Owning a cat is a rewarding experience. Many of us feel that a cat turns a house into a home, and that having at least one cat is an absolute essential. But cat ownership can be very demanding, not just in terms of time and effort, but also financially.
“But cats don't cost much”, you might say. Surely you just have to pay a little for food, and maybe a small amount for cat litter. However, there is far, far more to cat ownership than this. So if you're considering owning your first cat, please read on...
Your first financial outlay is the cast of the cat or kitten. If you are buying a pedigree cat that could be several hundred pounds, with the cost going up almostg yearly. But let's assume you're getting a cat from a rescue organisation, maybe somewhere like Cats Protection. Well, a £60 donation is approximately what these organisations charge these days. Of course, you may be getting a kitten for free, or perhaps taking on a stray cat. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that £60 is what your cat will cost you initially.
Next come basic cat supplies for the home – beds, litter trays, food bowls, scratch posts so the cat doesn't scratch your furniture, and a carrier to take your cat to the vet. These could add up to quite a lot. Even a basic cat carrier could be in the region of £20. But let's assume you manage to get these quite cheaply, and say they are going to cost £50 in total.
Once you have your cat, you will need to register with a local vet. Essential veterinary costs will be for vaccinations, microchipping, and neutering, and possibly treatments for worms and fleas. The cost of these will depend on where you live, but £100 is a rough estimate. So we're up to £200 or so already. Of course, I haven't factored in petrol costs or bus fares for actually taking your cat to the vet; that will be extra too.
Cats are small animals, and don't eat as much as dogs. Nevertheless, the biggest single cost for you will be food. It has been estimated by a reliable source that an average sized cat eats around £500 worth per year, or £1.35 per day. Then there is cat litter, which is likely to add up to another £2 per week, or £100 a year. You will need this even if your cat is likely to go outside to do its business, as in most areas it is not safe to let cats go out at night.
Then there is veterinary care. Routine stuff such as flea and worm treatments and vaccinations will come to around £100 per year. Pet insurance is recommended for unexpected costs for illness or injury, and that is likely to be another £100 per year on average. Even if you decide to dispense with this, you will need to make sure you save at least that much money for emergencies, since even if your cat is healthy when young, older cats tend to cost rather a lot in veterinary bills, unless you are extremely lucky.
So your cat is going to cost you at least £800 per year, just in basic ongoing costs, and it could easily be more than this.
You will probably want to go on holiday at least once a year. That means that unless you have reliable friends or neighbours to care for your cat, you will need to budget for a 'cat sitter' or a cattery. For one cat only, the cattery is possibly the cheaper option, but it will still cost you around £50 a week, much more in some areas. So for a two week holiday, that's another £100. If you have more than one cat, it may be cheaper to pay for a professional cat sitter to come in and feed your cats.
You love your cat, so you're likely to want to buy him or her treats, Christmas presents, toys, and so on, even if just occasionally. Another £1 per week seems reasonable, doesn't it? That's £50 per year.
Shall we assume another £50 a year for the unexpected, emergencies, and so on?
You may not have followed these costs in detail; in fact, you may be completely lost by now. However, we're now up to exactly £1000 a year, plus your original outlay of £200. Check back if you can't quite believe this. Now, cats these days live well into their late teens, sometimes even their early twenties. Let us assume that your cat is going to live to be 16 years old, which is quite a reasonable life expectation; indeed, your cat may well live longer than this. That means the lifetime cost of your cat is going to be £16,200, ie £1000 a year for 16 years, plus your original outlay of £200.
Over £16,000 for one cat!!!! Was that a lot more than you expected? And don't forget, this is actually a fairly conservative estimate. My figures haven't allowed for such items as buying a pedigree cat, constructing an escape-proof cat garden, very expensive veterinary costs, taking a cat to cat shows, or many other items which you may decide are important to you. I have simply covered the basic costs of what you owe your cat, ie keeping it well fed, safe, healthy, and happy.
So if you feel that is too much money to spend on a pet, stop now and don't get a cat. Remember, you can't change your mind – a cat is for life. But if, like many of us, you feel that cat ownership is important, if not essential, you will not think this is a great deal of money. But do make sure that you go into cat ownership with your eyes open...and also with some money in the bank!