Costs To Plan For As First-Time Cat Owner

First-time cat owner

I may be biased, but in my opinion, cats are fabulous. My fun little fur-balls have brought me so much joy I feel honored to be a cat mom. However, I had no idea of the costs of a first-time cat owner. I mean, how expensive can a cat be, right? Hopefully, your new cat will be happy and healthy most of its life, but you need to be sure you are financially prepared for your new furry friend.

In my case, I wasn't so lucky, and I've spent over $8,000 in emergency vet bills in the last three years for my three babies. I had no idea how much it would cost for emergency vet visits and wish I had been prepared.

Not only do you need to create a budget to cover the monthly costs of your cat, such as food, litter, supplies, and toys, but you need to be sure you can afford the unexpected costs too. Having pet insurance, an emergency fund, and keeping your pet healthy is a crucial part of being a loving cat owner.

Don't let this discourage you from getting a cat; just prepare yourself financially with these essential tips so you can afford to keep your cat healthy and happy!

The costs of owning a cat

Planning for a new cat takes proper financial planning. Here are the expenses you can expect as a first-time cat owner.

1. Cat owner adoption expenses  

I can't stress enough the importance of adopting a cat instead of purchasing one. The feral cat population in the United States is on the rise, which results in colonies of undomesticated cats fending for themselves for food, shelter, and water. Not to mention the issues of spreading Zoonotic diseases such as rabies. You can stop cat breeding by adopting from your local shelter and have your cat spayed or neutered.

That being said, the fees for adopting a new cat can range from $15-$200 depending on its age, behavior, medical condition, and demand. Another perk of adopting from a shelter is, in most cases, they are already vaccinated and spayed or neutered before adoption. Many people give away cats that you could consider adopting too.

However, keep in mind a "free" cat is never free because you need to ensure they are properly vaccinated and healthy by getting them examed by a veterinarian. ALWAYS be sure to get a copy of a cat's rabies vaccine, and if there isn't one, you need to have them vaccinated as soon as possible. Rabies must be prevented because there is no cure, and it's transmittable to humans.

By adopting instead of purchasing a cat, you will save a precious life and find a wonderful cat that you will love!

2. Pet insurance

I wish I would have invested in pet insurance when I became a first-time cat owner. This could have prevented massive credit card debt and helped cover unexpected expenses. Like other types of insurance, you need to review the different policies to ensure you are covered for the expenses you may need help with later, depending on what issues your cat may develop.

Pet insurance can cover costs such as accidents, illnesses, hereditary and congenital conditions, alternative therapies, chronic conditions, and more. The sooner you get pet insurance, the better because it is less expensive, and some policies won't cover "pre-existing conditions.” Be sure to shop around to get the best coverage for the best price!

3. Emergency savings

I can't stress enough the importance of setting aside an emergency fund for your cat. One overnight stay in the veterinarian hospital cost me $2,900! Of course, this can be lower or much much higher depending on what is wrong with your cat.

It's a horrible feeling not being financially prepared for your furry friend because this can mean life or death, depending on the situation. Having pet insurance can cut these costs, but you need to have funds in place for the gap between what the insurance pays and what they don't.

As a first-time cat owner, the best thing you can do is to start saving immediately. Make it a goal to save your first $1,000 and then build from there. The more you save throughout their life, the better. You never know when you may need that money to help get your cat the best care possible and avoid going into debt!

4. Meals

When it comes to feeding your feline, you want to feed them nutritious meals to prevent health problems and provide optimal nutrition. Certain types of cat food can prevent urinary tract issues, combat obesity, and be overall better for your cat's health. Of course, the range for cat food expenses varies depending on the type of food you buy and your cat’s size.

The average cost to feed one cat is between $15-$60 a month. You can save money by buying your cat food, treats, etc. in bulk from sites such as It's nice to have it shipped right to your door too.

5. Vet visits and grooming

Other expenses to consider when becoming a first-time cat owner are vet visits and grooming. It's essential to get a check-up for your cat at least once a year, even if they seem to be in good health.

Annual check-ups can detect any hidden health issues or hopefully catch a potential problem in its early stages to prevent further conditions. The average cost of a yearly check-up ranges from $45-55 or more. Of course, things such as dental cleanings and other preventative care may add to this amount, depending on your cat's needs.

Cat's are pretty good at keeping themselves groomed. However, it's good to give them a little help when they need it. Keeping their claws trimmed, cleaning their ears, and giving them baths can be very difficult, and it's much easier for both of you to have it done professionally.

They aren't high maintenance when it comes to getting groomed, and the average cost range is only $50-$70 a year. Unless you opt for a poofy long-haired beauty, then they may require a bit more salon time than normal.

6. The cost of a pet credit card

You may decide to open a pet credit card to help with emergencies. However, having pet insurance and an emergency fund should always be put in place to prevent from going into debt. As with any credit card, you want to use it responsibly and pay off the balance as soon as possible.

CareCredit is a specific credit card for pet owners to use in case of emergencies. At times they offer a 6-month deferred interest promotion. This means you pay no interest as long as the balance is paid in full within six months.

However, if it’s not paid in full by the required due date, then all of the interest will be calculated back to the date of the original charge. Interest is expensive and can rack up to hundreds to thousands of dollars in costs! Being financially prepared as a first-time cat owner can prevent you from going into debt.

First-time cat owner tips to keep your cat healthy & prevent expenses

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Use these tips to keep your cat healthy and prevent costly expenses.

A healthy diet & weight are essential

Just like people, a healthy diet and lifestyle are essential to preventing health issues in your cat. Obesity in cats can cause conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, and joint problems. This can shorten your cat's lifespan and can cause expensive treatment plans or make it harder for them to recover from other illnesses. Do your best to keep your pet at their ideal weight to keep them as healthy as possible.

Routine check-ups & up to date vaccinations

Don't forget your cat needs to have routine check-ups to help catch health issues before they get severe. The longer a condition goes undiagnosed, the worse it can be for your cat. Whether your cat will be indoors or outdoors, there are four core vaccinations they must have to prevent deadly viruses and infections. These are:

  • Rabies
  • FVR/FHV-1—Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus/Herpesvirus 1
  • FPV—Feline Panleukopenia
  • FCV—Feline Calicivirus

There are other essential vaccines outdoor cats require because they are exposed to certain types of diseases indoor cats aren't. Discuss what type of lifestyle your cat will be exposed to with your veterinarian to ensure you properly vaccinate your cat.

Prevent the spread of illness

If you find that you love being a cat owner, you may decide to adopt more kitties. You mustn’t expose your current cat to any cat that may be sick or has unknown diseases. To prevent your cat from contagious viruses, be sure to have your other cat checked by a vet before you let them socialize with each other.

You don't have to leave them out in the cold but put them in another room that your cat can’t access. Taking extreme precautions can save your cat's life and save you thousands of dollars in emergency expenses!

Get financially prepared as a first-time cat owner

Cats are wonderful companions. They have unforgettable personalities and can be pretty independent too. However, adopting a cat is a 15-20 year commitment. Please keep this in mind when thinking of adopting one. They require constant care, and being financially responsible is the kindest thing you can do for your cat. Create a pet owner budget, start saving money, and go save a cute kitty!

P.S. Are you a dog owner too? We break down the top dog expenses to keep in mind as well!

Scroll to Top