Getting Your First Cat: Financial Planning

Will you be getting your first feline companion in the near future? If so, I offer you my sincerest ConCATulations. You will soon discover that there is something truly magical about being owned by a cat. Although at times, I have been accused of being biased toward this remarkable species, I am certainly not unique in my opinion - there are at least 40 percent of households throughout the United States that share their home with kitties.
Aki (FloridaWild patient)

So why are cats one of the most popular companion animals (not only in the United States) but throughout the world? The answer is simple: cats are such amazing friends who abundantly enrich their human caretakers’ lives. Cats are not only beautiful, they are loveable, have a great sense of humor, are highly intelligent and can entertain their human companions for hours on end. What’s there not to love about these amazing creatures?

Even though having a cat or two is truly an exciting and amazing experience, one of the most overlooked issues about having a cat are the expenses that will be incurred by being owned by a kitty. With the advances in feline health care, medical research, and the development of species appropriate diets - the cost of being owned by a cat has increased greatly over the past ten years. Below are some of the more common expenses kitty guardians will incur over an indoor-only cat’s average lifetime (around 16 years).

The Cost Of The Cat:
If you are looking to purchase a purebred cat, costs vary depending on whether it is a show-quality or pet quality kitty. The fee of adopting a mixed breed kitten from a shelter generally includes the cost of neutering or spaying, and initial vaccinations.


Dudley (FloridaWild patient)

strong>Cat Supplies:
Litter boxes (one box per cat plus one), litter, scooper, food and water dishes, cat food, toys, grooming supplies, nail clippers, and kitty treats.

Providing A Feline-Enriched Environment:
Cats need to stretch and climb, sharpen and clean their claws. Providing them with high, sturdy cat posts and cat trees are crucial. Catifying the home with wall shelves that allow them to reach high, safe places around the home are excellent methods to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.

Since cats are highly curious and intelligent animals, they can easily become bored and destructive - unless they have an enriched environment. Cats are predatory creatures by nature. Indoor-only cats don’t get an opportunity to hunt and stalk their prey. However, their instinctual essences can still be stimulated by providing them with 10-15 minutes of interactive play with feather or furry toys a day.

Veterinary Care:
Since veterinary care includes vaccines, parasite treatment and control, annual wellness exams, dental exams and the cost of any necessary medications, it is wise to purchase a pet health insurance plan that will cover basic veterinary care and unexpected emergencies (or to set up a special savings account that will cover these expenses). Additionally, many veterinary clinics offer well care plans as an option.

Annual wellness exams for younger cats and twice yearly as they grow older often can catch small problems before they become serious and more expensive. Knowing approximate incurred expenses ahead of time will help kitty guardians plan both short and long-terms budgets.


Moo (FloridaWild patient)

Feline Life Expectancy:
Since outdoor cats have an estimated life expectancy of about 5 years, their lifetime cost is estimated to be around $3,000. For indoor cats who have a life expectancy of about 16 years, this estimate can climb up to $12,000 or more - depending on whether the cat develops chronic illness.

Although pet health insurance does raise the lifetime cost of kitty care, in the long run it greatly reduces financial burdens; especially if the cat develops a chronic medical condition, has a serious accident or ingests a foreign object.

From a purely practical standpoint, considering your finances is extremely important before bringing a cat into your household. Although the cost of having a cat over a lifetime can add up to a surprising amount, the joy and pleasure of sharing your life with a kitty is worth every penny.

By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)

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