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How Much Does a Cat Cost?

Cat ownership cost, but how much? I’ve surveyed real cat owners. Below is the definite answer regarding the actual cost of cat ownership.

The median cost in terms of one-time expenses for the cat itself, including essential supplies, is $120. The median ongoing expenses for cat ownership such as cat food and insurance is $40 a month.

In this article, I’ll dig deeper into the cost of owning a cat. I’ll cover everything from the cat itself, necessary supplies to cat food, and pet insurance to calculate how much you’ll have to spend on getting set up with a cat, depending on what choices that you make.

What I Asked

I wanted to create something unique, not your average article that just gets the answer from another article and goes on for thousands of words with nothing interesting, so I made a survey using Google Forms that I posted to Reddit.

What I asked:

This is what I asked cat owners on Reddit.

What the form looked like:

This is what the form looked like that people on Reddit responded to.

This article’s purpose is to present and explain this data from the 90 of you that responded. And to those of you who responded: Thanks for making this article possible!

The Budget

For those of you who just want to find out how one-time expenses of $120 and ongoing expenses of $40 a month make sense, here’s my budget.

One-time Expenses

ItemOne-time cost
Cat itself$80
Cat tree$28.41
Cat litter box$18.99

According to my study, the median one-time expense was $120. According to my shopping list where I picked the top products on Amazon for each category and budgeted that the cat would cost around $80, the total one-time expenses turned out to be $127.40, very close to the surveyed $120.

Ongoing Expenses

ItemMonthly costs
Cat food$10
Cat litter$8.88
Cat insurance$29.16

According to my study, the median ongoing expenses were $40 a month. According to my shopping list where I picked one of the top cat food options on Amazon and budgeted that the cat insurance would be about $29.16, the total monthly expenses turned out to be $48.04, somewhat close to the surveyed $40.

I think that the reason that my monthly cost estimate is $8.04 more expensive than the median is that not everyone has cat insurance, something I recommend that everyone should have.

The Cat Itself

This is the number one factor that determines the total cost of you owning a cat, simply because this can range from literally nothing at all, to thousands of dollars. It all depends on what you’re after.

Since the median one-time expenses according to my not-so-scientific study I made using Reddit and Google Forms is $120, I think that it’s reasonable to budget for $80 for the cat, and $40 for the essential supplies.

Therefore, I’d say that you should have at least $80 ready to spend when going out looking for a cat to make yours.

Cat Tree

There are two things (apart from the cat) that I think are part of the absolute essentials that you need to get when buying a cat, there’s the cat tree, and there’s the cat litter.

The cat should have somewhere to climb, have a little view, and shorten those nails. It’s mandatory if your cat isn’t outdoors, but still probably appreciated by a cat that sometimes takes a little stroll in the woods.

I’ve found this one from Amazon that retails at $28.41, it’s one of the cheaper ones on there.

Cat Litter Box

If a cat tree is mandatory, this is, well, industry standard? It doesn’t matter if your cat lives indoors, if it’s exploring the woods, or even if it’s about to board the next Elon Musk rocket to Mars, it needs a cat litter.

It doesn’t have to be a part of the modernist movement and follow a strict Scandinavian contemporary look, it just has to provide a safe space for your cat when it doesn’t want to go outside.

I’ve found this one from Amazon that retails at $18.99, it might be the cheapest one on there.

Cat Food

Your cat needs food, and at least most of that food will have to be provided by you. If your cat lives indoors, all of it has to be provided by you.

There are tons of different cat foods, and it’s really hard to know what to pick. Since this article isn’t strictly about cat food, I just picked one of the most well-known brands and one of that brand’s most ordered variants.

I picked this dry food for cats that had a 16 pounds package for $40.99. Since most cats need around 4 pounds of cat food a month, this package lasts for 4 months and therefore costs you just about $10 a month.

I picked the biggest size since that was the cheapest, in terms of price per pound.

Cat Litter

When it comes to cat litter, there’s an extreme amount of options, and it all depends on what you and your cat prefer. I recommend the Fresh Step litter since it’s cheap and works well, but obviously, your cat might feel differently.

For a single cat, a 14-pound bag is usually enough to last a month. Therefore, this stuff will cost you $8.88 a month.

Cat Insurance

This one is just about as important as it’s hard to calculate. Mostly since, unlike other supplies, the price of cat insurance depends on what kind of cat that you’d like to insure, where you live, what you’d like the insurance to cover, and thousands of other factors.

However, I had to include it when comparing, and according to a report by ValuePenguin, the average cost for cat insurance that includes accident and illness coverage is $29.16.

I’d highly recommend getting this type of cat insurance if you otherwise can’t afford to treat your cat by paying yourself. If you feel that an accident-only type of insurance is enough for your needs, that gets the cost down from $29.16 to $10.51.

I’d however think twice before getting any pet insurance that doesn’t cover illness since that’s mostly what they’re used for.

Things That Might Come Up

Here, I’ve only included the basics. What every cat needs. However, there’s a lot of stuff that some cat needs. Your cat will probably end up needing something on this list. Therefore, here’s additional stuff that your cat might need, that might end up costing you:

  1. Canned cat food. Good for kidney health, and helps older cats from gaining too much weight.
  2. Calming cat pheromone. Some cats can be aggressive without this.
  3. Vaccines. Not something that should be neglected, and also something that sometimes is ongoing.
  4. Nail trimming. I do this myself, but some cats are very hard to handle, therefore, you might need to go to a professional.
  5. Flea and worm prevention. Very important obviously, especially if your cat is free to roam outdoors.
  6. Cleaning supplies. Often, you need some cleaning supplies specifically for carpet and some kind of enzyme cleaner. Good to have for when your cat vomits on the carpet or misses the litter.
  7. Occasional pet sitter. Everyone needs a little vacation now and then, and not everyone has suitable neighbors that want to watch their cat. Therefore, you’ll probably have to get a pet sitter at some point.

Final Thoughts

A cat is a relatively cheap animal to take care of in a good and accommodating way, much cheaper than dogs for example. Fully-featured cat insurance goes for about $29.16, the same insurance coverage for a dog goes for about $48.78. That’s a big difference. There are also not too many accessories needed when getting a cat, compared to many other animals.

We’ve all heard that time is money, and it is. This is also where the cat shines, you don’t have to spend nearly as much time caring for a cat when comparing to time spent caring for other animals, like dogs for example. A cat requires you to be there, you don’t have to work from home all day, you also don’t have to take it on walks several times a day, you just have to be there and not be alone all of the time. However, don’t get a very social cat such as the Siamese if you plan on working anywhere that’s not home, or if you’re unsure about your working situation in a few years from now.

However, make sure to look forward when planning to take care of a cat, not only when it comes to time, but also to finance. A total cost of $48.04 a month might not be that much to you today, but are you sure that it isn’t in a year? Or 17? According to ASPCA, the life expectancy of a cat is about 13-17 years. Keep that in mind, since a stable home is more important than anything else mentioned in this article.