Cost of Keeping a Cat – Initial and Ongoing Costs

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  • Many new pet owners think the initial outlay is the most expensive element of owning a cat, especially those looking to buy a purebred which can cost several hundred dollars. Certainly, it is true, to get yourself set up does cost money, and we will cover this shortly. However, ongoing costs can also add up and it is a wise pet owner who does the research before they make that final commitment and take the plunge.

    Initial costs

    This covers the setup costs involved when you adopt a new cat.

    Cat – This is hard to put a price on. Some people will obtain a cat for free from a friend or neighbour, some the shelter, pet shop or registered breeder. Breeds vary in price but range from $500 – 1000. Shelter cats are usually around the $100 – 150 range. Both costs may sound expensive when you compare it to getting a free cat, but most breeders and shelters have already paid to desex, vaccinate and microchip the cat, so the initial outlay isn’t expensive when you compare it to desexing, vaccinating and  microchipping the ‘free’ cat you obtained from a friend or relative. There are many places to obtain a cat, too many to cover in this article, but I have tried to cover the basics.

    Desexing – Prices vary from vet to vet, but you are looking in the region of $100 – $200 for this.

    Microchipping – Microchipping is compulsory in NSW and other states are following suit. Even if your state doesn’t require this, it is something to seriously consider as it is a permanent way to identify your cat should it go missing. Most veterinarians and shelters have scanners, making it quick and easy for you to be reunited with your pet should it get lost. Microchipping costs around $50

    Vaccinations – Again, if your cat hasn’t been vaccinated when he comes to live with you, you will need to organise it through your vet. Vaccinations are a good chance to meet your vet and introduce him to your new cat. A vaccination will cost in the range of $50 – $70. Kittens require three vaccinations spaced 4 weeks apart starting from 6-8 weeks.Cat carrier – These range from $30 – $50 and are necessary as you will need one to take your cat to the vet.

    Food and water bowls – These can be as cheap or expensive as you want. An approximate guide is $20.

    Grooming equipment – Certainly a requirement if you have a longhaired cat, and also useful for shorthaired cats. Costs around $20

    Litter trays – These can be as plain or fancy as you like. The average litter tray would be in the range of $20

    Scratching post – Scratching posts come in all shapes and sizes, and naturally, the price reflects that. For a basic one, you are looking in the range of $100

    Cat bed – This isn’t a must but certainly something your cat would appreciate. You can buy reasonably priced cat beds for around $30

    Cat toys – Cats require exercise just as we humans do. A variety of cat toys will keep your cat stimulated and provide an opportunity to expel some energy. Prices vary, for the thrifty, you can make your own at home. A selection of cat toys from a pet shop would be around the $30 mark.

    Cat enclosure – Most people are aware how dangerous it is to let your cat roam as it pleases. Not only is it unfair to your neighbours, but it also puts native wildlife at risk, not to mention the dangers your cat faces with cars, dogs, and cruel humans. The safe alternative is a cat enclosure. For the handyman/woman, you can make one yourself, with just the cost of equipment to pay for. Commercial ones would start from around $500.So, let’s say you obtain your cat from the shelter, this will be a basic breakdown of your initial expenses:

    Shelter kitten

    Cat (microchipping, desexing and vaccinations already covered)  $100-150
    Cat carrier $30
    Food and water bowls $20
    Litter tray $20
    Toys $20
    Grooming equipment $20
    Cat bed $30
    Council registration $40
    Basic scratching post $20
    Total outlay $355.00

    Don’t forget to add at least $500 to this if you plan to provide a cat shelter. If you are buying a purebred or obtaining a ‘free’ cat, then these costs will most likely be higher. Especially for the free cat which is one of the most expensive ways to acquire a cat.

    Free kitten

    Cat $Free
    Desexing (depends on the sex) $100
    Microchipping $50
    Vaccinations x 3 ($50 x 3) $150
    Carrier $30
    Food and water bowls $20
    Litter tray $20
    Toys $20
    Grooming equipment $20
    Cat bed $30
    Council registration $40
    Worming/flea meds $20
    Basic scratching post $20
    Total outlay $550

    As you can see, the free kitten actually costs more than one from the shelter. Plus, you have the additional running around organising microchipping, desexing etc. Rescue organisations absorb the cost of desexing (spaying/neutering), vaccinations, microchips, veterinary care (where needed) and anti-parasitic medications from donations received from the public.

    The price you pay for the cat or kitten doesn’t reflect the actual cost. People often try to cut expenses by not desexing or vaccinating their cat. This saves money in the short term, but long term it usually ends up more costly. Veterinary fees for medical emergencies in pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. An unvaccinated, free-roaming cat is at increased risk of disease and injury, and the medical treatment can be costly (I adopted a cat with the flu and paid hundreds of dollars in medical bills). A free-roaming cat is at risk of injury from cars, dogs, other cats etc.

    Ongoing monthly costs

    • Food – This depends on what food you will be providing. A raw/homemade diet, premium brands, supermarket brands etc. For one cat, your costs would be around $10 a week.
    • Cat litter – $8-10 a week
    • Parasitic medications – Fleas, heartworm, tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, and ticks. Many of the topical applications are monthly. A 6 pack of Revolution (which covers fleas and worms, excluding tapeworm) is approximately $75.00, or $3.12 per week, then you will need to give your cat an appropriate tapeworm medication and tick preventative if your cat goes outside. I would recommend allowing $5-8 per week for parasitic medications.
    • Annual veterinary check, with vaccinations – An annual booster with a health check would be in the range of $70 per year. Which amounts to $1.34 per week. Obviously, this figure doesn’t take into account unexpected accidents/illness that may affect the cat.
    • Boarding/pet sitter – N/A. Don’t forget, if you go away and have no friends or relatives to care for your cat, you will have to either send your cat to a boarding cattery or pay for a pet sitter to care for your cat in your home. Prices will range from $10 – 25 per day.
    • Pet insurance – N/A. This is entirely up to you if you decide to take out pet insurance. Average prices are approximately $30 per month. Find out what the policy does and doesn’t cover.
    Food $10
    Cat litter $8
    Flea/worming meds $8
    Annual vet check / 52 $1.34
    Weekly cost $27.34

    So, just to provide the basics you are looking at almost $30 per week or $1,560 per year. Cats live on average 15 years, so that figure projects to $23,400, which does not take into account veterinary expenses for sickness or injury. Inevitably your cat will require veterinary care at some time in his life. Our cat recently developed nosebleeds, we rushed him to the veterinarian, diagnostic tests and hospitalisation were necessary, it cost $1400 but sadly he died two days after the onset of symptoms. Just to remove a benign tumour from my dog’s eye cost $800 last year.


    • Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio