Are you in the market for a cuddly companion? Cats are much cheaper than dogs, right? The right answer to that is: “it depends”. Find out the full story in this guide to the true cost of cat ownership.
The first thing to remember about owning a cat, or any animal for that matter, is that the price you pay at the SPCA or in that ad on TradeMe is just the beginning. Cats can live around 14 to 16 years: that’s a lot of cat food, vaccinations and vet bills.
Let’s start with the purchase price of your cat. A quick look online will reveal that if you want an ordinary moggy you can adopt one for very little cost, whereas a pedigree cat could set you back up to $2000.
It’s worth considering adopting a cat or kitten from your local SPCA or cat rescue centre. You will need to make a donation of between about $100 and $175, but the cat will usually come already desexed, microchipped and with vaccinations and worm and flea treatments up to date. Sorting all that out yourself can cost you hundreds of dollars. Typical vet bills might be around $40 to $60 for microchipping, $60 to $120 for desexing and up to $230 for initial vaccinations.
Then there’s the annual cost of the cat throughout its life - in 2015, the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that caring for a cat costs around $670 a year. That includes food, vet bills and incidental costs such as care for your kitty while you’re on holiday.
Speaking of vet bills, you may be wondering if pet insurance is worth having. The best way to decide this is to think carefully about how you might pay an unexpected, large vet bill. The cost could run to thousands, not just a few hundred.
If you do decide to take out pet insurance, make sure you shop around and find out what’s included and what isn’t. Most pet insurance will not offer cover for pre-existing conditions, for example.
If you decide you don’t need pet insurance, make sure you have an emergency fund that you could use to pay your vet bills if you had to. You might like to save the money you would have spent on pet insurance in a separate account for this purpose.
After all this serious number crunching, it’s important to remember the advantages of owning a cat. Pets have been clinically proven to be good for your mental health. Cats, more so than dogs, are also thought to be good for your heart as they appear to reduce stress and anxiety in their owners.
If you’re going through a tough time, there’s evidence that having a cat can help you get over it more quickly. The great thing about talking to a cat about your problems is that there’s no response, and no judgement either. Who needs therapy when you’ve got a cat on your team, anyway?
Plus, they’re cute!
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