Cats: What They Really Cost You

Over the weekend, I found myself telling one of my mother-in-law’s friends how we came to own our second cat, Misfit. He found us. Outside of our old apartment one day, this little gray tabby kitten came over to Mr. Saver as he sat on the stoop smoking a cigarette one day. The furball meowed, purred, and rubbed up against Mr. Saver, even jumping into his lap. After the cigarette, he went back upstairs.

I had just come home with my brother, and as we were getting out of the car, the same gray kitten attempted to hurl himself into my car. Mr. Saver heard us pull up, came downstairs and said, “Oh, I’m glad the kitten came back — I was petting him before.” Somehow, in the next few minutes, we decided to take the little guy in. I made my brother the “bad guy,” asking him to bring the kitten into the apartment so my older cat, Krashy, wouldn’t be mad at me. (Well, he wasn’t a happy camper for quite a while — but that’s another story).

After relating this story to my MIL’s friend, I told her it cost us $1,000 to get the kitten “ready” to be a pet. “Why did it cost that much?” she asked. It was easy — a few vet trips and we were out a cool thousand. First, the kitten — who we named Misfit — needed his shots and a proper checkup. Then, I got to collect a piece of his poop and have it cultured. Worms were found, so he got dewormed. That led to a second poop culture. Came back clean, but before we knew it, it was time for him to be neutered.

And there, my friends, is how we spent $1,000 on our new kitten, saved from the cold, mean streets of Belleville.

Of course, that doesn’t count how much money it takes in general to take care of our cats. Money is spent on food, toys, litter box and litter (we use the clumping kind), a shovel for the litter, annual checkups and shots, town licensing fees.

We don’t have a kitty condo, scratching posts or cat beds, as they won’t go near that kind of stuff. Oh, no. And here’s where the added expenses come in. While my 11-year-old cat, Krashy, couldn’t care less about doing any damage to our stuff, here’s just a sampling of the things that need replacing or repair after having Misfit in our home for two years:

— Mini blinds. The kitten loves to look out the windows, especially in the summer when they’re open. This means he’ll poke his little head into the space between the screen and the blinds, bending the ends of the blinds over and over until they snap off. Eventually, he’s got his own little “kitty door” – and we’ve got a big hole in our blinds.

— Curtains. Sometimes, he likes to paw at them. With his claws out. So far, I’ve only found a few punctures in the beautiful new curtains in the dining room, but I know he’ll eventually turn holes into rips.

— Recliner. While our chair has some ugly geometric pattern on it, it’s comfortable. But Misfit loves to use it as his own scratching post, and now, the chenille material is shredded. I’m pondering how to repair it. Might just buy or make a slipcover.

— Christmas tree and ornaments. I had to throw out my 10-year-old artificial tree after the first Christmas we had Misfit, because he thought it was a giant cat toy. He’d jump into the middle of it and climb around until finding a few branches to lay across. I’ve gotten a new tree since then, which is in a room with a door. This means we hardly see the tree, unless the door is left open. Which leads to a second problem: Misfit will swat at the ornaments until they fall and shatter. If, miraculously, the ornament manages to hit the floor intact, the kitten will swat it around until it gets stuck in a place where I won’t find it for a year or two.

— Blankets. I have a crocheted wool blanket made for me that I love. Unfortunately, the kitten also loves it, and spends a lot of time licking and kneading it with his paws. Again, paws have claws, and it’s getting a lot of pulls in it. Same goes for the blankets on the bed.

— Flowers and knickknacks. Forget about leaving out anything nice. If I have a vase of flowers on a table, he will jump up and try to eat them. Eventually, this results in the vase being tipped over and all of the water pouring out. Same goes for knickknacks and tchotchkes. If they’re out on a shelf or a table that is within reach of the kitten, they will wind up on the floor.

The lesson here is that it’s not just the “usual” expenses you have to be aware of when budgeting for a pet —  you also have to take into account the wear and tear on your things.

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