My ‘Free’ Kitten Cost Us Over $9000

This post was written by Marie.

Apologies to all dog lovers out there, but I am essentially a cat person. Growing up we nabbed a kitten pretty much each year from Grandma’s hayloft in the barn – from that year’s litter, until we finally came home with a cat smart enough to avoid our neighborhood hazards.

We named our new fuzzy black kitten Midnight. He lived for years. Growing up, I dressed the poor thing up in doll clothes, carted him around in a doll carriage and generally loved him to pieces.

After marrying and having children, I finally persuaded my pet averse spouse that we should get a kitten. Right away we discovered that one of the boys was so allergic to it that he got asthma attacks, so my kitten went to another good home and we were cat-less for years. Our pets were fish, frogs, hamsters and crawdads!

When my allergic boy moved out, I straight away found a ‘free’ kitten and brought it home. I was sure this long haired beauty was a guy cat, but found out differently when ‘he’ went into heat. Have you ever seen a cat in heat? It is one of the grossest sights I have ever seen. At that point, our ‘free’ kitten stopped being free (or even inexpensive).

Plan Ahead for Pet Costs

If you are considering adopting a pet, plan ahead to make sure you are aware of potential expenses.

According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website, first year costs to own a cat can be $1035 with a recurring annual bill of $670. A large dog can run you as much as $875 a year with a first year total of around $1843. Who knew a free pet would cost so much?

Our ‘free’ kitten obviously required neutering – ASPCA cost estimates now are $145 and we paid about that at the time.

Then our cute little kitty injured herself badly – almost severing her hind leg. Although the vet recommended putting the poor dear to sleep, I of course could not bring myself to do so. $800 worth of vet bills later we brought home a re-constructed kitten and nursed her back to health.

Some people also actually buy medical insurance for their pets – a cost ASPCA estimates at $175 a year for a cat – we didn’t. It would have paid for itself the year our kitten needed surgery!

Then, of course, every year we had to go get the rabies and other vaccinations required in our locale. ASPCA suggests that ongoing medical for a cat can run you $160 a year – $260 for a large dog.

Ongoing food and products (such as the always needed kitty litter) were also expensive – estimated at upwards of $275 a year now. This doesn’t include treats, which most pet owners love to provide.

Naturally, you also will have expenses for a carry box, litter box, care while you are on vacation or away from home or – if you take your pet along – extra expenses for hotel fees.

I also count my time as an expense and trust me, it took a long time to get that cat’s hair combed out and clean the hair out of the cat’s living quarters each summer when she shed.

Lifetime Cost of Our ‘Free’ Kitten

Since our cat lived for 18 years, she cost us a total of around $9440 broken out as below:

  • Initial cost $0
  • Neutering $120
  • Surgery and related for her leg injury $800
  • Boarding during our infrequent vacations: 4 trips, averaging 10 days @ $15 a day = $600
  • 18 years worth of litter: $2970
  • 18 years worth of cat food: $2070
  • 18 years worth of annual vet bills: $2880

Other People Do More

Keep in mind that the ASPCA cost estimates are pretty much for the minimum required. A lot of people seem to really indulge their pets these days. There could be doggie day care expenses, dog walking fees, doggie spa fees, grooming fees, training fees, expenses to put up a fence or build a pet entrance, costs for bedding for your pet and on and on.

Pets are Family Members – Put Them in Your Budget

I hope I don’t sound too mercenary, I do love pets and know that many people consider them family members – and you don’t put a price on a family member. Still, it pays to know the costs related to a family member so you can plan for them in your budget. Put your pet’s needs in your budget.

Would the lifelong monetary costs of a pet deter you from adopting one? What other expenses do you have for your pet?


My ‘Free’ Kitten Cost Us Over $9000 — 26 Comments

  1. Maybe I’m the bad guy here, but I won’t spend huge amounts on a pet. I will provide the basics of care and love, but no major surgeries or expensive lifetime pills for my pets.

  2. I prefer not to add up how much we spend on our pets. We don’t buy the “pet accessories” that are sold all over the place either, but it’s still been expensive with medical bills. Our current cat has a long-term illness. She’s doing fine now (just needs daily pills, which we actually get inexpensively from the health food store) but for 10 months last year we had to take her to the vet 2-4 times a month. And our dog required surgery when he got a hematoma. But they’re worth it!

  3. We have a cat, and he will probably cost us that much. However, we love having a pet and my two youngest are enamored of the cat, so we are willing to fork over the money. However, I have a friend who sends her dog to doggie day camp several times a week. That expense really adds up!

  4. My wife is a cat lady also! We have 2 cats now! So double that expense! I am the one that buys the cat litter and cat food and I can’t believe how much this stuff cost. Since both cats are indoor cats we buy the clumping cat litter, which keeps the house from smelling like cats, but cost a little more than the average cat litter.

    Our second cat was almost free, we paid a $100 adoption fee to PetSmart. The cat came spayed and had all its shots, so in the long run we saved money there. Now I am always looking for the ‘good deals’ on cat litter and cat food and try to buy bulk at Costco when possible to help save cost.

    Thanks for showing me the reality of owning a cat! Now if I could only convince my wife that we don’t need any more!

    • @Ben. I think pets in general add so much to our life that the cost is only relative. It is great you are trying to find deals on supplies and that you have rescued cats, not ones from a breeder. This is really important for preventing pets having no homes.

      I think it would be ok if you and your wife got more cats- as long as they are loved and you are able to provide for them.

    • Just because a pet costs doesn’t mean they don’t provide benefits. I believe I have read articles about pet owners being less stressed and more healthy due to their pets. Cats also keep other pests away, which is why my Grandparents kept one. After our kitty died, we found moles and other small rodents multiplying in the yard!

  5. The cost of having pets would never stop me from having them. I personally, would rather eat Ramen noodles for the year than to be without my furbabies.
    I buy my cat food in bulk and always buy my clumping litter when it’s on sale (I stockpile litter lol). Don’t forget the cost of toys, collars, brushes.

    I always joke that my cats are still cheaper than having a spouse 😉

  6. Outdoor cats are more impressible to costly trauma than indoor cats. Pets always provides benefits to the pet owners. Thanks anyway for the post.

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