How much to put in the kitty kitty?
July 16, 2007 3:33 PM   Subscribe

How much money should I save up before adopting a kitten?

I grew up with over a dozen cats (not all at once), and know how to physically take care of them. However, I've never been soley financially responsible for one before. I've decided that the time is ripe to adopt my very own kitten (finally out of school and have a stable place to live). Before I do that, I want save enough money in my "kitty kitty" to cover the basic costs of the first six months of kitten-care. What kinds of shots do kittens need and how much do they cost? How about the cost of neutering/spaying? Cat food and litter and litter box? Any other expenses I forgot to factor in?
posted by kidsleepy to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This won't be immediately applicable (hopefully) but do consider the long-term care costs as well. Comparing dogs and cats can be apples/oranges in many cases, but my geriatric dog (adopted at 4.5 yrs old or so) has suddenly racked up uber-hefty ($3500+) medical bills in the last few months. Assuming you raise this kitty from a, well, kitty, you'll be caring for her/him when they're old, and you should financially (or at least mentally) prepare for the potential big medical expense should s/he get sick.

Not to be a downer, though, and I still love my dogs no matter what they cost (or poop on.)
posted by davejay at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The cost of routine kitten & cat care varies by region. You should first call around to some local vets to ask about the pricing for routine kitten check-ups and shots, the cost of spay/neuter, and de-worming since most kittens come with these extra little pets.

If you adopt from a shelter, many shelters offer a voucher to completely cover the cost of spay/neutering. If you adopt a kitten over 6 months, most will already be spayed and have their kitten shots taken care of.

You can research prices for supplies at a regular pet store's website like or such.

I would probably budget around $500 for first year vet care, and expect the following costs to set up a kitten at home:

- Litterbox $20 (once)
- Cat litter $10 every 1-2 weeks
- Cat food $10 every couple weeks
- Cat dishes $5-10 each (or you can use your own ceramic dishes)
- Cat toys < $20 (once) or free if you can find cardboard boxes which are the best cat toys earthbr> - Collar $7
- Name tag (even for indoors cats) $4
- Cat bed $10 for the fleece donuts that they *love*
posted by tastybrains at 3:48 PM on July 16, 2007

What kinds of shots do kittens need and how much do they cost? How about the cost of neutering/spaying? Cat food and litter and litter box? Any other expenses I forgot to factor in?

Prices vary by region.

If you get a cat through a shelter, the spay/neuter and shots will be included in the adoption fee. Probably somewhere between 60 and 140 bucks, but it will be a fixed price so that's easy enough to find out. If you get a kitten in a private adoption, count on somewhere between 100 to 200 for a spay/neuter and c. 80-100 bucks twice for two series of shots (some FC-something-something that covers a range of diseases, rabies and feline leukemia).

You can buy 40 pounds of scoopable litter at Costco for about 8 bucks, and that will last at least six weeks with one cat.

Food is really dependent on what you want to feed the cat. We feed our cats canned food from Trader Joe's that costs 45 cents a can or something and each cat gets about half a can a day along with a handful of premium dry food that costs something like 12 bucks for 15 pounds. So you can feed your cat pretty well for like 80 cents a day. You can go cheaper than that if you want to, but it might not be an optimal diet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:48 PM on July 16, 2007

davejay makes a good point. You may wish to consider pet insurance or try to either have a cushion of a few hundred dollars or an available credit card balance to cover an emergency. One of my cats racked up a number of vet bills in his second year due to urinary tract problems. Pets can have emergencies at any age, so think about how you will deal with them should they arise.
posted by tastybrains at 3:49 PM on July 16, 2007

Best answer: How very responsible of you! My city, and many cities, require that cats and other animals adopted at shelters be sterilized (neutered or spayed) before they are sent home with their new humans. If it's a kitten, you'll have to bring it back to be sterilized when it's old enough.

So if you're going to the Humane Society or city animal shelter, sterilization and shot costs will be included in the $50-$100 adoption fee.

If you get a kitten out of the paper or craigslist, the for sterilization and shots at a vet will be roughly $100, or less. Dry cat food costs about as much as a box of breakfast cereal, but canned could get you up to more than a dollar a day, if you're into feline luxury. A litter box will cost about $5.

