How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Cat?

One of the biggest gifts you can give to a cat is a second chance at life. At your local shelter, there are dozens of cats for you to choose from, and by picking one, you’re giving that little feline a companion for life.

So, how much does it cost to adopt a cat? Adoption fees range from $15 to $200 for cats a year plus and $100 to $200 for kittens 2 to 11 months old. Each cat’s adoption fee depends on demand, behavior, age or medical condition.

To adopt a cat from a shelter, the standard fee for a cat is roughly $60, $125 for kittens under 5 months, and around $200 for 2 kitties from the same litter.

If you’re new to the cat world or haven’t adopted before, you may have many questions about the process.

2 short haired cats in shelter waiting for cat adoption

Like, the application process, associated costs for ongoing cat care or any extra fees…

In this post, we hope to teach you more about cat adoption and help you make a more well rounded decision.

What’s Included In A Cat Adoption Fee?

Adoption fees help to cover your cats, and other animals in the shelter, medical care while waiting for a new home.

These fees also cover their food and costs for transportation.   

Money from adoption fees also serves as donations to help the entire organization to continue its cause and efforts to rescue and give these animals a new home.

Please donate to your local shelters!

Just imagine the money you’ll save adopting from a rescue or shelter. 

These places will usually cover those initial veterinary costs to prepare these cats for new homes.

Cat adoption fees often include:

  • Initial Visit Wellness Visit/Exam $50-100
  • ID or Collar Tags $5-10
  • FVRCP Vaccine (Distemper included) $20-30×2
  • Rabies Vaccine $15-25
  • FIV – Feline Leukemia (this is for testing) $30-50
  • Spaying / Neutering $150-300
  • Tick/Flea Treatments $50-200
  • Microchipping your cat (Again not needed, or recommended, unless your situation calls for it) $50
  • Deworming Your Cat $20-50

This can total you: ~ $425-880

You’ll pay this for your “free” kitty but not to adopt!

Usually, when you get cats for free, they aren’t spayed, neutered or have a full set of vaccinations, adding up to that higher priced medical expense above.

Why Adopt A Cat? Here Are 4 Reasons Why.

By adopting a cat you, you’re going to save lives. 2.7 million adoptable cats, each year, are euthanized in the U.S. simply because there isn’t enough space in the shelters and not many people are utilizing shelters when searching for or adopting a new pet.

Good news.

Adopting a pet has increasingly become a more popular choice when it comes to choosing a cat.

The Shelters Are Crowded With Animals

Every year, millions of pets are rescued and put in shelters. [source]

In the feline realm, over 3 million cats are put in shelters.

That’s a lot of meows!

However, your shelter can only hold so much, and often, these animals may have to be put down if they stay there too long.

There are no-kill shelters out there, but even so, your shelter shouldn’t be filled to the brim with animals.

However, this does happen. One reason is that cats have a high breeding rate.

If left unspayed and unneutered, these cats can create a lot of babies!

Adoption supports your local shelter and helps clear it out a little bit.

Animal Mills Are Not Fun

While there are reputable breeders out there, many breeders treat their animals like factories, making them reproduce as much as possible.

Because the breeders want their animals to be purebred, the babies often come with health problems and other defects.

The animals may be abused, and they just aren’t designed to breed so much.

While mills are mostly centered around dogs, there are kitten mills that do exist.

These mills are often less regulated and the kittens there don’t have socialization.

They aren’t good for the cats, and mills may charge thousands.

Also, many mills won’t care if the owner is qualified or not raise the cat. Animal shelters will often monitor the owners to make sure the pet is in good hands.

Cat Adoption Is Cheaper

Owning a pet is going to cost you, and while a cat isn’t as much responsibility as a dog, there is still a lot that goes into it.

The first big investment is purchasing the animal. With a mill or a pet shop, it can cost you thousands.

With pet adoption, it’s much cheaper.

Adoption Fees Often Include All The Medical Essentials

With the adoption fee, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Often, the money you pay to adopt will give you vaccinations, a checkup, microchipping, and spaying/neutering.

You can start your cat’s health right by making sure they’ve had all the procedures done to them.

How Much Does Adopting A Cat Cost?

Like I stated above, the price for adopting a cat is going to vary depending on the shelter and other circumstances surrounding the cat.

