An owner pets his cat while working from home.

5 Cost-Saving Tips for First-Time Cat Owners

Can you afford a cat? Even if you’ve drawn up a thorough shopping list and reflected carefully on your readiness, the costs of cat ownership could catch you by surprise. In addition to hundreds in up-front spending, some estimates suggest pet parents can expect up to $1,000 in annual expenses — and that’s for healthy cats. Fortunately, frugal cat owners can save on one-time and recurring expenses by following these guidelines.


Cat lovers can save from Day 1 with a trip to their local shelter or adoption center. While some fees may apply, adopting a cat is generally much cheaper than purchasing one. What fees you do wind up paying may go toward helping shelters continue to do their valuable work or even cover the cost of essentials like vaccinations and pest prevention. Best of all, adopting saves more than just money. It often literally means saving a cat’s life!

Trust Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian is a partner in pet care who’s standing by to guide you throughout every stage of your new cat’s life. Though they’re primarily concerned with your pet’s health, they may be able to consult you on the financial side of pet parenthood as well. When it comes to food, for example, they can help you determine which budget brands to steer clear of and advise you on how to affordably optimize your cat’s diet. With their guidance, it may be possible and even cost effective to whip up your own cat food at home.

Introduce Good Habits Early

A staggering number of domestic cats — more than half over the age of three — suffer from conditions of the mouth, teeth, and gums. The most common include gingivitis (inflammation of the gums which can evolve into more serious periodontal disease) and tooth resorption (gradual dental decay which can lead to painful lesions). In addition to causing your cat pain and discomfort, these conditions could mean hefty medical bills after emergency procedures like tooth extraction. Talk to your vet about appropriate at-home dental care and make sure to do your part. Your cat may never enjoy getting their teeth brushed, but familiarizing them with the experience early can teach them to accept it and reduce their risk of developing costly, painful conditions.

Properly bonding with your cat can help to discourage expensive and irritating behaviors like inappropriate scratching and biting by helping them build confidence and adjust to homelife. Even if you’ve got an indoor kitty on your hands, make sure to spend quality time together and, to the extent possible, introduce them to new sensory stimuli. When responding to unwanted behaviors, take care not to use negative reinforcement, which may end up encouraging bad behavior.

Invest In Toys and Gear

You’ve probably heard the phrase “you’ve got to spend money to make money.” For new cat owners, another phrase often applies: you’ve got to spend money to save money. In satisfying their natural instincts, many cats introduce themselves to their surroundings “claw’s first.” All that scratching can mean damaged furniture and clothing if cat lovers aren’t careful. It pays to purchase gear like scratching posts to divert a cat’s natural instinct and avoid costly repairs and replacements. Scratchable toys won’t cost you as much as surgical declawing and they won’t raise the same ethical concerns as the controversial procedure. For New York cat owners, onychectomy is only legal in instances where it is a medical necessity.

If you’re bringing home a kitten, you’ll also want to gear up to survive their teething process. They’ll thank you for purchasing gum-soothing toys and treats and you’ll appreciate that their insatiable chewing and gnawing has some new targets.

Creative cat owners might even consider saving by creating toys and feline climbable, scratchable playgrounds with household items. Though they’re fond of napping and lazing, cats are naturally curious and energetic critters. Without toys and opportunities to play and explore, they can easily grow restless and begin to act out.

Purchase Pet Insurance

1 in 3 American pets experiences a health emergency each year and those medical mishaps are worse than just stressful. On average, an unplanned trip to veterinary hospital costs between $800 and $1,500, a price most pet lovers can’t afford. Pet insurance can help. In addition to basic coverage against accidents and illnesses, many providers offer customizable plans with reimbursement for everything from preventive care to end-of-life expenses.

Rates are cheaper for young, healthy pets and some plans may even help you save on one-time and early life expenses like microchipping and core vaccinations. Learn more about how pet insurance can provide a financial safety net and years of peace of mind.