The Cost of Keeping a Cat

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Camouflage, kinda.

I promise this is not going to become a crazy cat-lady blog! I only have *one* cat, who I got for companionship when I first moved to California. I know nobody wants to hear about other peoples’ pets, so I promise this will be the only cat-related post. Not a word more about cats after this (unless you follow my Instagram 🙂 )

I’d always wanted a pet, but previously being a student and  living in rentals, it wasn’t the best idea. After finally settling down and starting work full-time, I thought it was a good opportunity to level up my adult life and get a cat. I love dogs, but since I’m not home all day and live in a condo, a cat seemed like the more responsible option. Thus, Zuri came into my life! In light of her two-year anniversary of joining the household, I thought it would be interesting to look at the expense of keeping her.

Background

I’m actually allergic to cats (RAST level 2 for you medical nerds out there). Whenever I visit my family back home, who also has a cat, I start sneezing and getting a runny nose. But a few years ago, I was visiting a friend who has a Bengal cat, and I found I wasn’t getting the usual symptoms. Thus, after a bunch of research into hypoallergenic cat breeds (do they even exist?), I settled on getting a Bengal, since I knew my allergies wouldn’t be triggered by that breed. After a few Craigslist misses and scouring the shelters, I found a reputable breeder (thanks, Amantra Bengals!) and met up with her in Los Angeles. I ended up with Zuri, who was 2 years old when I got her. Adult cats are actually a lot cheaper than kittens – I paid $150 for her, and kittens are $1000+ for the Bengal breed. She’s a 5th generation Bengal (meaning her ancestors were Asian leopard cats), and she’s awesome!

Costs from a Year of Cat-Keeping

So, I looked through my credit card reports from the past year and counted up all cat-related expenses. Here are the numbers:

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Wow, boarding is a whopping 75% of total costs! I traveled for about 45 days last year (combination of vacation and business trips) where I needed cat-sitting.  I have a fantastic cat sitter who I found on Rover, and she charges $15/day. (I think my sitter should be happy that I became her client, given the amount of business I give her 🙂 ) Most people think Rover is for dogs, but you can filter for people who accept cats too. However, it can be harder to find a cat-sitter, because most sitters are dog-owners and they may not have space to keep the cat in a separate room/floor of the house.

I don’t feel comfortable leaving my cat at a friend’s house. I think they would say agree to it out of politeness, but I would then feel obligated to them. The ideal situation would be if my friend also had a cat, and we could “trade” cat-sitting, but none of my friends have a cat. Therefore, I’d rather pay someone a reasonable amount of money in a clear transaction, and not feel guilty about imposing on my friends. On shorter 2-3 day trips , I do leave Zuri at home alone. In those cases, I put extra food and the plug-in pheromone diffuser. If I’m driving somewhere for an overnight trip, like my aunt’s house, I’ll usually bring her along.

I’m hoping the boarding costs will be reduced from now on, since my partner’s moved in and he can watch her if I’m traveling for work. We will need to do boarding if we go somewhere together on vacation, though. The remainder of the food, litter, and toys are a few hundred dollars, which seems pretty reasonable to me. The total cost including boarding is ~$1000, and the total cost without boarding is ~$250. This cost without boarding seems to be significantly less than owning a dog. I haven’t included any medical costs because I haven’t taken her to the vet recently, but I think I need take her later this year to update her shots.

Giving your cat the luxe life

I was telling my friend about my cat, and she commented “your cat has a pampered life!” I hadn’t thought about it before, but I suppose it’s true 🙂 I do like searching Amazon for the latest and greatest cat toys / upgrades. Besides the usual food / water bowls, litter box, and cat tree, Zuri gets a few luxurious extras. These are the ones that I’ve found she uses the most:

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Drinky drinky.
  • Treat ball / slow feeder: Last time I picked up Zuri from the cat-sitter, the sitter told me, “Zuri gained weight!” I was like… what? Really? So I got this treat ball and slow food feeder, and I think it’s helped her stop eating too quickly. It also entertains her so she’s not always meowing in my face 😛
  • Heated pad: Zuri definitely loves this one. In the winter, it can get kind of cold out here (I’m not near the coast), so she sleeps on this pad all the time (you can see it in the first pic).
  • Scratching post: OK, this product is genius. It’s a thin layer that wraps around any table leg and converts it to a scratching post!
  • Water fountain: I read somewhere that cats prefer running water. While I’m not sure if she drinks more after I got this water fountain, she sure looks cute lapping  water from the flower 🙂
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Happy as a clam cat.