Obviously, the best answer to this question is to go to your shelter and look at the prices.

Here are a few factors that are going to play a part in the adoption fee:

  1. The Age of the Cat – The older the cat is, the less the adoption fee may be, and vice versa.
  2. An Older Cat – An older or a senior cat may have a low adoption fee.  For a cat over five years of age, you may only need to pay $25 for adopting it.  Of course, with an older cat, you may want to consider the cost of medical care that will come with aging.
  3. Getting Kittens – Kittens are usually the most expensive to adopt.  You may pay at least $100, if not more, to adopt a kitten. 
    1. First, there is a higher demand for kittens.  Everyone thinks kittens are cute, and they often want the pet to begin its companionship at birth.
      With that said, don’t adopt just because you want a cute kitten.  The kitten will quickly grow into a cat, and if you’re planning on trading that cat in for another kitten, you shouldn’t adopt.
    2. Second, kittens require more care.
      They are at a vulnerable stage in their life, and they often will need to have all their medical procedures.  A kitten is weaker, more susceptible to disease, and needs all the TLC they can get.  A shelter needs to put effort to make sure that kitten is as healthy as possible.
  4. A Young Adult Cat – This is a cat that is fully matured, but still young. The cost of a young adult cat can depend on the vet. Sometimes, you may pay $50-$75 to adopt them.

Of course, it all depends on where you go, and you can sometimes find some good deals.

At pet stores such as PetSmart, there are often cats from the local animal shelter that you can adopt.

Sometimes, the fee may be less there.

I adopted a beautiful black cat, who was only six months old at the time, at PetSmart for just $25.

What makes adopting at a pet store better is that you can buy all the essentials without taking another trip.

What is Included in an Adoption Fee?

When paying the adoption fee, you may wonder where your money is going.

The good news is that your money is going to a few good causes, which include:

Supporting the Shelter

Obviously, an animal shelter can’t run without funds, and by adopting that cat, you’re helping to keep a roof over the shelter’s head.

Money can help the shelter rescue more animals and improve the infrastructure of the place.

Shelters are often underfunded, and by giving your money to your shelter, you can help them.

Below is great update story of a cat adoption after 9 months!


Vaccinations: Core

Cats will be given some core vaccines, which may depend on the shelter.

Core vaccines help stop the spread of disease at the shelter and helps the cat once they reach their forever home.

Even if your cat is primarily indoors, you may want to keep their vaccines up to date. You never know.

Microchipping Your Cat

Some shelters will microchip your cat for you.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s a lifetime procedure.

The microchip is injected into the pet like a vaccine, and it tells all the information about your pet.

If your pet is ever lost and gets rescued, the shelter will know who it belongs to.

Microchipping can be much more effective than a collar, which can fall off.

Spaying or Neutering

If you ever watched The Price is Right, you know how important spaying or neutering is.

All it takes is for an unspayed/unneutered cat to have one night out for it to reproduce and contribute to the growing homeless pet population.

Spaying and neutering have a few health benefits, such as preventing some cancers, reducing the chances of your cat running away, and preventing female cats from going into a painful heat.

These medical procedures may have already been performed on the cat.

If not, they may ask you to wait a few days until picking up your pet. When we adopted our first cat, we had to wait a couple of days because she hadn’t been spayed yet.

Hearing how an unspayed cat acts, we definitely could wait.

General Costs Of Adopting A Cat

Finally, the money you pay for the adoption supports the cost it takes to care for your cat while it’s there:

  • Feeding
  • Water to drink
  • changing the litter
  • anything else you need to keep a cat happy

By paying the fee, you’re helping the shelter support the cats.

Different shelters may pay for different services when it comes to the adoption fee. If you’re unsure where your money is going, look it up or ask.

Other Costs to Consider

The first year according to the ASPCA, it can cost around $1,000 for a cat, and then around $500 each preceding year.

For me, I have 4 cats, and the annual cost I pay is roughly: $3000. (it’s the food bill! I feed fresh food from NomNomNow)

The costs take into account many of the first time medical procedures (which can be waived if you adopt,) and many items such as:

  • a litter box
  • scratching post
  • crate

While a cat isn’t terribly expensive, first-time owners should prepare.

Don’t Forget About Emergencies!

We would all like the image that nothing bad will ever happen to our cats.

