The Costs of Cat Ownership – Can You Afford a Cat?

Adopting a new cat or kitten is exciting, but it’s important to understand the initial and long-term costs of cat ownership before you actually bring your kitty home. There are the initial expenses of purchasing supplies to prepare for your new cat, and there are recurring expenses that you’ll incur throughout the year and over the cat’s lifetime. In addition, there are often unanticipated veterinary costs that can happen at any time during the year that need to be factored in to your annual expenses.


Initial Expenses
Type of Expense Food – Wet & Dry (for 2+ weeks) Cheaper vs. Premium/High Quality $40 – $65
Spay / Neuter (Male vs. Female) $45 – $100+
Any Needed Vaccines, Deworming, Basic Routine Exam with a Veterinarian (Establish Baseline/Check Overall Health) $100
Microchipping $40 – $50
Food & Water Bowls $15 – $25
Litterbox $25 – $50
Litter $20 – $40
Cat Carrier $25 – $65
Scratching Post and/or Board (Tall is best) $25 – $70
Toys, Misc. Cat Supplies (replacing or adding cat beds, scratching posts, etc.) $25 – $40
Initial Total $360 – $600
 Cat Carrier

Cat carriers are needed for trips to the vet, emergencies, disasters, and for travel. It’s important to purchase a sturdy carrier, one that doesn’t collapse or fold, but provides structure and durability so your cat won’t be injured inside the carrier. The cat should have ample room to move and turn around and stand up in case they’re in the carrier for a prolonged period of time. It’s a one-time purchase so buy a quality carrier that will last. Never buy a cardboard carrier, cats can get injured or lost when using them. Good cat carriers will cost between $40 – $65.


Litterboxes vary in size, style and design, but most importantly you want to purchase one that has enough room for your cat to turn around and stand up easily, or your kitten can grow into. Don’t buy a litterbox that is too small, it’s a one-time purchase, so better to buy a large box that your cat will feel comfortable using. Make sure it has a roof or top, as cats like privacy, and also an opening in the front. Be sure to put the litterbox in a convenient, quiet, private place for your cat that is not heavily trafficked with people walking by. Litterboxes cost between $25 – $50 depending on the size.

Cat Litter

There are many types of litter today – recycled newspaper, pine pellets or sawdust, cedar chips, wheat or corn-based, silica gel beads and crystals, or old-fashioned granulated clay litter. There are litters that are fragranced and fragrance-free, offer odor control, clumping or non-clumping, are flushable, and have less-tracking formulas. So much to choose from! Research and many tests have proven cats prefer clumping litter and unscented (cats hate fragrance) litter. Clay produces dust for you and your cat, which can irritate cat’s upper respiratory system and yours as well. Make sure yours is dust-free. I have tried them all and prefer wheat litter, SweatScoop. Litter costs between $20 – $40 per bag, depending on the type and size of the bag.

Food & Water Bowls

The safest materials for cat food bowls are glass, stainless steel, and some ceramics (be careful of paint, and lead in paint). Avoid plastic altogether. Here’s my research on cat food and water bowls. Pyrex or Corning glass makes great bowls for feeding and water, you can find them at Target and Walmart. Water and food bowls will cost between $15 – $25, depending on how many you buy and size.

Cat Scratchers – Boards and Posts

Cats need to scratch—to stretch and flex their entire body, to condition their claws and paws, to leave their scent, and to groom their nails. Indoor cats need objects for scratching, so both horizontal and vertical cat scratchers are important for your cat’s happiness and natural behavior. For a cat post, get one that is tall enough to let your cat stretch its entire body vertically. Taller is better—avoid buying one too small that is ineffective for them. Personally, I like the SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post. For scratching boards, there are many styles to choose from. You can have scratchers in various places of your home that will keep your cats from scratching the furniture and allow them to spontaneously stretch and scratch. Scratchers range from $25 – $70, for one.

