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Understanding the Lifetime Cost of a Cat

Recurring Expenses and Planning for the Unforeseen

By Kat Sherbo. August 27, 2013 | See Comments

Understanding the Lifetime Cost of a Cat

Cats can live 20 years or longer, and over that time they can rack up thousands of dollars in food, veterinary care, and more. Find out how much it costs to raise a healthy cat -- and where you can save.

Owning a cat is a rewarding experience, but it can be a costly one, too. Cats live an average 12 years, and some kitties have been known to live over 20 years! That’s a lot of time for love and purrs, but it does also means that cats are incurring more day-to-day costs.

And since some cats pass their prime as early as age 7, that means plenty of felines are living as senior cats for around a decade. Senior cats need more medical attention, more frequent vet visits, and oftentimes, more medications to deal with issues and diseases that present when an animal is aging.

So how can you handle the cost of a cat over their lifetime? Here we’ll break it down for you.

The Cost of Vaccinations for Cats

One of the first things you’ll have to worry about as a new cat parent is your cat’s vaccinations. Whether you’re adopting from a shelter, a friend, or purchasing a cat from a breeder, you should inquire about vaccines. All kittens will need a few core vaccines and all cats will need boosters every few years. Cat vaccinations can cost anywhere from $35-$200, depending on which ones you’ll need and where in the country you live.

Spaying and Neutering

Close on the heels of vaccinations in terms of importance is spaying or neutering your pet. The cost of these procedures will also vary based on where you live, but neutering can cost between $55 and $300, and spaying is generally a bit cheaper, at $35 to $300. Both costs can be much cheaper if you look for a local animal shelter that’s offering a low-cost spay or neuter event.

Paying for Flea & Tick and Heartworm Preventatives

It’s a no-brainer that preventing health issues is less costly and less stressful than having to treat a problem. In fact, annual costs for these two essential parasite preventions can average around $85, while if you have to treat your pet, the large lump sum of frantic vet visits and possible surgeries divides out to about $180 a year for the life of your pet.

Costs of Prescription Medications

Medications can vary widely in cost, depending in the dosage your pet needs, and whether a medication is needed to treat a chronic condition or simply quell an acute problem such as an infection. Insulin for diabetes is a common prescription cost for cat owners, and some diabetic cats will need prescription food as well, which can cost around $600-$700 a year.

Vet Visits

All cats need to see the vet once a year, and senior cats should visit the vet every six months. An office call will usually cost between $45 and $55, and a yearly heartworm test around $45-$50.

Senior cats should also undergo a geriatric screening to check for any health issues as the cat ages, and this can cost around $85-$110.

Kenneling or Boarding Your Cat

Leaving your cat in another’s care can be done on the cheap, or you can pull out all the stops. For a kennel or cattery that houses multiple pets, you can pay as little as $15-$20 a night. For a fancy cat hotel, you could pay hundreds a night on a fancy room, room service, an in-room TV, private playtime, and more.

Cat Food

Every kitty needs it! Feline chow can come in the form of economical kibble, premium commercial foods, or even food you make yourself!

Cat Supplies

Your house may be littered (ha-ha) with kitty litter boxes, cleaning supplies, cat brushes, toys, treats, and more. These incidental expenses might even make up the majority of your monthly pet budget. If you’re feeling the pinch, take a quick look at some of these refreshingly low-cost cat supplies.

The Cost of Surgeries

It’s probably no surprise that surgeries can cost whopping sums. Depending on what your pet needs, a surgery could cost thousands of dollars. Removing a cancerous tumor, for example, could cost between $2,500 and $6,000.

So What’s the Total?

The average lifetime cost of a cat who lives for 12 years is over $11,000*, and of course that number goes up for pets with chronic illnesses or who have to undergo emergency medical treatment.

Want to spend less on your cat's health needs?

There are ways to save on each and every one of these cat care expenses, and we at PetCareRx have rolled them all together into a paw-some savings plan.

Learn more about PetPlus, the first ever comprehensive savings plan for pets. Find out how much a membership will help you save!

* Calculated from American Pet Products Association 2003-2004 National Pet Owners Survey and APPA 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey

More on Pet Care Costs

What Are the Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance?
The Cost of Cat Boarding: Economical to Luxury
What's the Cost to Kennel a Dog?

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