The Costs of a New Cat: A First-Time Cat Owner Budget

a kitten laying on a rug

Making the decision to adopt a cat is an exciting one, but before you make your trip to the animal shelter, make sure you are properly budgeting for the costs of a new cat.

Two out of our three cats were unplanned adoptions, and we’ve had to learn the hard way just how much quickly those costs add up. As much as we love our fur-babies, boy can they get expensive.

If you’re new to cat care, there may be some things you’re overlooking. I’ve compiled a list of all the basics you’ll need when bringing home your new kitty, as well as the price you can expect.

How much to budget for a new cat pinterest graphic

How Much You Should Budget as a First Time Cat Owner

A lot of your initial expenses will depend on where and how you adopt your cat. Adopting from a shelter is a cheaper, but better option, allowing you to provide a happy, healthy home for a cat in need at an affordable price. 

Depending on where you’re adopting, what age the cat is, and what medical services have already been provided by the shelter, you should expect somewhere between $50 and about $150. 

Medical Costs for Your New Cat

There can be quite a few upfront costs when you first adopt a cat, but these costs will differ depending on the age of your cat and what was already taken care of by the shelter.

If your new cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered yet, expect about $200. Spaying is usually a little more expensive than neutering. Call around to local shelters and pet organizations, however, because some have special days of the month (or, if you’re lucky, all the time) where they offer discounted or even free spay and neutering. 

Vet expenses can also differ. If you are adopting a kitten who hasn’t had any of their shots yet, expect about $70-$100 to take care of those, plus the additional cost of the vet appointment and checkup. Older cats may have additional medical needs that will need to be factored into the budget. 

You should also consider getting your cat microchipped. In the event that they escape, or if you’re planning to let your cat outdoors, a microchip will help someone return your cat if they wander too far away. This usually runs about $45, depending on the vet.

Another thing to consider is pet insurance. With younger pets, you could get good insurance for a low monthly payment, and it could save you money in the long run. You never know when unexpected vet bills will show up. Typically, you’re looking at $15-20 a month.

If you’re unsure whether pet insurance is right for you, check out my pros and cons blog post.

Food and Water Costs

Before bringing home your new cat, buy a few food and water bowls that you can place throughout your home. It’s good to have more than one bowl because cats can be picky with their eating habits. 

Depending on what kind of food and water bowls you want to buy, this could be as little as $10.

When buying food for your new cat, you should look at stocking up on both dry food and wet food for hydration. Depending on what brand you buy, your costs can differ, but I recommend finding a healthy, grain-free food brand. 

It’s also a good idea to find out what the shelter had been feeding them before you brought them home. If you want to transition your cat into a new food, it’s good to start out with a blend of the new food and the old food and make a slow transition. Otherwise, you’re looking at a messy process.

I would budget about $40-$50 for buying food for your new cat.

Litter Costs for a New Cat

Even though it might seem like too much, you should buy at least two boxes when you adopt a cat. Like their eating habits, cats can be picky about where they use the bathroom and the more boxes they have around the house to leave their scent in, the more comfortable they will feel.

Along with two litter boxes, you will need a scooper and a container of litter. You might be tempted to buy scented litter, but I recommend using unscented. Cats use urine as a way to mark their territory. If they can’t smell where they marked, they might be tempted to mark around the litter box or in other places around the house. 

In the long run, unscented litter will keep your home smelling better.

For all of your litter needs, I would budget about $50 for the litter boxes, $20 for litter, and $7 for a litter scooper.

a cat playing with a toy and cat scratcher

Toys and Furniture

Just like dogs, cats need exercise and entertainment to keep them happy. 

At the very least, I would recommend getting some sort of cat wand or a toy that you can simulate hunting with. This will engage their hunter brains, use up a lot of their pent up energy, and keep them from waking you up at 3 am by running a marathon around your room.

I would also recommend some kind of cat tree or furniture that lets them sit on top and look out the window. It’s also helpful if this piece of furniture has something for them to scratch on it. Scratching is another way cats mark their territories, and it helps to keep their claws groomed.

For toys, I would budget about $15 to start. Depending on the kind of cat furniture you get, this could range from $50 to $100.

Grooming Costs for a New Cat

If you want to keep the shedding cat hair to a minimum, I recommend buying a brush and regularly brushing your cat’s fur. If your cat has long hair, a wire brush is helpful for detangling. You can get a good cat brush for about $15.

Cats are great at keeping themselves clean, but sometimes a bath can be good. For this, you can get shampoo, waterless shampoo, or even cleaning wipes to help clean their fur. For various bathing products, I would budget about $10.

And finally, to make your cat more comfortable and to keep your furniture in tact, buying a pair of nail clippers for your cat is a good investment. They will only cost you about $7.

Keep in mind that, in the future, you may need to budget for grooming appointments, depending on how long your cat’s fur is. 

Cat Care Can Get Expensive. I Want to Help.

As you can see, these expenses can start to add up. In the next few weeks, I will be coming out with a series of blog posts I’m calling Feline Financial which will offer ways to save money while still providing the best care for your cat. Keep an eye out for these new posts!

Are you a first time cat owner thinking about adopting? What are some questions about cat ownership that you have? Do you have any financial reservations?

3 Replies to “The Costs of a New Cat: A First-Time Cat Owner Budget”

  1. This is very helpful. It helps debunk some of the myths that adopting a cat is cheaper than adopting a dog. I’d also suggest tucking away a little each month for an emergency fund for things that might not be covered by insurance, such as having to board your cat to go out of town or test out new litters if the cat decides he doesn’t like the first one you buy.

    1. Curly Cat Lady says: Reply

      An emergency fund is a great idea! You never know what kinds of expenses could come up in the future!

  2. […] we learned last week in my blog post on budgeting for a cat, our furry friends can get pretty expensive. From bags of litter every week […]

Leave a Reply