If you’re thinking about getting a cat (see also: Should you get a cat?), you should get some information on how much it costs to have a cat. There are certainly more expensive hobbies than owning a cat, but if you consider all the accessories you need to buy, the running cost for food, litter, the vet and maybe a cat hotel, the amount of money you have to spend can be considerable. I have two cuddly black cats who live inside my apartment, so I can – and will! – tell you: How much does it cost to have two cats?
For two cats who are being kept inside, you have to roughly calculate about $110 to $170, depending on the quality of cat food you feed them, their age and their state of health.
Let’s look at these numbers in detail.
The cost of acquiring a cat
On the one hand, acquiring a cat includes getting the cat itself. If you adopt a cat from a shelter, you normally have to pay an adoption fee, which can be anywhere between $20 and $250. If you buy a cat, a breeder will easily charge you between $300 and $1500. If you receive your cat from a co-worker or from someone giving it away on a Walmart parking lot, you might not have to pay any money for it at all. However, if you do that, they likely won’t be de-wormed, chipped and vaccinated, which can easily cost you $120.
Once you have the cats, you’ll need a lot of accessories for them (see Things to buy for your cats). The essentials are a litter box ($35), a cat carrier box ($25), a cat tree or scratching post (there’s no limit on price for those, but you can get a decent one for roughly $65 or even a fancier, slightly used one on Craigslist), bowls for food and water ($10 together), a few toys (a wand toy, toy mice, cat nip cushion, together roughly $15) and a brush ($10).
Our cats Garrus and Wrex are sturdy tomcats that weigh roughly 12 pounds (5.5 kg). We feed them 270 grams (or 9.5 oz) of wet food per day per cat, so that’s 8.1 kg (285 oz) of food. That’s roughly 22 large cat food tins. Add to that a handful of dry food as treats.
When it comes to food, there are huge differences in price. There’s very cheap food, very expensive food, and everything in between. I’m based in Germany, so I’ll list some German cat food brands, but this is just to give you a general idea anyway. This is if you decide to feed your cat wet food:
- Whiskas: approx. $0.70 for 400g (14 oz).
- Animonda: approx. $1.10 for 400g (14 oz).
- Grau: approx. $1.85 for 400g (14 oz).
For what I feed my cats, roughly 21 cans a months, these are the prices I come up with:
- Whiskas: $14.70
- Animonda: $23.10
- Grau: $38.85
If you were to mix all three types of cat food to give your cats a variety, you’re at roughly $25.55 a month. It’s a good idea to always mix different kinds of cat food, on the one hand because one type of cat food might be slightly deficient in one nutritional area and this can be balanced out with other foods. Also, that way your cats won’t become too fixated on one type of cat food which could cause problems if they stop making that particular type or brand and your cat refuses to eat anything else.
I did a quick check for US wet food prices, and it seems like your shops mostly sell tiny cans of wet cat food. These are some prices I found:
- Purina Friskies: approx. $0.50 per 5.5 oz.
- 9Lives: approx. $0.42 per 5.5 oz.
- Applaws: approx. $2.40 per 5.5 oz.
- Dave’s: approx: $1.20 per 5.5 oz.
If you were feeding your cats mostly wet food, and 285 oz at that, this is how much that would set you back a month:
- Purina Friskies: $26
- 9Lives: $21
- Applaws: $124
- Dave’s: $62
This should give you an idea of the various price ranges. A cheaper way to feed your cats is getting large bags of dry food and feeding those to your cats in the morning and wet food in the evenings. Vets like to point out the importance of feeding your cats wet food, though, considering cats are known to drink very little. Not getting enough liquid can cause kidney problems in your cat as well as UTIs. This is why I’m a big proponent of wet food for cats.
Additionally to the normal cat food you feed your cat at their mealtimes, you’ll likely also want to buy a few treats and some cat grass, which will add a few dollars on top.
Other things to consider: Some cats are small and eat less, some cats are enormous and eat more. Also, if your cat has special dietary requirements that require special food, this will usually be slighly higher priced.
If you have indoor cats like I do, you’ll constantly be emptying out their litter box. That’s definitely one disadvantage to having indoor cats as opposed to cats that roam free and instead soil your neighbor’s yard. (An advantage to the cat owner, a disadvantage for your neighbor!)
As with food, prices for kitty litter vary wildly and your expense will vary depending on how many cat litter boxes you have and how often you renew the litter completely. It’s not always an option to take the very cheapest brand, as your cats might refuse to use it.
Some cat litter companies advertise that you can flush them down your toilet, which can be a big advantage – but you still need to be sure your local regulations permit this. You might also not want to flush kitty litter down your septic tank.
Here are some prices for cat litter:
- Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal
40 lbs for $38.99
- Dr. Elsey’s Premium Clumping Cat Litter
40 lbs for $18.99
- Purina Tidy Cats
40 lbs for $19.99
(Prices are from March 2020 – Click on the link for current Amazon pricing.)
As you see, prices vary and it’s a bit odd to price by weight when you fill your cat’s litter box by volume. In my personal experience, we spend roughly $20 per month for two cats with two cat litter boxes in the house. This also includes bin bags for throwing away the cat pee as we can’t flush it. (By the way, used cat litter is not supposed to go into the bin for compost.)
Vet bills are hard to forsee, as you won’t know when or how often your cat will get ill or injure itself. My vet recommends getting the cats vaccinated once a year, which is $60 per cat, so $120 for two cats. If your cat gets a cold or has some other issue it needs to see the vet about, you’ll easily pay $60 for that, too. That would be $120 per year or $10 a month for the vet. If your pet needs an operation, it’ll be much more expensive, but in some years your only vet visit might be for the yearly shots. You can get a cat insurance starting from roughly $15 a month to help you cover unexpected vet costs. I personally don’t have an insurance policy for my cats, but if you’d have issues covering $300 in sudden vet costs, you might want to look into it.
Cat hotel or cat sitter
This expense will depend on whether or not you use a cat hotel, a private pet sitter, if you have a neighbor or maybe a convenient roommate who will look after your cat. Maybe you simply never go on vacation. Let’s assume you go on vacation for 14 days. In Germany, I can get my cat boarding for my two cats at $11 a night, but in the US, boarding seems to start at about $30, with discounts for a second cat. A 14-day vacation for one cat would therefore cost you $420 in cat boarding fees. You might find someone to take in your cats for less via apps like Rover or Pawshake or by asking around, or if friends or family are available, you might get away with simply bringing them a nice souvenir from your holiday destination.
There are other expenses your cats might incur which we’re simply ignoring for this calculation. These are:
- Things your cats destroy that you have to buy again
- Detergent, kitchen paper and other things to wipe up after your cat
- Additional vacuum cleaner bags because of all the cat hair
- Loss of value of your apartment if your cat scratches the wall or pees on the floor
- Band-aids for when your cat scratches you
- Lint rollers
Let’s summarise the cost:
Expense of buying a cat
- avg. $130 adoption fee
- $160 litter box, bowls, toys, brush, cat tree
So getting a cat will cost you roughly $290.
Running cost of owning a cat per month
- $25 food
- $20 cat litter
- $10 vet
So a cat will cost you roughly $55 a month, or in other words, a cat will cost you roughly $660 a year. In 15 years, that’s $9,900.
If you don’t have anyone to look after your cat on vacation, this will add:
- $35/month for cat boarding ($420 divided by 12 months)
So that would raise the cost of having a cat to $90 a month, $1080 a year and $16,200 in 15 years.
Expense of buying two cats
- $260 adoption fee
- $245 for 2 litter boxes, 2 bowls, 2x toys, brush and cat tree
So getting two cats will cost you about $505.
Running cost for two cats per month
- $50 food
- $40 cat litter
- $20 vet
So two cats will cost you roughly $110 a month, or $1320 a year and $19,800 in 15 years.
If you don’t have anyone to look after your cats on vacation, this will add (assuming a discount for the second cat):
- $55/month for cat boarding ($660 divided by 12 months)
So that would raise the cost of having cats to $165 a month, $1980 a year and $29,700 in 15 years.
I hope this gave you a better idea of the cost involved in having a cat or two.
If you can’t imagine spending $19,000 on filling your home with cats, but you still want to have some cuddly furries at home, offer yourself as a cat sitter to your friends. We did this before we had our own cats. It’s a nice opportunity to see if you’d like to have your own, and if you don’t, it’s a nice way of having a cat at home without having to pay for food and the vet. Your friends will thank you.
As a cat owner, I’m always happy to find someone who will take my cats in while I’m away and I’m sure the cats appreciate having someone to spend time with rather than only having someone to give them food and water twice a day.
The Humane Society in Germany recommends a cat should be able to spend 6 hours a day with a human, which is possible with a private cat sitter but not so much with a neighbor.
If you take in cats for a friend, they usually give you all the accessories as well as their food, and if the cat does get sick while you’re away, they’ll most likely pay for the vet as well. So you have all the joys of owning a cat without having to spend money. And if you get an annoying cat that terrorizes you in the mornings, you can simply give it back 14 days later!.