Shot boosters after the first six months or a year will cost anywhere from less than $25 (at a low-cost shot clinic) to $65 at they type of veterinarian's office that keeps records, sends reminders, etc.

A good assortment of cat toys will cost about $15.

For six months, if you have $250, that should cover it. Enjoy your new cat!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:50 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Kittens are fun, but there are always plenty of lovely adult cats needing homes, many of which will come ready-fixed and with their initial shots long behind them. You could give one of them a nice home – after all, kittenhood only lasts a couple of months.
posted by zadcat at 4:12 PM on July 16, 2007

If you can let your cat be an "outdoors" cat - that is, one which freely moves indoors and out - then you can avoid the ongoing costs of litter & box, as it becomes unnecessary unless your cat is a wimp and won't leave the house in bad weather. Ours never seem to mind.

Some people will give all sorts of crazy warnings about letting your cat go outdoors. We've had plenty of felines over the years and they all go outdoors and none have had any issues, so.. YMMV but I don't think it is a problem in the least.

Unless you hit something like tumors, kitty leukemia, or something dire like that, owning a cat isn't too pricey.. of course it doesn't ever have to be that pricey, if you are capable of saying goodbye when the time comes.
posted by mbatch at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2007

I'm going to chime in with the need for an emergency fund, emergency credit and/or pet insurance on day one. I'm personally wary of adopting another cat without pet insurance. It seems logical to me that the odds of a medical emergency in the first year, or the first few months, is greater than usual because of the stress of moving, kennel illnesses, and still developing kitten immune systems. Commercial pet stores are notorious for covering up pneumonia symptoms (Hint: Always adopt. Never buy. No exceptions).
posted by Skwirl at 4:20 PM on July 16, 2007

...And lots of people (including me) will tell you stories about indoor/outdoor cats who never came home, or got hit by cars. You may also end up spending more in flea & tick treatments, deworming, etc. I'd vote for keeping the cat as an indoor-only kitty. I'd happily trade a few bucks in cat litter costs for my dead-by-car cat.
posted by rtha at 4:28 PM on July 16, 2007

First off, I'd like to say I wish there were more people like you. There are many unloved cats out there and adoption certainly is the way to go. I appreciate zadcat's comment too.

Ok, enough of the love-in. I suggest buying a premium cat food right from the start. I've heard that the store-bought crap actually causes a lot of the costly health ailments that send their owners to the vet.

All the best!
posted by JaySunSee at 4:29 PM on July 16, 2007

When I found a cat outside my apartment several years ago, I took her to a nearby vet. They ended up charging me over $300 for the spaying and shots.

The next two cats I got, I took to a nearby spay/neuter clinic. My littlest just got done with that ordeal a few weeks ago, and the full cost for neutering, shots, testing, and nail clipping was $96. And, to be honest, I much preferred the treatment my cat got at the clinic than at the vet.

I also know that the pound near me does all of the fixing stuff and shots for an adoption fee of about $65.

Like others have said, it'll depend on where you are. I hope this just gives you some idea of the different price options for "kitten start-up."
posted by Ms. Saint at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: for everyone who suggested pet insurance, how much does it cost?

as for being an outdoor cat, i'm in an apartment complex with high traffic, otherwise i'd consider it. i thought of a way to avoid the cost of kitty litter- has anyone actually toilet trained their cat? or is this a pipe dream?
posted by kidsleepy at 5:00 PM on July 16, 2007

Don't let your kitty go outside just to save on litter. One vet bill from a cat fight or coyote attack or what-have-you will cost you more than nine lifetimes of kitty litter.
posted by clh at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2007

There's a recent article from Consumer Reports, titled "Why Pet Insurance Is Usually a Dog", that goes into some reasons to avoid pet insurance. The gist is that the insurance has a lot of catches, and you still have to pay a deductible, so it's usually better to take the money you would have spent on insurance each month and put it aside as an emergency fund. I think $500 is a good minimum amount to have on hand to pay for emergency medical costs. Barring early accidents, you should have time to save this up, so don't worry about it too much at first. As others have said, you can get a huge discount on start-up costs by adopting a kitten from a shelter or adoption group. If you go this route, you might try to put aside an extra $100 to start your emergency fund.

