Having a pet can be an amazing experience.
Nothing beats snuggling up for a nap with a fuzzy cat, or coming home to an excitable puppy who has been WAITING FOR YOU ALL DAY!!!
But pet ownership isn’t all kitten kisses and puppy love, and before you adopt a furry friend, you need to be sure you’re ready for the responsibility that comes with keeping an animal alive and happy.
Every year, thousands of animals are returned to shelters by people who weren’t adequately prepared to make the adoption in the first place, and sadly, most of the cats and dogs who get returned won’t make it out of there alive.
If you’re going to bring an animal into your home, you need to be in it for the long-haul, and be prepared to make a significant emotional and financial commitment to this creature.
Seriously, I cannot guilt trip you enough about this: there is nothing sadder than giving a vulnerable animal a home and then taking it away because you “bit off more than you could chew.” If you want a good cry, check out this piece from The Dodo on the lame excuses shelter workers hear people when they give up their pets — they’re all pretty heartbreaking.
So now that you’ve decided you’ll stand by your pet no matter what (don’t make me link you to even sadder articles on shelter life), let’s crunch the numbers.
Pets are a serious financial undertaking, so you need to budget accordingly before you take the plunge into parenthood. I’m going to focus exclusively on cats in this post, so if you’re looking to get another kind of pet, like a bird, ferret, rabbit or lizard, make sure to do your own research before heading to the pet store.
Adoption Fee — $60-$100*
Adoption fees can vary depending on the shelter, the age and general health of the cat, and how many veterinary services have been provided prior to the adoption.
Most shelters will charge more for kittens, and less for older cats who have health problems, and most provide standard veterinary care (vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery/microchip insertion, etc.) for every cat before they’re adopted.
*You can also adopt a cat through a breeder, but their fees are significantly higher ($500-$1,000). If you decide to go with a breeder, always do your research beforehand. For more information on how to identify a responsible breeder, please refer to this pamphlet from the Humane Society.
Spay/Neuter Surgery & Vaccinations — $100-$150
You don’t have to adopt a cat from a shelter, of course. Maybe a stray will capture your heart, or maybe a friend’s cat will unexpectedly deliver a litter of kittens. In these cases, you’ll need to pay for spay/neuter surgery and initial vaccinations yourself.
Litter Box — $5-$30
You can get a standard litter pan for about $5 at PetSmart or Petco, but unless you have a basement or secluded place to put it, I recommend pricing up and going with a lidded box. Having a cover helps keep unsavory smells at bay, and a small entrance-way makes cleanup easier, because your cat won’t be accidentally kicking litter over the side all the time.
Collar & Tag — $10
This might not seem necessary if you’re planning on keeping your cat inside, but if he gets lost, you’ll be glad you invested in it.
Grooming materials — $8
Trust me. You’re going to want a brush for your cat. Fluffy cats can get mats in their fur that you have to cut out, and short haired cats shed more than you could ever imagine. If you’d like to keep your home from becoming clogged with cat hair, you should brush your cat a few times a week.
Pet Deposit — varies
Some apartment complexes charge a monthly cat rent (anywhere from $10-$50), some ask for a lump sum up front (usually around $200), and some don’t charge anything, but you need to find out what you need to pay BEFORE you adopt a cat.
Food — $20/month
Pro tip: buying in bulk saves a lot of money, as does putting your cat on a regular feeding schedule. You might think you’re being nice by keeping their bowl constantly full of food, but this might lead to overeating, weight problems, and dietary issues. Talk to your vet to see how much food your cat really needs.
Litter — $12/month
Once again, buy this in bulk if you want to spend less.
Vet visits — $200/year*
A healthy cat needs a checkup about once a year, which typically run about $60-$70 per visit, depending on the vet. But accidents happen, so keep about $200 in budget for emergency vet visits.
*Keep in mind that serious stuff, like emergency surgery or long-term health problems, is going to cost a LOT more than this. If you don’t have an emergency fund you’d be willing to dip into to help cover your pet’s medical costs, you probably should think twice before you adopt an animal.
Toys — $15/year
Cats are easily amused. Sure, they might love that squeaky toy mouse, but they’re also just as content playing with a ball of crumpled up paper. Definitely invest in 2-3 fun toys for your feline friend, but don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune on fancy cat toys that they might never touch.
TOTAL FIRST YEAR CAT COSTS — $1,035*