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I have never adopted an animal. What costs are there? What about:

  1. The adoption costs
  2. Food costs
  3. Litter bix/bedding
  4. Vet
  5. Pet sitting for trips

Etc. What categories did I miss? How often do expenses arise in each category, and what is a rough range of the costs in these categories?

I really know nothing, and would like to be prepared.

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    Keep in mind that specific costs will vary based on what sort of food, what area you live in (around here, city vets are significantly more than country vets), and the like, so asking for ranges is still likely going to vary area to area – Ash Dec 5 '13 at 0:30
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    Add a climbing tree or two to the list. Also add the cost of all your decorations and travel souveniers on the bookshelves and tabletops, since they will be dropped down and be broken. – Esa Paulasto Dec 5 '13 at 0:47
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    @EsaPaulasto and if you're not religious with where you place your drinks, the replacement of coffee soaked laptops :) – Yvette Dec 5 '13 at 2:26
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    "He will need to be fed once a day. He prefers feline supplement number 25." "I understand." "And he will require water. And you must provide him with a sandbox. And you must talk to him. Tell him he is a pretty cat. And a good cat." "I will feed him." "Perhaps that will be enough." - Data and Worf, as Data asks Worf to take care of Spot (link) – allquixotic Dec 5 '13 at 22:37
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    General commentary; As someone who has had a cat through both abundant as well as tough financial times, I can honestly say that my cat's expenses have never given me a second thought. Sure, there have been times I've spent more or less on "frivolities" like cat trees / toys - but when you love your cat you really don't consider the cost of cat food / litter any more so than you would consider going hungry yourself or not buying toilet paper. – Steve Dec 10 '13 at 21:27
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Any specific cost figures will be (a) localized and (b) out of date eventually, so I'll address categories more broadly.

Adoption costs: The shelter sets a fee for this, sometimes reducing it for older animals. At least in the US, but I suspect most other places too, the cat will come microchipped, spayed/neutered, and current on vaccines.

Even though the cat is current on vaccines, it's a good idea to take it to a vet for an initial checkup soon after adoption. The shelter I used required this within two weeks. See "vet" below.

Food: This depends on what you feed, both type and brand, of course. To estimate this, look at packages in the store, using the feeding instructions and package size to work out cost/day. Then do the math. My two adult cats go through about a pound of dry food a week (together) plus about 10 cans; your mileage may vary.

In addition to food you will probably want to keep treats on hand. This is a minor addition to the food bill.

Litterboxes and litter: The conventional advice seems to be to have one litterbox per cat plus one more. The box is a one-time expense. The initial filling of litter is more expensive; after that you just need to top off to replace what you scoop out. I go though a 20-pound jug of litter every couple weeks, I think (for two cats).

For both food and litter, you can also ask the shelter for advice on rate of consumption. They have data; I have anecdotes. :-)

Routine vet visits: Plan for an annual checkup and vaccines (twice-annual later in life). A vet can give you prices for this over the phone. Prices vary.

Non-routine medical care: As with people, sometimes stuff happens -- pets get sick, or have accidents, or some emergency comes up. As cats get older the likelihood of conditions requiring medical attention rises. You're adopting a cat for its lifetime, not just its good years, so do plan on this. Unfortunately this is hard to predict; some cats may be fine with regular checkups and others may need a lot more. Once cats reach about ten years old, in my experience vets start recommending twice-annual checkups (no longer just annual) and at-least-annual bloodwork (CBC screen or the like). The latter helps to detect problems like kidney disease or liver disease.

Supplies: You'll want to have a variety of toys (stuffed toys, string toys, balls, etc) on hand. Different cats prefer different types, so don't buy a lot until you find out what your cat likes. These aren't that expensive, and some you can make yourself if you're inclined. Over time they get destroyed and you replace them.

It's important to have things to scratch. Some cats prefer to scratch vertically (scratching posts) and others horizontally (cardboard scratching pads). Don't skimp on a cheap, short scratching post; the cat needs to be able to stretch out. I've found that the ones with sisal rope get more use than the carpet-covered ones, but I don't know if that's common or just my cats. I get about a year out of the cardboard ones before I have to replace them.

Some cats like beds, cat trees, padded window seats, and the like, and others completely ignore them and sleep on your couch (or your bed, or you if you let them). Among the cats I know, the "doughnut" beds seem to be the most popular of these items.

Grooming: Nail clippers, a good brush, and a flea comb are essential.

Carrier: You will need a carrier to transport your cat safely (e.g. to the vet).

Pet-sitting: Cats are creatures of habit so it's much better to have somebody come into your house than for you to board the cat when you travel. Pet-sitters are probably listed in the phone listings, and if your vet offers a bulletin board for ads, business cards, etc you'll find many options there. Prices vary, so shop around. Personally, I prefer to trade cat-sitting services with friends who also have cats; that way I know the people who are coming into my home and all the cats get to know the people involved.

Household wear and tear: Some things are going to get scratched, knocked over, or occasionally soiled. It happens. For the last, the right cleaning products applied promptly should fix it up.

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  • 4
    I really like the way you answered this question, you have not mentioned $ values at all and answered it superbly well done +1 – Yvette Dec 5 '13 at 2:15
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    Thanks Skippy! I don't think it's possible to meaningfully answer with numbers. – Monica Cellio Dec 5 '13 at 2:17
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    when I first saw the Q, I thought uh oh, could be localised, and really was happily surprised. I don't think I would've thought of handling it that way (I probably would've flagged to close as off topic).. Some of us are lateral thinkers others literal :) – Yvette Dec 5 '13 at 2:20
  • Excellent answer -- you've covered things well enough that the OP should be able to do a bit of local research and fill in ballpark numbers in their area. – keshlam Apr 29 '15 at 14:21

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