Cat Trees

Cat trees come in many shapes and sizes today and are made of carpet and sisal. Cat trees provide both vertical climbing and scratching, elevation which cats love, and places to sleep and hide. They are great for play, exercise, scratching and sleeping. Cat trees range from $75 – $175, from simple to more elaborate ones. Go for the best one you can afford.

Cat Beds

Cats love to curl up in a protected space of their own. If you buy a cat bed, you want to buy a fabric that’s washable, soft and made of cotton or polyester—not foam. Cats like to feel protected and a cat bed that surrounds them—keeps them warm and gives them a space of their own. Where you put the cat bed is as important as the cat bed itself—so consider a place where your cat likes to sleep or nap, or hide. I like to get several of them, for on the floor, bed and in a closet. Cat beds range from $15 – $30+ and up depending on material, size and details.

Cat Toys

Kittens and cats love to play and there are many good, inexpensive cat toys. Be sure to buy toys that are safe, and don’t have strings, feathers, or small beads that can be ingested. Cats love catnip and toys that have catnip inside. Many of the cat toys that cats love are posted on our Great Cat Products page, like the Cat Charmer, Cat Springs, the Collapsible Tunnel, and catnip toys. Toys range from $3 – $40.


Food – Kittens

Feeding your kitten food formulated for kittens is critical to support your kitten’s growth, development, and nutritional needs. Kittens require more calories and need to eat more often than adult cats—at least 3-4 meals a day. Also, kittens have greater nutritional requirements for vitamins, minerals, protein, and amino acids than adults do. So feed your kitten formulated kitten food until they are one year old. This will get your kitten off to a great, healthy start in life. Good quality kitten food brands include Wellness, Instinct for Kittens, Wellness CORE, and Blue Buffalo. There are cheaper brands but the ingredients are less nutritious and healthy.

Food – Adults

Adult cats need high quality, well-balanced, healthy premium food that provides enough protein, fats, amino acids, moisture, and essential nutrients—twice a day. Choose a diet that is primarily from meat-based proteins not grain-based proteins. Always check the label to see where the protein is coming from, and make sure there is no corn, corn-gluten, corn meal, wheat, soy, meat by-products, dyes, or gluten meal on the ingredient label. Canned food is generally considered much better and healthier for cats, as the protein content is higher, there’s more moisture in the food, and research has shown cats fed canned food have fewer incidences of chronic disease like kidney disease, cystitis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, constipation, obesity, and live longer. Wet food is especially important to avoid kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Feed only very small amounts of dry food, if you do at all.

Cat Litter – is noted above

Litter costs between $20 – $40 per bag, depending on type and size of bag.

Veterinary Visits

Maintaining your cat’s good health will require an annual veterinary well-check. This is not about getting vaccines, but about giving your cat a full and complete physical exam by a vet at least once a year, and for cats over 12 or 14 years of age, visits should be twice a year. These are called “nose to tail” well visits and they will check your cat’s mouth, teeth, and gums; eyes and ears; listen to the heart and lungs; feel the kidneys; check for signs of disease or illness; and check for fluctuations in weight and a normal temperature. These visits are a time to mention any concerns about your cat and address them. The cost is a routine checkup, plus possible blood and urine tests and other tests.

Annual Costs of Owning a Cat

Yearly Expenses
Type of Expense Food – Wet & Dry (premium quality) $1040 – $1560
Litter $520 – $1040
Routine Veterinary Care – annual exam + any needed routine tests, care, treatments, antibiotics $100 – $500
Preventive Medications and Supplements – if needed $100 – $200
Pet Sitters or Boarding – $40 per day average (2 feedings) for one week $280
Toys, Misc. Cat Supplies – replacing or adding cat beds, trees, scratching posts $50 – $100
Yearly Total $1990 – $3410
Average Monthly Cost of Owning a Cat $165 – $284

Here’s more about preparing to adopt a cat.