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How much does it actually cost to own a cat?

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

The real cost of owning a cat is a lot higher than you probably realize

It's easy to dissolve into a puddle of sentimental goo when you're looking a cuddly cat in the face, making rational thoughts like pet care costs disappear before your besotted heart-shaped-emoji eyes. However, cat ownership is a big commitment, and you should know the costs going in.

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It goes without saying that the love between a cat and its human is priceless, but still — being a responsible pet owner means knowing whether or not you can not only give your pet unconditional love, but also meet all of its other basic and unexpected needs.

If you are considering making a feline part of your family, you may think the initial investment is where you'll spend most of your money... particularly if you are planning to purchase a purebred cat from a breeder. However, the routine costs of owning a cat each year far exceed the initial outlay when you factor in those expenses annually.

For a tidy breakdown, let's start with the ASPCA's pet care costs comparison chart. According to the chart, the average annual costs of owning a cat are as follows: 

Food: $115

Recurring medical: $160

Litter: $165

Toys and treats: $25

Health insurance: $175

Miscellaneous expenses: $30

That comes to a total of $875 in routine annual costs associated with owning a cat. So let's couple that with the capital costs: 

Spay or neuter: $145

Other initial medical: $130

Collar and leash: $10

Litter box: $25

Scratching post: $15

Carrier: $40

Those costs amount to $365, for a grand total of $1,035 in cat care costs for the first year. However, it's important to note that these figures are highly subjective and could fluctuate depending on where you live, the breed of cat you own and other variables.

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Also, the ASPCA chart does not include capital costs for adoption or purchase of a cat. When adopting a cat, you can pay anywhere from $75 to $125 or much more, depending on the rescue organization. (On the plus side, higher adoption fees generally include spay/neuter and other medical expenses.) Buying from a breeder is a whole other ballgame. With most reputable cat breeders, you are probably going to pay $750 or more.

Then there is the issue of emergency vet care. Should your kitty require immediate medical attention, that'll probably set you back another $2,000 to $3,000, according to Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City — and that's nonsurgical. If your cat requires emergency surgery, the cost will likely be closer to the $3,000 to $5,000 range.

So if you were going to put a number on the real cost of owning a cat, we can calculate the minimum amount by multiplying the estimated annual costs of owning a cat ($875) by the average life span of a cat, which is around 15. That gives us $13,125. But we also need to add in the $365 in capital care costs, which brings us to approximately $13,490.

You're lookin' to spend at least $13,490 on your cat during its lifetime. Depending on emergency costs and other factors, though, this figure could come closer to the $18,000 mark. I know what you're thinking — you've got to be kitten me right meow.

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But if you think about it, that's a small price to pay for the pure pleasure of your cat's company over the years and the immense joy that kitty company will bring you. If you need more reassurance, just look at it this way: It's still cheaper than the cost of owning a dog.

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