There are few things better in the world than the companionship of a loving and loyal pet. But, owning one is a huge responsibility, in terms of time, effort, and money. By choosing to become a cat owner, you are taking on responsibility for every aspect of their life from feeding, loving and playing with them, to ensuring they are fit and healthy. All of this comes at a cost, and you might be surprised at just how much a furry feline can cost over the course of a year.
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Initial Costs of Cat Ownership
The first year cost of cat ownership are understandably the highest, this is because of the range of one-off costs that you need to account for when considering adding a cat to your family. The ASPCA suggests that perspective owners should be ready to spend in excess of $1000 in the first year.
Firstly, there is the adoption fee to consider. Depending on where you get your cat from this could range from not having to pay anything up to hundreds of dollars. While choosing a cat that is advertised as ‘free to a good home’ might seem like a cost-effective start to your relationship, this is not always the case.
Shelters generally health screen animals before they are ready for adoption, the cost of this is included in the adoption fee and means that you have a clear picture of the animal’s state of health and likely veterinary requirements before you complete the adoption.
An animal purchased privately or given away for free may not have undergone such an assessment. This means that not only do you need to pay for this after adoption, but you could be faced with a range of illnesses and conditions that require life-long financial commitment.
As well as the initial adoption fee, you need to prepare your home for your new cat and ensure that they don’t have unwanted litters. Other initial costs to consider include:
- Neutering or spaying – $200
- Initial medical exam – $50
- Litter box – $25
- Cat scratching tower – $30
- Carrying crate / box – $40
- Cat harness and leash – $10
Total cost $355
It is worth remembering that these are only average costs for these items. A top of the range litter box can cost in excess of $150, while scratching posts start at around $5.95 and reach $40 and above. Also, while items such as litter boxes and harnesses are considered one-off costs, they may need to be replaced during the course of your cat’s life.
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Annual Cat Costs
While you may only need to replace a scratching post every few years, depending on how much it is used, some expenses are much more regular. Food, medical care, cat flea treatments, and toys all need to be purchased regularly, along with litter for the litter box and any medication required for ongoing conditions.
Health insurance for your pet is another yearly consideration. While it may be an ongoing expense that you would rather not pay, you need to weigh this cost against the potential costs of your pet having an accident or being diagnosed with a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment. The younger your cat is when you get them insured, the less that insurance should cost, waiting until they are older increases the risk of higher premiums because of the increased risk of injury and illness.
Here are the average costs that you need to consider on a yearly basis:
- Food – $220
- Medical exams – $150
- Cat litter – $144
- Cat toys and cat treats – $25
- Insurance – $175
On top of these costs, you need to set aside an emergency fund to cover unexpected costs. You may also want to add to the list things like the cost of a house sitter if you want to go on holiday or need to go away to work for a few day.
Don’t be tempted to think of treats and toys as optional extras. Keeping your pet mentally alert through providing play opportunities is just as important to their overall wellbeing as their physical health is. Bored cats can be just as destructive as bored dogs and treats are a great way of reinforcing positive behavior.
The costs listed above only cover the basics of owning a cat. If you want to consider other furniture for your cats, such as a window perch, pet bed, or climbing activity center, then these costs need to be included in your set up costs. If you want to take your cat out hiking with you or on holiday with you, then there are further costs to consider. Other optional costs include pet surveillance cameras, cat costumes, and anything else that you want to make your feline happy and comfortable.
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Reducing the Cost of Cat Ownership
Owning a cat is not cheap and you need to be prepared for costs to increase as your cat ages and prices rise. However, while you should never cut corners when it comes to your cat’s health and wellbeing, there are some things you can do to reduce the cost of cat ownership.
- Invest in quality cat food
It may sound counterproductive but buying a more expensive cat food could save you money in the longer term. High quality foods have more of the things that cats actually need and less filler. This means your cat is getting better nutrition and is less likely to suffer allergic reactions, weight gain, or experience poor health general health, which is a side effect of poor nutrition. As your cat gains more from the food they eat, they are less likely to overeat, meaning you buy less food, saving you money on food as well as vet’s bills.
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- Buy bulk
Food and litter are among the items that you can buy in bulk to save yourself money. As long as the containers the food is in are undamaged and airtight they will last, and litter just needs to be kept dry. When you shop in bulk you can also look for bargains without having to compromise on quality. You can wait until your preferred brand is on offer and then stock up.
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- Keep up to date with vaccinations
Getting your cat vaccinated is not cheap, but it is much cheaper than the alternative of them becoming ill and needing expensive treatment and medication. It’s also much less stressful knowing that your cat is fully protected.
- Flea treatments
Invest in quality flea treatments that are less likely to cause allergic reactions in your cat, and which are more likely to be effective. Ensure that you treat the whole house if your cat does have fleas. Taking action quickly is the best way to avoid additional costs and an out of control infestation. However, never be tempted to use dog flea treatments on your cat and never use treatments that are out of as both could make your pet very ill and could even be deadly.
Cat’s offer a lifetime of love any loyalty to their owners and are worth every cent that you pay out. However, it is important to ensure that you can afford the lifetime cost of a cat and to have emergency funds in place in case your situation changes. Taking time to do this now can save you from a great deal of stress and heartache later.
Check out New Cat Cheat Sheet.
- David F. Kramer, Keeping Your Pet When Money is Tight – Where to Find Help, PetMD