Purr-fectly Legal. When Pet Food Becomes a Tax Deduction


Cat owners may be able to write off certain cat food and care expenses on their taxes under specific circumstances. The key is being able to demonstrate that the cat serves a legitimate business purpose. Reasons cat food may qualify as a tax deduction include using cats for rodent control in a business, breeding cats for profit, fostering shelter cats, or training service cats. This content will provide an overview of when cat food and supplies can potentially be claimed as business expenses on taxes, the documentation required, and limitations to be aware of.

Feeding a Business Cat

If a cat is used for business purposes, the costs of caring for the cat may be deductible as a business expense. For the cat expenses to qualify, the cat must be kept primarily for income-producing purposes rather than as a personal pet. Some examples of deductible business cats include:

Shop cats – Cats kept in a retail store or shop to control rodents and pests. Expenses such as food, litter, and vet bills for a shop cat would be considered ordinary and necessary for this business purpose.

Barn cats – Cats kept on a farm or ranch to control mice and other rodents in barns, granaries, and other farm buildings. The costs of caring for these working cats are deductible farm expenses.

To deduct expenses for a business cat, the taxpayer must keep careful records to prove the cat’s business purpose. Receipts should be retained for all purchases of cat food, litter, vet care, etc. It’s also advisable to take photographs documenting how the cat performs its function in the business setting.

The IRS may deny deductions for business cats if it appears the cat is kept mainly as a personal pet that sometimes roams the business premises. There must be clear evidence that the cat serves a regular and necessary business function.

A business cat’s presence should provide ongoing value to the company’s operations.

Foster Cats

A foster cat is a cat temporarily cared for by an individual or family, on behalf of an animal shelter or rescue organization (typically a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit). While in foster care, all of the cat’s expenses such as food, litter, medicines, vet bills, and other care supplies are the responsibility of the foster family.

The IRS allows foster cat parents to claim unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses as charitable tax deductions on Schedule A, if the expenses are from fostering for a qualified 501(c)(3) organization. This includes the cost of food, litter, bedding, leashes, crates, grooming, toys, training, vet bills, medication, and a portion of utilities and maintenance costs for the foster area. There is no limit on the amount that can be deducted as long as proper records are kept.

However, the expenses must be unreimbursed. If the rescue or shelter reimburses any amount of the care costs, those reimbursed expenses cannot also be claimed as a deduction (https://www.klcpas.com/you-can-claim-your-foster-pet-on-your-taxes/). The foster parent must provide the EIN or Tax ID number of the 501(c)(3) organization they foster for.

Service Cats

Service cats are trained to perform specific tasks to assist people with disabilities. According to the IRS, expenses for a service animal can be deducted as medical expenses if the animal is specially trained to mitigate a physical or mental disability or impairment (1). The animal must perform tasks or work that helps the owner function and manages their disability.

Some examples of trained service cats that qualify for the deduction include:

  • Seizure alert/response cats that can detect an impending seizure and take action to alert the owner
  • Diabetic alert cats that can detect blood sugar changes and notify the owner
  • Mobility/balance support cats that help provide stability for people with mobility issues
  • Hearing cats that alert owners to sounds in the environment like alarms, knocks on the door, etc.

Medical expenses related to caring for and maintaining a service cat can be deducted, including (2):

  • Cost of food, grooming, and supplies
  • Veterinary bills and preventative medical care
  • Training costs for the service cat
  • Travel expenses related to the service cat

Proper documentation showing the necessity of the service cat will be required by the IRS in order to claim these deductions.

(1) https://blog.taxact.com/service-animals-what-counts-and-what-doesnt-on-my-taxes/
(2) https://www.pawlicy.com/blog/tax-deductions-for-pet-owners/

Cat Breeding

Cat breeders who are operating a business and have registered their cattery with an accredited association like The International Cat Association (TICA) or Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) may be able to deduct some expenses related to their breeding cats (https://catauthors.com/news/cats-costs-deductions). However, cat breeding as a hobby does not qualify for tax deductions.

Potential tax deductions for professional cat breeders include:

  • Costs for purchasing breeding cats and kittens, registering cats, cat food, cat supplies like litter boxes and bedding, veterinary care, grooming, and breeding program management fees
  • Mileage for transporting cats to shows or the vet
  • Advertising and marketing expenses for the cattery business
  • Portion of household expenses like utilities and rent/mortgage used for the cattery

To claim these deductions, thorough records and receipts must be kept. Limits apply based on factors like total income earned from the cattery business. Expenses must be ordinary and necessary for the cat breeding business to qualify (https://smallbusiness.chron.com/tax-deductions-animal-breeding-inventory-74099.html).

