it, dealing with a stinky house, and probably have litter tracked all over your house.
Then there’s all the other stuff. Litter boxes don’t last forever, and well, sometimes you just get suckered into buying a cat toy or two. Let’s say that comes to $25 a year, but you can easily keep that much lower.
Pet Sitting Fees
One big advantage to cats is that you don’t need someone to come in and walk them every day. Mine are content to sleep all day until I get home. And if I’m just out of town for a long weekend, I just put out extra food and water and don’t worry about them. But when I’m gone for an extended period of time (more than a long weekend), I have a pet sitter come in.
My pet sitter charges $25 per visit for two cats. I’m happy to pay it. She is someone I trust, has great certifications, she has cared for my cats for years, and she also does stuff like get the mail and water the plants and makes sure that the house doesn’t look empty while I’m gone.
These costs can vary a lot depending on where you live and who you hire to care for your cat. You may be able to have a friend do it for free, or maybe a neighbor kid will do it for $5 rather than $25. You may have to board your cat at a kennel, which will be more expensive.
I’m going to list this at $100 a year per cat, which is less than I paid last year, but your rates will vary significantly.
Total Cost of Cat Ownership
Based on this rough estimate, owning a healthy senior cat costs me just over $1000 a year per cat. That’s not a small amount of money, but it’s actually lower than I anticipated.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention pet insurance. I don’t have pet insurance. After doing some research into what it paid, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
I own my own home, so I don’t have any sort of pet fees to an apartment complex. If you rent, be sure to look into pet fees. At my last apartment, I paid $35 a month per cat to live there. Looking back on it, that seems incredibly high.
I also didn’t include the cost of lint rollers, which, when you own a long-haired cat who is a professional when it comes to getting fur on your clothes, well, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Owning a cat is not an inexpensive prospect, but I consider it money well spent. I enjoy their company, I think they enjoy mine from time to time, and it’s always nice to wake up with a furry little body curled up next to me. Until they start yowling for breakfast.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.