Also, you might consider getting two kittens, especially if you can get a couple of litter-mates. It's double the startup costs, but they're a good bit less than twice the trouble and upkeep cost, and they keep each other entertained when you're not around.

on preview: yes, you can toilet train a cat. It takes some work, but lots of people have done it.
posted by vorfeed at 5:02 PM on July 16, 2007

Even if it's an inside/outside cat you'll still need litter inside, particularly with a kitten (you can't let a small kitten outside immediately anyway). Toilet training would also take time and you'll need litter in the meantime. So there's really no way out. Kitten poop a LOT too, so expect to go through a fair bit of litter for a while. Oh, and rescue cats often have parasites so you'll need to be changing the litter really often and keeping the area clean. I can't get over how much more litter I'm using for my kitten than I do for my adult cat.

As the basics you'll need: two vaccinations (the primary and the booster), health checks (done with the vaccination), desexing (males are a bit cheaper than females), worming and flea treatments (note that kittens need a fair number of these over the first six months, your vet will outline the schedule), a litter tray, cat litter, appropriate food, collar and tag. You may also opt for microchipping. Once you have the kitten you'll probably also want to buy toys (cheap), a bed (mid priced) and a scratching post (surprisingly expensive), so have some room in your budget for them. You need to do all this even if it's an inside only cat, particularly if it's a rescue.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you'll want to give the kitten the same food and cat litter as (s)he was getting before adoption. You can transition them over to whatever you prefer, but you need to do this over a few days. So you need to budget for some of whatever the previous carer is using, even if it's hideously expensive recycled paper litter like my kitten was on.

But really, we need to know where you are. As an example, my new kitten just had her second vaccination a couple of hours ago. It cost $74 with health check, so double that for both shots. But that's in New Zealand dollars in downtown Auckland, it won't be the same in other parts of my country let alone whatever country you happen to live in. The best, and probably only, way to find out how much it will all cost is to ring the places where you're going to adopt the kitten and/or get the work done. A trip to a local pet store will also show you how much food and toys and stuff will cost. Gather the data locally, add it up and see what number comes out. That's going to be a lot more accurate than any estimate we give you.
posted by shelleycat at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2007

I had a couple of clients who toilet trained their cats. It's not a pipe dream; I've seen it in action. If you want to toilet-train your cat, there's an instructable here and instructions on setting up an auto-flush. I highly recommend the auto-flush, because my clients didn't have one, and their toilet stank after having kitty-poo sitting around in it all day.

One thing you haven't mentioned in costs is the apartment pet deposit. Most places charge $150 to $200--lots of people just don't mention the cat and don't get caught, but make sure you have that deposit in reserve if your complex requires one, just in case.

I've heard good and bad about the insurance--honestly it's probably just financially smarter to have $500 saved up for emergency vet care than to mess around with pet insurance, which tends to be wayyy more complicated than people insurance.

I wouldn't count on places like Freecycle or craigslist for supplies, but you can often get pet stuff there. I was recently very happy to get a ton of bags of cat litter on freecycle that I divvied up between myself and a friend. That would help on your start-up costs.

You can give your cat vaccines that you buy through Drs. Foster & Smith. They'll talk you through giving the injections. HOWEVER, for the first set of kitten shots, you absolutely should see a vet--you cannot give the cat a rabies shot, only a vet can do that, plus the cat will need a check-up. I'm sure a lot of people will counsel against giving your cat its regular vaccines, but it's easy, and a hell of a lot cheaper if you're on a limited budget.
posted by digitalis at 5:42 PM on July 16, 2007

Best answer: Oh hey, I noticed that someone mentioned microchipping--I can't believe I forgot that. I think it's absolutely necessary, and it cost me about $30, plus the nasty look my cat gave me when the vet injected it. Seriously, if god forbid, your cat ever gets out, that microchip will more than pay for itself.
posted by digitalis at 5:47 PM on July 16, 2007

Best answer: For an indoor cat who is not around other strange cats, after the kitten series and the one year booster, there is really no reason to vaccinate on an ongoing basis (except for rabies, which is required by law in most places), but an annual vet exam is necessary. Don't do it yourself as digitalis suggests, it may be easy, but managing an anaphylactic reaction definitely isn't, and unless you're a vet, you also can't give your cat a proper physical examination, which should be done before shots are given anyway.