Cat Rescue Deductions

Running a non-profit cat rescue can provide a number of tax deductions. Expenses related to caring for foster cats, such as food, litter, toys, and veterinary care can potentially be deducted if you operate your rescue as a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. According to the IRS, “An organization that pays expenses to provide foster care to pets that otherwise would have to be euthanized may qualify for exemption.”1

To qualify as a tax-exempt nonprofit, a cat rescue must apply for and be approved for 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. The organization’s mission and activities must be charitable and educational in nature. All funds raised should go directly to caring for cats in need. Detailed records must be kept on expenses and donations received.2

Once 501(c)(3) status is obtained, the organization can provide tax deduction receipts to donors. Expenses directly related to caring for foster cats can also be deducted when filing the rescue’s annual taxes. However, personal expenses for your own pets do not qualify. Rescues must carefully document how all expenses directly support the organization’s charitable mission.


If you are self-employed and use a cat as part of your business, you may be able to deduct some of the costs of caring for the cat as a business expense. To qualify, you must be able to show that the cat’s care is an “ordinary” and “necessary” part of operating your business.

For example, if you run a cat-sitting business out of your home, the cost of food, litter, toys and veterinary care for your own cats that you use for marketing or greeting clients could potentially be deducted. Or if you operate a cat breeding business, the costs associated with your breeding cats and kittens could qualify. You would need to be able to show how the cats directly contribute to generating business income.

Make sure to keep good records and receipts for all cat-related expenses. The IRS requires documentation showing the costs, such as receipts and invoices for supplies, food, veterinary care. You will also need to determine the percentage of time the cat is used for business versus personal reasons, and prorate expenses accordingly. Work with your tax professional to determine what qualifies as a deductible business expense.

Documentation Needed

To claim deductions for cat food, care, and other expenses, proper documentation must be retained as evidence. This includes receipts for all purchases like food, litter, vet bills, etc. A written log or record of expenses should also be kept, detailing the date, amount, and purpose of each expense. The IRS recommends keeping a mileage log for transportation related to your cat’s care as well.

All documentation should be retained for at least 3 years after filing your tax return. In the event of an audit, having orderly records will help verify the validity of your deductions. According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, detailed records substantiating claims for deductions must be retained.

For foster cats or service cats, written acknowledgement from the organization you foster/volunteer for can help provide evidence of your role. Any prescription from a doctor indicating your own cat is medically necessary would also be useful documentation.


There are limitations on the percentage of cat-related expenses that can be deducted. The IRS only allows deductions for the percentage of expenses used for business purposes, not personal purposes. For example, if you use cat food for both your business cats and personal pet cats, you can only deduct the portion that was used for the business cats.

In general, the IRS does not allow deductions for expenses that are perceived as primarily for personal reasons rather than for-profit business reasons. Expenses that would not qualify include cat toys, cat beds, grooming supplies, and routine veterinary care for personal pet cats. The IRS may view those types of expenses as primarily for personal enjoyment rather than for business purposes.

According to the IRS Topic 503, deductions for state and local taxes related to your business, including income, sales, and property taxes, cannot exceed certain limits each year. Business owners should consult with a tax professional to determine the optimal way to deduct cat-related expenses while staying within the confines of the tax code.


Cat owners may be able to deduct certain cat food and supply expenses from their taxes under limited circumstances. If you use your cat for business purposes like breeding, rescue, or fostering, some of the costs can potentially qualify as tax deductions on your federal return. However, you will need to carefully document expenses and meet eligibility requirements. Personal pet care is generally not deductible.

This article provided an overview of when cat food and supplies might qualify for tax write-offs. We covered business uses of cats, foster programs, and key documentation. There are restrictions around deductible amounts and the type of business structure you operate under. Consult a tax professional to understand how the tax code applies to your individual situation.

The IRS offers additional guidance for claiming animal-related deductions on Schedule C filings and other forms. State tax agencies like the Ohio Department of Taxation also have specific instructions. With proper record keeping and tax preparation, certain cat expenses may potentially lower your tax bill.

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