Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting a Cat

Before adopting a cat, make sure you have the time and resources to care for a pet.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit Insurance Writer
  • Co-hosts the Money Talks News podcast

  • MBA from Utah State University

Miranda is a financial writer and avid podcaster with nearly two decades of experience contributing to major outlets, including Forbes, The Hill, and NPR.

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Chris Schafer
Edited byChris Schafer
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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Updated December 19, 2023

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Adopting a cat can be a great idea, especially if you’re looking for companionship and want to bolster your emotional health. A pet can provide emotional and social benefits, especially if you choose a domestic cat. About 46.5 million American households own cats, second only to dogs in popularity for pet ownership.[1]

However, owning a cat is a long-term relationship since cats have a typical lifespan of 15 to 20 years. You should be fully prepared before bringing a cat home, as it’s the best way to ensure a mutually satisfying relationship.

Here’s what to know before adopting a cat.

1. Do you have time for a cat?

Before you decide it’s a good idea to bring a cat home, consider whether you have enough time, especially as a first-time cat owner. While cats are generally considered independent, some experts recommend spending at least 20 minutes a day one-on-one with your feline family member.[2]The temperament of your cat will also determine how much time it wants to spend with you.

Don’t forget the time involved in regular veterinarian checkups, shopping for pet food, and ensuring your cat is well cared for. You might also need to spend extra time at first, making sure your new family member is acclimated.

2. Do you have room for a cat?

While there’s no exact formula for determining how much room a cat needs, it’s generally accepted they should have an absolute minimum of about 20 square feet of dedicated space scattered throughout the living environment.[3] They can generally be fine in a small area, like a small apartment.

To enhance the home environment for a cat, consider adding cat trees, scratching posts, and toys it can play with. You also need a place for a litter box and an area to keep cat food and a water bowl.

Sometimes, when introducing a new cat to the household, it needs a single room to spend time in to get used to its new surroundings.

3. Can you afford a cat?

Depending on your cat’s breed and needs, you might need to adjust your cost expectations. In general, you might expect to pay up to $900 a year for an inside cat and up to $1,250 for an outdoor cat.[4]

Some common expenses for a cat might include:

  • Adoption: Depending on your state and other factors, adoption fees can cost up to $200. Generally, the cat’s age matters; you often spend more for a kitten than an older cat.

  • Food: The cost of cat food might surprise a first-time pet owner. Depending on the cat’s needs, you might pay between $120 and $500 a year. Aging cats or cats with special conditions might need special food that can cost more.

  • Litter and supplies: You must prepare and buy a litter tray and other supplies. The costs vary, depending on the type you get and how often it needs changing. If you get feline friends for your pet, it’ll cost more. Indoor cats will use the litter box more. You might spend $100 to $250 a year on litter and related supplies.

  • Toys: Healthy cats like to play, so you might need to spend $50 to $100 or more a year on toys for a high-energy cat.

  • Medical needs: Routine costs, like vet visits and vaccines, can cost up to $150 a year. Cats that spend time in the outside world require more care due to heartworm and flea/tick prevention. Conditions like the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can potentially add to the cost.

What to know about pet insurance

You can help your financial situation with pet insurance. Depending on the policy and coverage, you can get accident-only insurance for as little as $6 per month. An average plan that includes illness and accident might cost about $32 per month, or you could opt for a wellness plan that can help with regular preventive costs.

Good to Know

Insurance can cover cats of all ages, but it generally costs less if you get coverage for your young cat and keep it as it ages. Compare policies carefully, and choose one that fits your needs and can help you prepare for future health problems.

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4. What kind of cat do you want?

A cat is a lot of responsibility, but you should consider whether you want a purebred cat or a moggy (mixed breed). The type of cat you get also matters.

Some breeds cost more, while a moggy might be less expensive, especially if adopted from an animal shelter. Pay attention to potential health issues that might be present in some cat breeds.

5. Kitten, adult, or senior cat: Which is best for you?

You need patience when you get any pet, including cats. Deciding the age of the cat you want can be a big deal. More than 500,000 cats are euthanized yearly, so adopting a cat might save its life.[5]

  • A new kitten can be a good choice if you have the time and energy to socialize it.

  • An adult cat might be better with small children, especially if it had a previous owner and is used to people.

  • Senior cats can make great companions, but they might have higher costs due to health issues.

Six things you’ll need to buy before your cat comes home

Preparing beforehand — even months before bringing your new cat into the house — can make sense.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Cat carrier: You need a way to transport your cat home, to the vet, and other places.

  2. Food: Both wet and dry food can be good to have on hand. Don’t forget food and water bowls.

  3. Cat litter supplies: Make sure you have the litter, box, scoop, and other supplies ahead of time. Your cat should quickly learn where to go.

  4. Cat play and support items: Make your pet’s new home more inviting by getting a scratching post, cat tree, and some toys ahead of time. This will make your home interesting and easier for the cat to adjust.

  5. Pet insurance: Consider getting pet insurance. It’s a great way to ensure you have a plan in place in case of illness or accident.

  6. Safe environment: Make sure you remove dangerous household items that might be toxic, such as house plants. Look for safe plants for your cat.

Cat adoption FAQs

Before you decide to adopt, ensure you understand the questions you have and that you’ve thought through the answers. Here are some common considerations.

  • Which is better: Purebred or moggy?

    This is a matter of preference. Think of your preference between short-haired and long-haired cats. Many domestic cats can be pleasant companions, whether purebred or moggy, so consider what works best for you.

  • Should you let your cat go outside?

    It’s up to you. Letting your cat go out can make sense if you’re prepared to pay extra costs associated with flea, tick, and heartworm treatments. Many owners believe cats should have the freedom to roam outdoors. Some buy a harness for their cats and teach them to go on walks, much like dogs.

    You also must understand that your cat is more likely to meet with an accident or be taken if you let it go outside. Additionally, uncontrolled outdoor access for cats can have a negative effect on an area’s natural ecosystem through factors such as the killing of protected species of birds or small mammals.

  • Should you get one cat or two?

    It depends on a cat’s temperament and your ability to care for multiple pets. While some people think it’s a good idea to have two so that they can socialize with each other, not all cats like other cats.

  • Should you spay or neuter your cat?

    Yes. In general, it’s considered good practice to spay or neuter your cat, especially if you don’t plan to use it for breeding purposes. That way, there are fewer unwanted pets.

  • When shouldn’t you adopt a cat?

    If you aren’t ready for the time, energy, and cost of a cat, you shouldn’t adopt. While not quite the same as caring for a human child, a cat is still a living being and a responsibility. If you aren’t sure you can care for the cat, you shouldn’t adopt.

Sources

  1. Statista. "Number of pet owning households in the United States in 2023, by species."
  2. Milwaukee Paws. "How Much Attention Do Cats Need?."
  3. Purina. "How Much Does a Cat Cost?."
  4. Humane Society of Huron Valley. "COST OF OWNING A CAT."
  5. ASPCA. "Pet Statistics."
Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit Insurance Writer

Miranda Marquit, MBA, is a freelance financial writer covering various markets and topics since 2006. She has contributed to numerous media outlets, including Forbes, TIME, The Hill, NPR, HuffPost, Yahoo! Money, and more. Her work has been syndicated by MSN Money, Marketwatch, Credit.com, and other publications. She has written about insurance topics for Clearsurance, HealthCare.com, and various other websites. She is also an avid podcaster and co-hosts the Money Talks News podcast. Miranda has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Syracuse University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Chris Schafer
Edited byChris SchaferSenior Editor
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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