Better with Cheddar: Here’s how much it cost to adopt my cat


Taylor Milam

Taylor Milam

Blog author Taylor Milam

Taylor Milam is a personal finance writer who recently paid of $14,000 of student loans. She helps millennials with money and spending at The Freedom From Money.

Published November 23, 2017|4 min read

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It’s been over a year since my spouse and I met our cat. Making the decision to bring Cheddar home was easy. From the first moment we held his trembling body in our arms, we knew we were going to adopt him from the Humane Society. Figuring out how much the process would cost was another story.

Even though the adoption wasn’t spontaneous, it also wasn’t exactly planned. We met Cheddar at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday. By 7:30 p.m., we had signed the paperwork and paid the adoption fee. Over the course of the next hour, we spent nearly $200 on supplies for his imminent arrival. Here’s exactly how much it cost to add our furry friend to the family.

1. Adoption fee: $25

Most pet adoption fees range from $50 to $100, with kittens typically costing more than adult cats. Cheddar was an adult and had been in the shelter for a few months, so his adoption fee was reduced. But, young, old or in-between, the price of adopting a pet is drastically lower than getting one from a pet store or breeder. The purchase price for a purebred kitten? Upwards of $700. (Just one of the many reasons to adopt.)

2. Food & fundamentals: $110

After paying for our cat, we made a quick run to PetSmart. In order to take Cheddar home, we needed a carrier. And we needed one that night, so we didn’t have a lot of time to compare prices. Despite the time constraint, we looked at reviews online and made a decision we felt good about: $45 for a cat carrier with 5-star reviews.

Next, we bought a food bowl and water bowl for $15 and a small bag of dry cat food for $10. For the litter box, we bought a generic plastic box for $8 and a scooping kit that hooks to the side of the box for $10. We also splurged on a $7 mat for underneath the box to keep the area clean. After that, we bought the litter itself, which rang in at $15 for a big box.

Tip: Plan ahead! The exact same items we bought at the pet store would have cost us nearly $40 less if we had ordered them online or bought them in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club. If you know you’re in the market to adopt a pet, buy the basics before heading to the shelter.

4. Toys: $55

We weren’t quite sure what toys Cheddar would enjoy, so we bought him balls to chase, ribbons to catch and scratching pads to scratch. In total, we spent $25 on toys and an additional $10 on catnip and treats. We also splurged on a cozy cat bed for $20.

Even though these items aren’t “essential,” we felt they were important to Cheddar’s long-term happiness and mental health as he made the transition into our home.

5. Vet visits: $30

Another financial perk of adopting from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder: The animals are neutered and vaccinated prior to adoption or as part of the package. Because those procedures can range from $100 to $200, the savings are significant.

But, even with Cheddar neutered and vaccinated, he still needed a vet exam to ensure he didn’t have any medical problems or chronic illnesses that hadn’t be caught by the shelter’s veterinarian. Fortunately, local veterinary clinics encourage adoption and often offer adopted pets an initial exam for free. We took advantage of an offer and saved $50 on Cheddar’s initial exam. However, the vet did recommend a $30 test for Cheddar to ensure he didn’t have worms or other parasites. We went ahead with the test and Cheddar earned a clean bill of health.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the shelter about industry partnerships or special deals with local veterinary clinics. Beyond that, a quick search online should yield a list of veterinary offices who offer free exams for first-time visitors.

6. Microchips & safety: $35

A microchip is an electronic identification system implanted underneath the animal’s skin. If your pet is ever lost and then found by a third-party, shelters and veterinarians access the microchip via a scanner to learn the owner’s contact information. The cost to get the chip implanted ranges from $40 to $50. Cheddar was already microchipped, but we needed to add our information to the chip. The cost? $20.

We also bought Cheddar a collar and tag with our phone number for $15. Cheddar is an indoor cat, but if he ever accidentally escapes, we want to make sure he gets returned home safely.

Total cost of adoption: $255

In total, it cost us $255 upfront to adopt our cat. It’s a small price to pay for Cheddar’s constant companionship and hilarious antics, but it’s also not the only price we will have over the course of his life.

According to the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the costs for an indoor cat ranges from $340 to $900 per year. In other words, owners can expect to spend anywhere from $5,100 to $13,500 over the course of fifteen years.

Common pet expenses include food, medical care, grooming and, yes, pet insurance. Policygenius can help you find pet insurance for your furbaby here.

Image: Martin Poole