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Home > Cats > How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Cat From a Shelter in 2024?

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Cat From a Shelter in 2024?

cats in animal shelter

Going to a shelter or rescue is one way to introduce a cat to your home for the first time. The staff makes sure the cat is spayed or neutered and healthy while ensuring that your home is equipped to handle your new friend. Adopting from a shelter still costs money, though, even if you don’t spend as much on pet adoption fees as you would purchasing from a breeder. The cost to adopt a cat from a shelter can vary widely, ranging from around $50 to $300 or more, depending on the shelter, location, and included services.

This guide will explore how much adopting a cat from a shelter will cost and why it’s often the cheapest option available for pet owners on a budget.


Should You Adopt From a Shelter?

In the long run, adoption can be one of the most affordable choices available when acquiring a cat. Cats are expensive, and while many of the costs are unavoidable, when you adopt from a shelter, many are handled for you.

Most shelters will spay and neuter the intact cats that come through their doors, saving you from paying for the procedure yourself. Any initial medical needs will also be met, and the shelter will often take on the cost of flea and tick medication, deworming, vaccinations, and any necessary rehabilitation.

The downside is, the more veterinary care the shelter provides, the more expensive the adoption fee will be. Still, you’ll likely find that it’s much cheaper than paying for everything yourself. It’s not just the savings that make adoption a good choice, though. You’re also helping support your local shelter so they can help more animals in the future.

Many shelters are forced to euthanize pets if they don’t get adopted or there’s no room at the facility. By adopting, you’ll save the life of an animal in need of a loving home.

cat at an animal shelter
Image Credit: JW Design, Shutterstock

How Much Does Adopting a Cat From a Shelter Cost?

The pet adoption fees that you’ll need to pay for a cat vary depending on the shelter that you visit, how much was spent on preparing the cat for adoption, and the age and health of the cat. Kittens, for example, tend to be more expensive because they need vaccines and other medical work done and require more hands-on care from the staff.

Some shelters also have administrative fees or the option to place a 24-hour hold on pets that you’re interested in adopting.

For an example of how location can make pet adoption fees vary, the Animal Humane Society charges an administrative fee between $5 and $22 and charges between $30 and $317 for cat adoptions. However, some shelters — like the Iroquois County Animal Rescue in Illinois — can be cheaper, with a fee of $50 for senior cats and $130 for kittens. Other shelters in cities like Seattle charge an average of $35–$200 for cat adoptions.

Additional Costs to Anticipate

One benefit of animal shelters is that many places cover the initial costs for you. The shelter often handles spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and other medications if needed, leaving you to focus on preparing your home for the new arrival. Once your cat is at home, though, you have important expenses to add to your budget.

Initial Vet Visit

cat in vet clinic
Image Credit; Andy Gin, Shutterstock

Although many shelters do cover many of the initial costs, you do need to take your cat to a vet yourself. You should also consider getting your cat microchipped in case they ever get lost.

Pet Supplies

After paying the adoption fees, the next biggest expenses are the initial supplies that you’ll need in order to properly care for your new cat. If you already have a cat, you’ll need fewer supplies because you can use many of the same items for your new cat too.

Most often, these expenses include food and water bowls, a litter tray, litter, toys, a cat bed, and other essentials.

Ongoing Expenses

The initial cost of cat ownership can be expensive, but you shouldn’t forget about the ongoing expenses. Once your cat is at home, it’s your responsibility to make sure they have food and any future medications. You might also have to replace toys, beds, cat trees, and other feline essentials when they get worn or break. Covering the costs of veterinary visits and pet insurance if you choose to sign up for a policy is also your responsibility.

Can You Adopt a Cat on a Budget?

white cat with the owner
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Pet adoption fees might require you to spend a few hundred dollars on your new cat, but it’s actually the most budget-friendly option available for prospective pet owners. For a purebred cat from a breeder, you’ll be expected to pay anywhere between $500 and $1,500 or even more, depending on the breed and demand. You’ll also likely have to pay for spaying and neutering costs, microchipping, and vaccinations yourself.

A deceptively expensive option is a free cat. While nothing is stopping you from taking in a stray kitten or supplying a home for one or two kittens from your neighbor’s cat’s litter, you also have to take into account all the extra costs that come with doing that. For example, a stray kitten will likely need a veterinary exam, up-to-date vaccinations, a spay/neuter procedure, and treatments for fleas, ticks, and worms.

When you compare the costs of cats from other options, adoption fees are much more budget friendly. Also, you’ll be helping the shelter afford to rescue more cats and dogs in need to make sure they get new homes too.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Cat Adoption?

pet insurance coverage
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, pet adoption fees aren’t covered by pet insurance providers. The cost of taking on the responsibility of a cat is something that you need to handle yourself. If you can’t afford the initial cost of a cat from a shelter, you should reevaluate whether you are prepared for the ongoing expenses of your newest family member.

Some shelter cats might also have pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered by any pet insurance plan. There is a bit of leeway regarding curable conditions, but you’ll likely have to treat and cure your cat before the company will cover the condition. Even then, if the provider covers curable conditions at all, your cat will need to be symptom free for a certain amount of time before it’s considered a new condition.

That said, while pet insurance won’t cover adoption fees, some providers might offer discounts for pet owners who adopt from a shelter.

What to Expect During the Adoption Process

Every shelter has a different way of handling adoptions, and your experience might be different from that of your neighbors or friends if they adopted from another location. Most places will get to know you, your living situation, and your financial ability to take care of the cat when you apply to adopt. The shelter does this to ensure that the cats go to the best possible home for them and will be happy wherever they end up.

You’ll likely have to fill out an application form and have one of the shelter staff visit your home to determine whether it’s the right place for a cat. Once you’ve been approved for adoption, you should spend time at the shelter meeting the cats to find which one matches your personality or your family the best.

Once you find the perfect match for you, the staff will help you finalize the adoption, accept payment, and help you prepare the cat for their trip home. Before you complete the adoption process, the staff will also discuss any medical needs or health history that the cat might have to make sure you can attend to their needs.


Final Thoughts

With shelters covering the costs of many medical expenses, adopting is often the cheapest way to welcome a cat to your home. Cats at the facilities will be spayed or neutered and treated for worms, fleas, and ticks, along with receiving up-to-date vaccinations and health checks before they’re ready to be adopted.

Compared to adopting a stray cat off the street and covering the medical costs yourself or purchasing from a breeder, adoption is much more affordable. You will also be saving the life of a cat in need and giving them the loving home that they deserve.

Featured Image Credit: Yulia Grigoryeva, Shutterstock

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