This post may contain affiliate links and we will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on our link. Read the Disclosure Policy.
I never expected to fall in love with a ball of meowing fur, but then I met the most adorable crew of foster kittens. Playing with kittens is one thing, but actually adopting and taking care of a living, breathing creature? My partner was less than thrilled.
In an attempt to deter me, he had me estimate the cost of adopting a kitten. If we couldn’t afford to adopt a kitten together without financially straining ourselves, then it would be out of the question. I’d never been more excited to create a budget.
Drew probably thought that I’d be discouraged after determining the price of adoption. Once I added everything up, I was pleasantly surprised: the cost of adopting a kitten would cost much less than Drew expected. My first-month figure, including the initial one-time costs, sat around $350. We filled out an adoption form the following day, and took Cookie home soon after.
Are you still trying to decide what kind of pet you want? Work out a budget and you’ll soon find that a cat is a lot more affordable than you’d think.
1. Cats are perfect for apartment dwellers.
Does your rental property allow pets? If so, you’ll likely have to put down a pet deposit. Pet deposits can be steep; they’re determined by the estimated cost of repairing damages done by your pet. Unfortunately, dog owners are more likely to pay higher pet deposits — especially if they own a large dog or a “problem breed” — because dogs typically cause more damage than cats.
Cat owners also have more freedom when it comes to choosing their digs. You wouldn’t want to keep a dog cooped up in a studio apartment, but a cat will be more than happy to make your small space her kingdom. While I do love dogs, I don’t want to adopt one until I’m living in a house with a fenced yard. Right now, I’m sharing an apartment in the city with my husband and our kitty. I’m not ready to live in the ‘burbz and pay for a house with an ample yard, and since my cat doesn’t need it, I don’t need to consider it.
2. Cats are more independent than dogs.
Even though you’re responsible for ensuring your cat is healthy, happy, and fed, you don’t have to walk a cat every day or take her out to relieve herself. Cats can be left alone all day and be perfectly fine; on the other hand, dogs may get destructive. Leave your cat at home for 10 hours? She’s going to sleep all day. If I had a dog, I might worry about her chewing a hole in my wall. And then having to pay for the repairs.
Commuters and people with unorthodox work schedules often pay someone to take their dogs out during the day. Thankfully, that’s one less thing my husband and I have to pencil into our monthly expenses.
3. Cats find pleasure in the little things.
Dog owners spend a lot of money on many, inexpensive toys (that are inevitably chewed to bits) or a selection of high-quality, more expensive toys that are also inevitably chewed to bits. I can’t say that Cookie doesn’t shred her fair share of toy mice, but I definitely spend less than I expected to.
Cats will make a toy out of anything that can move. Cookie is particularly fond of bottle caps; she can bat them around with her paws and they make a nice sound as they skid across our wood floors. She also loves paper gift bags; there’s one on my vanity counter that I can’t bear to throw away because Cookie always plops inside of it. The most expensive cat toy I’ve bought was a $7.00 feathered bird on a string. Hours of entertainment right there.
I do recommend spending money on a scratching post, which can cost anywhere between $15 to over $100. We started out with an inexpensive post made entirely of cardboard (which was good enough for the kitten). Eventually, I splurged on a $40 carpeted post with a replaceable corrugated cardboard insert. Cookie would’ve been happy with the cheap scratching post, but the mid-range post will last longer than the alternative.
4. You won’t spend an arm and leg to get a cat.
Adopting a pet from a shelter is the best route in all aspects. Cookie’s adoption fee was $90. You may be spoiled from seeing the countless free pets on Craigslist or strays wandering about town, but there’s a lot that goes into that $90. Cookie was up-to-date on her immunizations and spayed — and we didn’t have to pay any additional fees. Buying a cat from their former owner may be less expensive up-front, but you may have to spend hundreds of dollars to neuter your new cat.
Adoption fees will vary depending on your shelter. While my shelter charges $90 for cats and dogs of all ages, it isn’t uncommon for prices to vary. Chances are, adopting a cat will cost less than adopting a dog. If you’re patient, I suggest watching for any adoption drives at your local shelter. Adoption fees may be drastically lowered or entirely waived during these special events, and you’ll still receive a fully-vetted pet!
5. You’ll pay less for procedures.
Spaying or neutering your cat is an expensive, necessary procedure. If you have a bigger pet, you can expect to pay more for the procedure, which usually means that fixing your cat will cost less than fixing a dog. You shouldn’t skip the procedure in efforts to save money, though! Spayed female cats are less likely to have uterine infections and breast tumors, while neutered males are less likely to have testicular cancer.
I’m also a big fan of Cookie not going into heat, not because I’m an overprotective helicopter mom who wants to keep her away from all tomcats, but because the idea of her yowling at all hours and peeing all over my bed is unbearable.
6. Cats, for the most part, need less stuff.
Neither of us had ever owned a cat before, and we didn’t know what we needed to buy. We quickly learned that we wouldn’t have to spend an arm and a leg on toys, and after a few failed attempts, we figured out that Cookie would never sleep on her pet bed. She kneaded it a few times and took a nap in the bed a whopping two times. We spent about ten bucks for a collar and nametag that she, an indoor cat, hardly wears. Cookie doesn’t need a leash, harness or a crate, and her carrier cost about $15.
7. And the things cats do need are pretty inexpensive.
Did you know that you can toilet train a cat? As weird as it sounds, it’s possible. Personally, I have yet to venture into that realm of cat parenthood, so Cookie uses a good ole fashioned litterbox. We picked up a sturdy, open litter box at Walmart for less than $10, the original budgeted price. Admittedly, it’s less pretty, but Cookie can easily enter and exit. In fact, some cats will feel claustrophobic in the enclosed, expensive litter boxes, and won’t even use them.
Be sure to buy litter in bulk–you’ll save money in the long run, and it’s not like you won’t use it all! We use unscented Arm & Hammer clumping litter, which is easier to scoop and neutralizes the pervasive odor of cat pee. Typically, a 37lb box costs us around $14, and lasts for several weeks; we buy a new box about once a month. You could buy a 20lb box for $8, but you’ll be back at the pet store in two weeks or less.
8. Cats eat less than dogs.
Well, here’s hoping their palate isn’t too good for dry food. I can’t promise that your cat won’t be a picky eater, but if she prefers dry food you’ll spend less than you would feeding a dog. Wet cat food is high in moisture (which is good) but is higher in cost compared to kibble. If your cat turns her nose up at dry food, you’ll end up spending about the same amount as the owner of a small to mid-sized dog.
Fortunately for me, Cookie is happy eating dry food; I’m just a picky pet mom and spend a little extra on food with less fillers, such as carbohydrates, and more protein. You can save even more by structuring your pet’s meals instead of letting her free-feed. Putting your cat on a meal plan keeps you from overfeeding her. You’ll waste less food and she’ll eat less, preventing obesity.
9. They’re more fun than a goldfish.
Yes, you could technically save money and buy a fish or keep a pet plant. However, it’s a lot harder to cuddle with a cactus or a fishbowl.