They’ll be as healthy as possible until the end of time. However, this isn’t how the world works.

All it takes is for Fluffy to get into something she isn’t supposed to in order for a life or death situation to happen.

No matter how hard you hide the people food, some cats are prone to getting into it.

And then, there’s always a chance your cat may get sick, even if they are young and healthy.

Life happens, and in a situation like this, you need to act fast. Getting your cat emergency care is very important.

How much will an emergency surgery cost?

It will all depend on the situation.

With our healthcare system, it’s hard to say.

However, you need to be prepared.

Having a few thousand saved up is one move you can make. Another move to consider is pet insurance, but you may not get a good enough return on investment.

Having a credit card handy may be your best bet, with you only needing to use it for emergencies such as your cat needing surgery.

Anything Else You Should Know?

One thing you have to remember is that when you choose your cat to adopt, there are no “take backs”.

This cat is your companion for life. Don’t get rid of it because it misbehaves, or because it’s no longer cute.

If you’re adopting a cat, for this reason, you’re doing it all wrong.

That’s why it’s important to ask a few questions when adopting a cat.

Don’t feel intrusive when talking to the adoption center about the cat’s medical history, temperament, and any other questions you want to have answered.

cat temperament

Many people will choose the cat that responds the best to them, but don’t write off a cat just because it seems shy or seems a bit aggressive at first.

Many cats take a bit to warm up to new people, and the cat may be stressed. Ask the vet about how the cat typically behaves.  

Also, do you have other pets in your home? Consider that before you adopt.

Your old pet, whether it’s a dog or a cat, may be hostile to the newcomer of your home.

However, by slowly introducing your new cat with your other pet, you can reduce hostility.

Separate your new cat with your old pet, and let them trade rooms.

Get them used to each other’s scent. Every so often, let your pets get a glance at each other.

After you think the time is right, introduce them. There may be some skepticism and hostility at first, such as hissing.

If they get into a fight, break it up and start again. It can take a bit for two pets to warm up, but when they do, they’ll love each other.

Or at least tolerate one another.

Related Questions:

How Does The Cat Adoption Process Work? 

Each and every rescue or shelter will have its own adoption processes.

A list of steps you may go through during the process are:

  1. Make sure your finances and lifestyle will work around your new cat or kitten. You’re bringing them into your world, they didn’t ask for it… so accommodate them!
  2. If your local shelter is open to the public, go visit. If they don’t, adopt a cat from a rescue or find online within your zip code.  You’ll be able to see images and their information there.
  3. You can arrange a visit with the shelter or rescue if you found a cat online. They may foster out their animals and you could get your whole family there for a visit with the cat.
  4. Always ask questions. Ask about medical problems, up to date vaccines, any known ailments, how’s their temperament: playfulness, likes/dislikes petting, social or energetic, a loner.
  5. After you find a kitty your whole family loves and is a good fit, it’s time to fill out an application. (at some pound you may be able to take the cat home the same day.)
  6. When that application is filled out, you’ll go through a screening process: interview (in person or phone), background check, reference check, may be asked if you own or rent a home (they’ll ask your landlord if your allowed cats
  7. You may be asked to sign an adoption agreement. It’s a binding contract that guarantees that the cat will be cared for.  Usually, the provisions include: spay or neuter a cat, provide adequate food and medical care, and to keep the cat indoors.

While that’s going on, get your home ready!

You’ll need:

  • Litter pan
  • scratching post
  • a few cat toys
  • a bed
  • plenty of healthy food
  • You may also need to kitten-proof your home by checking for toxic houseplants, cords, and blinds that pose a strangling hazard.

So, when you pass your screening process you can take your cat home!

So What Does Adopting A Cat All Mean?


Save a life and save money by adopting.

If you’re adopting a cat, it is indeed the cheaper option.

At the most, you’re only paying a couple hundred to adopt, and those fees are usually not that expensive.

With adoption, the basic medical procedures your cat needs are often included. Adoption fees are a drop in the bucket compared to the other costs you may have to pay, so always save up.

Adopting a cat can be a magical experience.

If you’re prepared, head to your local shelter and see who is waiting for you.

Do you have any adoption stories or process you’d like to share or add to this ongoing post? Feel free to leave a comment or contact us!

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