The cost of owning a cat

Like any pet, getting a cat is a big decision with lots of things to consider. You need to make sure you can properly look after them, spend time with them and keep them happy and healthy throughout their life.

Not only do you need to make sure you’re meeting your cat’s 5 Welfare Needs, but you’ll also need to consider how much caring for your cat will cost. It’s easy to overlook certain costs in the excitement of getting a new pet but it’s important to know them before making a decision.

How much does caring for a cat really cost?

Cats are lovable animals but will require a lot of care. It will cost most owners at least £12,000 to care for their cat over their whole lifetime so you need to be prepared for that commitment.

Although this is an estimated minimum cost, it doesn’t take into account any further costs outside of the basics to meet their welfare needs. If you decide to spend a little more on your cat’s care or they live longer than the average, they could cost more – even as high as £24,000.

You may find that your cat has additional needs if they are a pedigree breed prone to certain health problems, which could also add to your costs.

We’ve include the cost of pet insurance in this estimate, but if your cat becomes unwell or has an accident and needs veterinary care that isn’t covered by your insurance, you could see costs rise drastically. Of course, our cats are worth every penny, but you need to make sure you can afford these costs which is why we recommend all owners take out pet insurance.

We’ve given estimated minimum costs on this page as a starting point, but if you are seriously thinking of getting a cat, it’s important to sit down and work out a budget for them, considering your lifestyle and all the things your new cat may need. You can use our handy pet quiz to find out if a cat is the right pet for you.

Getting started: the initial cost of getting a cat

There are lots of things you’ll need to think about before your cat even comes home to make sure they are happy and healthy in your home. This could include:

  • Bed
  • Food and water bowl
  • Microchip
  • Initial course of vaccinations
  • Neutering
  • Scratching post/cat tower
  • Two litter trays and scoops
  • Toys
  • Brush or comb for grooming
  • Cat carrier.

We estimate that these ‘set-up’ costs are around £250.

This doesn’t include the cost of buying your cat. We would recommend adopting from a reputable rescue centre (which usually requires a donation, but this will mean your cat is likely to already be neutered, vaccinated and microchipped). You can read our vets’ advice on the best place to get your cat.

Monthly care: the ongoing cost of looking after your cat

Once you have everything your cat will need when you first adopt them, you’ll also need to think about what you’ll need to spend money on for them every month. These costs can include:

  • Yearly health checks and booster vaccinations
  • Flea and worming treatments
  • Pet insurance
  • Complete cat food
  • Toys
  • Cat litter.

We estimated the minimum monthly cost of owning a cat, based on the above, is around £70. However, if your cat has expensive taste or ends up with other ongoing care costs like a prescription diet, you might be paying a more.

How we worked it out

The costs above are the basic cost to meet a cat’s 5 Welfare Needs and you could spend much more over the course of a cat’s lifetime, especially if they need ongoing vet care not covered by your pet insurance.

Here’s how we worked out the estimated minimum lifetime cost of caring for a cat:

  • First, we used the items listed in the bullet points above to worked out the estimated cost of getting started with a cat
  • For ongoing costs, we worked out the monthly ongoing cost of caring for a cat using the items listed above.
  • We multiplied the monthly cost by 12 to get an annual cost.
  • We multiplied the annual cost by the average life expectancy for most breeds of cat*.
  • We added this number to the estimated cost of first getting started with a cat to find the full cost of caring for a cat over their lifetime.

We worked out these costs in 2017 using rates available for products online. We quote these figures in our 2017 and 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Reports and they are widely referenced by others too to help give an idea of how much it costs to look after a cat.

You can use this sum, your own research and our cat breed information to work out how much you’re likely to spend on a cat.

What’s not included

These numbers are all estimates and don’t include additional vet fees, or the costs of buying or adopting a cat. Extras like cattery boarding or a cat sitter if you go away, or costs for a special diet (e.g. in case of a medical condition) are not included.

Of course, cost is only one thing to bear in mind when you get a cat. You’ll also need to make sure you can meet their 5 Welfare Needs to keep them happy and healthy.

* 14 years (from O’Neill et al (2015) Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Vol. 17(2) 125–133)