Dog vs. Cat. How Much Does a Furry Friend Really Cost?

Initial Costs

The initial costs of adopting a dog vs. a cat can vary quite a bit. According to The Budget Mom, adoption fees for dogs generally range from $50-$150, while cat adoption fees are usually lower, averaging $50-$100 (The Budget Mom, 2022).

These adoption fees often include the initial vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and microchipping for the pet. If not, these procedures will cost extra – spay/neuter can range from $50-$300 depending on the animal’s size and geographical location, while initial vaccinations and microchipping together cost $50-$100 on average.

Both dogs and cats will also need initial supplies like food bowls, beds, leashes, litter boxes, and toys. These can cost $50-150 or more. An initial vet exam, if not included in the adoption fees, usually runs $50-$100 as well. Overall, the total initial cost of adopting and supplying a new dog can total $300-$500, while adopting and supplying a new cat may cost $200-$400.


When it comes to food costs, cats generally require less than dogs. On average, cats eat around 8 ounces of food per day while dogs eat on average 32 ounces per day, depending on size and activity level (Source).

Dry cat food costs between $0.60-$1.40 per pound on average, while canned wet food is $1.20-$3.40 per can (Source). Dry dog food runs from $1.30-$2.55 per pound and canned wet food is $1.40-$2.80 per can. Cats tend to prefer and thrive better on wet food, while dry kibble is more popular and economical for dogs.

When you break down annual costs, cat owners can expect to spend $180-$264 a year on food, while dog owners end up spending $300-$900 depending on the dog’s size and eating habits. So while cats have a more expensive diet per pound, dogs consume much more food overall resulting in higher total annual costs.


Grooming costs can vary greatly between cats and dogs. Cats are generally lower maintenance when it comes to grooming. The main grooming need for cats is regular brushing, which helps remove loose hair and prevent hairballs. This can be done at home by the owner with a basic cat brush. Annual costs for cat brushing supplies may be around $20-50.

Dogs often require much more intensive grooming. Many dog breeds require regular bathing, nail trims, teeth brushing, and professional haircuts or shaving. Short-haired dogs may only need occasional baths and nail trims costing $120-300 per year. Long-haired dogs like poodles may need professional grooming every 6-8 weeks at $50-75 per session costing $400-600 annually (

Overall, basic at-home grooming for a cat may only cost $20-50 per year while dogs can range from $120 for short-haired to over $600 annually for long-haired breeds requiring regular professional grooming.


When it comes to toys, dogs tend to cost more than cats. Dogs love to chew, so they often go through toys quickly, requiring frequent replacements. Popular indestructible dog toys like Kongs, Nylabones, and Chuckit balls can cost $5 to $20 each. Over the course of a year, dog owners spend an average of $47 per dog on toys according to Money magazine [1].

Cats can often entertain themselves with things like cardboard boxes, ping pong balls, and wadded up pieces of paper. Cat toys like feather wands, catnip mice, and laser pointers are simpler and cheaper, with most under $5. Cat owners only spend about $28 per year on cat toys [1].

Since dogs tend to destroy cat toys quickly, it’s best to keep them separated. Get durable chew toys for dogs and simple batting toys for cats to minimize costs.

Vet Care

Vet care is one of the largest ongoing expenses for pet owners. Dogs require more frequent vet visits for vaccines and checkups than cats. According to the ASPCA, annual vet visits for a dog average $235 while cat visits average $160.

Core vaccines like rabies, distemper and parvo are recommended annually for dogs, which costs $75-150 per visit. Cats only need rabies vaccines every 1-3 years, so their annual vaccines are around $50. Heartworm, flea and tick prevention medication is an extra $150-300 for dogs per year.

Emergency vet bills are also more common for dogs, who tend to get into more accidents. Dog owners report spending $460 on average for emergency vet care each year, while cat owners spend around $250. Spay/neuter surgeries, dental cleanings and other procedures may also be needed.

Overall, annual vet expenses for a dog average $650 compared to $330 for a cat. But healthy pets with preventative care can help minimize these costs.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance helps cover the costs of veterinary care for your pet in case of injuries or illnesses. According to ValuePenguin, the average monthly cost for pet insurance is $32 for cats and $53 for dogs. This covers accidents, injuries, and common illnesses. Policies can vary widely though. Progressive reports accident-only coverage averages $10.18 per month for cats and $16.70 for dogs.

Comprehensive pet insurance that includes accident and illness coverage tends to cost more, but provides greater protection. For example, a policy from Healthy Paws with a $250 deductible, 90% reimbursement, and $15,000 annual limit costs approximately $25 per month for cats and $43 for dogs. This covers most vet bills for accidents and common illnesses like cancer.

Premiums are usually cheaper for cats since they tend to have less health issues than dogs as they age. Still, pet insurance provides valuable protection against large unexpected vet bills for both cats and dogs.


Boarding your pet while you are away can get expensive, especially if it is for an extended period of time. According to Visions Federal Credit Union, the average cost to board a dog overnight can range from $25-65, while cat boarding averages $15-25 per night. [1] This can add up quickly if you are gone for a week or longer. Using a house sitter or pet sitter that comes to your home is often much cheaper than a traditional kennel. estimates the average cost of a pet sitter to be around $20-40 per 30 minute visit for one dog and $15-30 per 30 minute visit for one cat.[2] Having someone check in on your pet twice a day while you are gone would run approximately $40-80 per day for dog owners and $30-60 per day for cat owners.




Training a new puppy or dog is an important investment that teaches good manners and behavior. According to Daily Paws, first-year training costs for a dog can range from $1,500-$2,000. This includes basic obedience classes, private lessons, and behavioral modification.

Private dog training with a professional typically costs $175-$400 per hour, according to Rover. Group obedience classes are more affordable, usually $30-$50 per class. The duration of training depends on the dog’s needs but often ranges from 6-10 weeks for group classes.

Key elements covered in dog training are basic commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and socialization. More advanced training may focus on addressing behavioral issues like separation anxiety, aggression, jumping, and excessive barking. The investment in proper training leads to a well-adjusted and obedient dog.


One cost associated with dog and cat ownership is the annual license fee required in most areas. According to the ASPCA, licensing fees are typically around $10 to $20 per year for a dog license and $5 to $20 for a cat license.

The exact license fee varies by location. For example, in Los Angeles County, CA the annual license fee is $15 for an altered dog, $100 for an unaltered dog, and $5 for a cat [1]. In New York City, dog licenses range from $8.50 to $34 per year depending on whether the dog is spayed/neutered and the owner’s age. NYC cat licenses are $5 per year [2].

The main purpose of pet licensing is to reunite lost pets with their owners. So while the annual fee may seem like just another cost of pet ownership, it provides an invaluable service in helping return lost dogs and cats safely home.


When it comes to lifespan, cats tend to outlive dogs. According to, the average lifespan for a cat is 15-20 years, while the average lifespan for a dog is around 10-13 years. There are several theories as to why cats live longer than dogs on average:

  • Cats are smaller and require less energy than large dogs, putting less wear and tear on their bodies.
  • Cats are stricter carnivores, while dogs are more omnivorous in their diets. The higher protein diet of cats may contribute to longevity.
  • Cats are more likely to sleep during the day and are less active than dogs, conserving their energy.
  • Cats have fewer genetic disorders passed down that negatively impact health and lifespan.

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to an animal’s longevity. Providing excellent nutrition, veterinary care, exercise, and a stress-free home can help dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives. But when comparing typical lifespans, cats appear built to outlast dogs by several years on average.

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