Luckily, the best things in Zuri’s life are free:

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Exploring the great outdoors.
  • An open window: Birds… so close, yet so far.
  • Yarn ball: It’s such a stereotype, but cats really do like yarn balls! It was hard to take a non-blurry pic because she’s usually fighting with it and unraveling my sweater project.
  • The great outdoors: I bought a leash (OK, not free), got her acclimatized to the harness, and took her outside! She’s a huge scaredy cat (we spend a lot of time hanging out on the doormat), but she does seem to enjoy it overall. You can see her in in the pic below fastidiously sticking to the concrete path and avoiding the grass (I guess because she’s used to hard floors as an indoor cat, lol).
  • Wheatgrass: OK, again not entirely free, but seeds are basically dirt cheap. It’s unclear why cats like plants, since they’re carnivores, but Zuri definitely nibbles on it several times a day. And hey, Adele likes wheatgrass too!
  • My time: I like to get in her exercise session (i.e., chasing around a toy mouse / laser pointer) while I’m talking on the phone.
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Noms.

Final Thoughts

Zuri is the cutest cat, and she makes me laugh (mostly from her evil death stares). Her costs aren’t that huge, but she definitely doesn’t have health benefits or save me money like a dog potentially could. The boarding cost was definitely larger than I expected, seeing it all tallied up. Overall, cat-keeping has benefits:

  • Companionship: Whenever Zuri’s not home, it just feels weird. She follows me around the house and keeps me company while working / watching TV / sleeping / everything.
  • Expert bug-killer: Unfortunately she wasn’t into ants and couldn’t help with an ant infestation last year, but she’s onto anything bigger than a fly. Moths are her favorite, or even small lizards if she can find them.
  • Something to pamper: Her fur is soo soft. I wish I could wear her around my neck (alive, of course 🙂 )

But, there are also challenges:

  • Travel: The boarding costs mentioned above.
  • Keeping her entertained: Bengals are vocal! Every time I cook something with meat/fish, she starts meowing because she wants a piece. I have to zealously guard my leftovers on the kitchen counter.
  • Finding a place that accepts cats: I only got Zuri after I was pretty settled down and knew I wouldn’t be moving anytime soon, so I didn’t really have this problem. But from my experiences vetting potential subletters in the past, I know there are so many renters with pets, which seriously limits their choices. Don’t do it!

How much do you spend on your pets? Do you pamper your pets? Lastly, an age-old question: cats vs dogs?

6 thoughts on “The Cost of Keeping a Cat

  1. Your cat is so cute! And yes, our perfect boarding system is exchanging dog watching with local friends. It helps both people out, but I wouldn’t feel right just asking a friend and not paying them in some sort of exchange. (Though I’m sure our two dogs are a lot more work than one cat.) 🙂

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    • Thanks! I think my friends are a bit less settled and thus tend to be pet-less, but I would totally do the exchange if I could! I think also with a cat, there’s not as much local community since we cat owners don’t do walks 🙂

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  2. The one big luxurious extra (that I’d totally invest in if I had a cat) is the Litter Robot, haha, though that’s more for the benefit of the owners than the cat?

    From what I hear from friends, vet expenses for dogs do tend to be more than for cats. (Dogs seem to be a bit more likely to eat something potentially dangerous that requires an expensive vet visit, as I know from growing up with a dog.)

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    • Haha, I should get one. Poop scooping is such a drag. Humans really are slaves to our pets 🙂

      Cats seem to be pickier eaters! My cat turns up her nose if I offer her a bit of my meat/fish that I’ve cooked in a flavorful sauce. She only likes plain salt + pepper, and still looks at me suspiciously whenever I offer it, lol. She is much more inclined to gobble up her wet cat food, which smells unbearably fishy/strong to me. And cats detest oranges! It’s hilarious to offer her one. So yeah, I guess cats are a bit safer in terms of eating random foods.

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  3. Oh man, my two cats have cost me SO much in vet bills over the years! I’d be scared to tally up the numbers, lol. I’ve had Rosie for 7 years, and about a year after I got her the vet said she had a heart murmur so I paid for x-rays and an echocardiogram to check that out ($500+ total). I thought that was expensive, and then I got Sybil… I’ve had her for almost five years and probably spent around $1000 since she is prone to bladder crystals and each time it happens, it’s $200-300. Luckily I think I’ve figured out how to prevent that from happening again. Oh, and she got a dental last year which was around that same price (damn anesthesia). I’ve actually considered getting pet insurance for her. I figure my cats are still cheaper than a kid. 😉 And mine are SO spoiled. I have scratchers everywhere (just bought a new one actually) and I spend about $60 a month on food for them (dry and wet). Cat ladies unite!

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    • What is cat dental?? Oh no, I just googled it and it looks scary. You’ve totally motivated me to take her in for a check-up now. She needs her shots anyhow. And maybe they can sneak in a nail cutting session so I don’t have to do it, haha.

      Oh man, scratchers are so necessary. I don’t know about your cats, but Zuri scratches hers 24/7. I have 4 of them in my 900 sq ft condo. I used to get those cardboard ones, but they just left a mess everywhere when the little bits come off. I now splurge on the sisal ones and they are so much more durable, and no mess to clean up. I should feed her wet food more often, but the main barrier is my own laziness in washing up the bowls every day.

      I often wonder what my cat thinks of us humans, after all the trouble we go to to pamper them. Probably that we are clumsy, slow animals that stare off vacantly into space (at the computer screen) for long periods of time 😛

      Hahaha, cat ladies unite!!

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