I would count on $30-40/month at very least, and I would try to save more than that for emergencies. I'd want at least $300-500 before I got the cat, to cover adoption fees (which will include shots and spay/neuter), inital outlay for things like litterbox, scratching post, food bowls, etc.
posted by biscotti at 5:48 PM on July 16, 2007

my wife said...just get the cat, and figure it out later.. :)
posted by HuronBob at 6:57 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I got my cat at the pound: his first few months with me were very expensive. In addition to the standard spay/neuter/shots mentioned above, definitely make sure you have emergency money. Milo had horrible diarrhea at first (a few visits worth + new sheets + very expensive food to help get his bowels into shape), and then a bad case of ringworm (visit cost) that didn't get resolved (necessitating another visit) and then needed a $160 bottle of anti-fungal medication. He also ate yarn (be incredibly careful) which cost me $160 to have them induce vomiting. (I consider myself extremely extremely lucky that he did not need surgery or die). Kittens are fragile little things and they can be pretty sick when you first take them home from the shelter. (Although yarn-eating is a lifetime threat.) All in all, I think I spent close to $800 in the first three months I owned him. I don't regret Milo, I love him dearly, but an emergency cat fund would've come in very handy!
posted by chelseagirl at 8:14 PM on July 16, 2007

Following up on your comment ("a way to avoid the cost of kitty litter"): We tried to toilet-train our cats over a few months. There were some issues with one of them not taking to it. We had to shift back to a litterbox and got sick of litter being tracked everywhere.

So we bought a cheap paper shredder and we shred the free newspapers (pennysaver, local ads) that get put in our mailbox every week. I've heard some cats will refuse to use paper shreds in the litterbox, but we've never had that problem. It's free and no more tracking problems. Downside is that you have to clean it out completely every night, but that's just bag the used shreds, toss them, wash out the box, and put fresh shreds in; not a big deal.
posted by Melinika at 9:22 PM on July 16, 2007

Here is further information about the more current thinking about cat vaccinations (every three years is suggested).
posted by biscotti at 10:26 PM on July 16, 2007

Claw trimmer $10 -- good people nail clippers should work on a kitten, but I found it a useful $10. Brush $5-$15. And, so long as I'm on a pretty-kitty theme, Nth good food. It makes such a visible difference I'm often inspired to eat better myself. It also means, in my experience, minimal hassle with shedding and litter box stink. Never mind that they seem to like eating it.

Consider, also, a harness and leash ($20); you can then cuddle her/him in the waiting room at the vet's, go for a stroll around the pet store together, etc. Don't forget a few bux here and there for bags of treats and little pots of cat grass (the latter is especially useful if you have house plants you like).

The "$300-$500" strikes me as reasonable. But so does "just get the cat, and figure it out later."
posted by kmennie at 3:19 AM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

My #1 investment: Softpaws. Start manipulating your cat's paws at a young age to allow for nail clipping, clip their nails, and slip them on. Protect your furniture, carpet, and yourself. They are stylish and absolutely, positively worth it, 100%.

Also, good food is a wonderful investment, I can attest. I switched my cats over to Innova Evo about three months ago -- no grain in their kibble at all, which (should) mean no eventual freakouts for any wheat gluten recalls. The food is high in protein, and my cats spend less time eating, the cat who used to gorge has stopped and has all but stopped throwing up from the grain puffing up in her belly as a result, and their poops are smaller. Yes, smaller poops. I said it. A cat owner's dream.
posted by atayah at 9:49 AM on July 17, 2007

Oh, and prices, duh: about $20.00 bucks per pack of SoftPaws--each application can last 4-6 and you can easily get several months out of them if you help maintain them and replace them as necessary.

I spend about $37.00 per large bag of Evo, which also lasts a few weeks. Again, worth the price.
posted by atayah at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2007

I've had cats since I was 4 years old. All have been indoor cats for the majority of their lives.

Getting the cat spayed, vaccinated, and properly checked out as a kitten is quite important - both for your peace of mind and the cat's. However, I don't believe that an indoor-only cat needs regular vet visits; barring illness or accident, cats tend to be fairly self-sufficient creatures. Bear in mind that an indoor cat has a quality of life substantially better (or safer, at least) than most regular cats, and the latter do quite fine on their own.
posted by ellF at 5:26 PM on July 17, 2007

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