How Much Does It Cost To Adopt a Cat?

Fact checked by  Taylor Le | Senior Content Editor
Share Email Pinterest Linkedin Twitter Facebook
A tabby kitten lies on a cat tree.

Adopting a cat can be rewarding for you and your new cat. Anna Hoychuk/

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day is April 30th, and with kitten season underway, many shelters are filled with cats and kittens awaiting new homes. Are you ready to join the ranks of millions of happy cat parents?

Adopting a new cat provides both of you with the priceless gift of companionship. The thought of cuddling up next to your cat on the couch probably stirs some warm and fuzzy feelings.

However, adopting a pet is a big decision that should not be made spontaneously. It requires research, planning, and money. We’ll explain the initial costs, ongoing expenses, and how to find the right pet for you.

Where to Adopt

A cat is in a cage at an animal shelter.

Animal shelters provide an inexpensive way to adopt a cat. Robert Hoetnik/Shutterstock

You can adopt a cat from animal shelters, private rescue groups, and breeders. Each option varies in cost, with animal shelters being the least expensive and breeders being the costliest.

Be cautious of “free” cat adoptions because there may be surprise costs. Cats offered for free may not have received adequate veterinary care to prepare them for adoption. All cats need to be seen by a veterinarian, receive multiple rounds of shots, and undergo spay/neuter surgery. If they have not yet received these, you will need to plan for the expenses, which could be hundreds of dollars.

With kitten season in full swing, thousands of kittens around the country are looking for homes. Resist the “kittens for free” offers and adopt through an animal shelter, private rescue group, or reputable breeder.

Cat Adoption Fees

Now let’s go through the upfront costs of adopting a cat. Several factors affect adoption costs:

  • Age
  • Medical needs
  • Where you adopt (shelter, rescue group, breeder)

Generally, kittens cost more to adopt because they have numerous healthcare needs at the beginning of life, such as vaccinations and getting spayed or neutered. Older and senior cats may cost less because older pets tend to be adopted less frequently than younger pets. A cat with special health needs, such as a genetic condition or chronic disease, may cost more because they will need more at-home and professional veterinary care.

According to the Cat Humane Society, the cost to adopt a cat from a shelter ranges from $68 to $317. Rescue groups can charge about $100 to $200 for cat adoption. The Cat Fanciers Association estimates that adopting from a breeder can cost anywhere from $300 to $1500.

Here’s what is typically covered in a cat adoption fee:

Core vaccinations for cats are rabies, FHV (feline herpesvirus), FCV (feline calicivirus), FPV (feline parvovirus), and FeLV. Some places may also charge an administration fee. If you’d like additional time to consider the adoption, a 24-hour hold fee is another fee.

Also Read: How Much Does it Cost to Own a Cat?

Some adoption organizations offer discounts if you serve in the military or are a senior citizen. Adoption fees may also be reduced or waived during certain seasons, such as kitten season and holidays, to promote cat adoption. Kitten season is also an excellent time to adopt an adult or senior cat, who may already cost less to adopt because of their age.

Initial and Ongoing Expenses

Adult cat lays on the floor and plays with a toy.

Cat-safe toys will be an initial and ongoing expense of cat ownership. Elya Vatel/Shutterstock

If you’re serious about adopting a cat, purchase the supplies listed below to ensure your home is “cat ready.” Consider these as your start-up costs for cat ownership.

Some ongoing expenses to consider:

  • Wellness exams
  • Unexpected veterinary care (injuries, illnesses)
  • Food
  • Replacement toys
  • Pet insurance
  • Furniture repair (Yes, your cat may scratch up your couch)

If you live in an apartment, you may have to pay a pet fee as a one-time deposit or a monthly fee added to your rent. Inquire with your landlord about this fee before adopting your cat.

While it depends on the type of pet insurance, costs can be about $380 per year ($32/month), according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Some pet insurance companies partner with animal shelters and provide reduced insurance fees for adopted cats. If you plan to adopt a cat from a shelter, ask if the shelter partners with a pet insurance company.

Using Petfinder to Adopt a Cat

One ragdoll mom and her two kittens lie next to each other on a bed.

Petfinder is a great option for selecting a adopting a specific cat breed. Tatyana Vyc/Shutterstock is a great way to search for and adopt a specific cat breed online. Here are step-by-step instructions for using the website:

  1. Refine your search area by city, state, or zip code and within a geographic distance.
  2. Choose the filters to narrow your search. In this case, you would select the “Breed” filter, such as American Shorthair or Himalayan. The results will tell you which breeds are available within your geographic area.
  3. Read the descriptions of cats that interest you. If you’d like to save your favorites, create an account and click on each cat’s heart icon.
  4. If you’d like to adopt a cat, click the ‘start your inquiry’ button for your top choice and follow the prompts.

The website provides a pet adoption checklist and frequently asked questions to help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about using Petfinder to adopt a cat.

Adopting a cat can be a rewarding experience for you and your new cat. Do your research and plan to ensure you are ready to pay for the initial and ongoing costs of adopting a cat.

Help us do better! Was this article helpful and relevant?
What can you say about this article?
I am completely satisfied, I found useful information and tips in this article
Article was somewhat helpful, but could be improved
Want to share more?
Thank You for the feedback! We work to make the world a better place for cats, and we're getting better for you.
Avatar photo

About JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine with her veterinary degree, JoAnna completed a 2-year research fellowship in neuroscience at Emory University. During this fellowship, she learned that she could make a career out of combining her loves of science and writing. As a medical writer, JoAnna is passionate about providing pet parents with clear, concise, and engaging information about pet care. Through her writing, she strives not only to educate pet parents, but also empower them to make good health decisions for their pets. JoAnna is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and Dog Writers Association of America.