What Kind of Cat Is Cheapest to Own?

The short answer to the question "which cat breed is the cheapest?" is…a mixed breed. Obviously, that doesn't offer much guidance but it does rule out pure-bred cats. These fancy felines cost more to obtain as well as maintain than the vast majority of mixed breeds.

Cost to Acquire Cat.

The cheapest way to bring a cat home is to rescue the animal from a shelter or the street. Note, however, that the savings from taking in a stray may be illusory because you don't know the cat's medical condition. Cats that come from shelters often are accompanied by up-to-date health records. In many cases the animals have received a checkup and a first round of shots. Taking care of this privately, at a veterinary office, is a major expense that can reach the hundreds-of-dollars range, but is necessary for a stray. Shelters may assess a charge for this service, but at $100 to $200 the fee is cheaper than going to the vet. Many shelters also micro-chip cats in their care (very useful for locating animals that wander away from home), a service that costs about $45 at the vet.

Basic Care.

Regardless of breed, the expenses associated with housing a cat are pretty much the same. Most cats are similar in size and basic needs, so the costs don't vary much. The ASPCA figures everyday care involves a litter box ($25), collar ($10), carrier ($30), food ($170/year), treats/toys ($50/year), litter ($175/year), and veterinary care ($150/year) for a grand total of $610 a year.

Hair.

Short-haired cats can save owners big bucks on grooming fees. Although short-haired breeds still benefit from an occasional grooming, it usually isn't the necessity it is with long-haired cats. When we interviewed people who own long-haired cats, such as Persians and Maine Coons, several mentioned the additional expense of regular grooming. Kathleen Koechlin from Columbus, Ohio said she spends $65 every five months to have her half-Persian's fur cut to keep it manageable. Christina Taylor, another Ohio-cat owner, notes that professional grooming becomes increasingly important as cats age and are unable to groom themselves effectively. Keeping up with the grooming is a good investment because it reduces shedding, which in turn saves on cleaning bills, allergy medications, and other consequences of excessive animal fur in the home. Such issues don't often arise with short-haired breeds.

Disease.

The genetic diversity in mixed breeds generally means they need less medical attention than pure-bred cats, which are prone to more illnesses. The cost of a visit to the vet can start at $40 to $60 just to see the doctor, with extra fees for diagnosis, treatment, medication and maintenance adding up to a small fortune if anything is seriously wrong with the animal.

Siamese cats, for example, are known to contract respiratory illnesses and develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which is a likely reason for their constant self-grooming, an activity that can lead to bald spots and depression. Julie Augenstein of Waldo, Ohio lost two Siamese cats to kidney disease, an illness that also afflicts many of the breed, and racked up hefty medical bills. Cathy Taylor-Meyer, another cat enthusiast from Ohio, worked at an animal shelter for 11 years and reports that pure-bred cats are the first to contract disease in shelters and the last to recover.

Life Expectancy.

The average life expectancy of an indoor domestic cat is 13 to 17 years. Breeds that are traditionally slender, like the Siamese, tend to live longer than larger breeds like the Maine Coon. That said, mixed breeds enjoy the longest life expectancy, again due to their mixed genetic makeup. And because they're more likely to stay out of the vet's office, in the long run they are the cheapest cats to own.

Cat Breeds Comparison
Hair
Diseases
Lifespan
Mixed-breed Short or long Varied 15-20
Siamese Short Respiratory, OCD, Kidney disease <15 years
Persian Long Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) 15+ years
Maine Coon Long Hip dysplasia, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Spinal muscular atrophy, Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) 9-15 years