Making the decision to adopt a pet is exciting! Not only are you bringing the joy of a cat or dog into your home, but you’re providing a safe and loving home for them to live in. Before you go to the shelter, you’ll want to be prepared for the costs of adopting a dog or cat.

Is it free to adopt a pet?

While some shelters and rescue groups waive adoption fees during promotional events, typically there is a cost associated with adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. If you get your pet from a breeder, expect to pay a fee.

Free pets usually do not come with medical care, like spay/neuter, microchipping, and any care needed for an existing health condition. So while you’re saving money upfront, you could potentially see larger medical bills after the fact to care for your newly adopted dog or cat.

How much does it cost to adopt a pet?

The costs of adopting a dog or cat can vary based on where you get them. Cat and dog adoption fees at a shelter or rescue can be significantly lower than getting a pet from a breeder.

Shelters and rescues

When adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue, the adoption fee typically covers their shots, a spay or neuter, and any other veterinary care that is needed to get them healthy enough to be adopted.

Shelters and rescue groups often have reduced adoption fees for senior cats and dogs to help get them into loving homes, helping them spend less time in the shelter environment. Puppies and kittens, on the other hand, are usually more expensive, since they’re the most sought out.

Cats. Adoption fees for cats typically run up to $200[1], depending on where you live, the age of the cat, and if the shelter or rescue is running a special promotion.

Dogs. Dog adoption fees can vary but typically cost less than $350[2]. Age, breed, size, location, and required veterinary care can determine the adoption costs.

Some shelters are associated with local governments and may have additional funding that can help to keep adoption fees lower. Rescues are often funded solely through adoption fees and donations from the community, meaning adoption fees may be slightly higher.

Shelter and rescue adoption fees may include:

  • Veterinary exam
  • Spay or neuter
  • Initial vaccinations (e.g., bordetella [“kennel cough”], distemper, parvo, and others)
  • Initial deworming
  • Diagnostic tests (e.g., heartworm test for dogs, feline leukemia and FIV test for cats)
  • Flea and tick treatment
  • Microchip


The costs of getting a dog or cat from a breeder can be much more than adopting from a shelter or rescue. Breeders most often breed for a profit, so not only are you paying for the care costs of the puppy or kitten, but you’re also subsidizing the care of the mom and dad.

Designer or rarer breeds are typically more expensive. Location and demand play another factor in how much a breeder will charge to take a cat or dog home. The purchase price through a breeder typically includes a dog or cat’s first round of shots and deworming. Additional medical costs, like spay or neuter, the remainder of shots, and any pre-existing medical conditions would not be covered by the breeder’s fee.

Other costs of adopting a pet

Aside from adoption fees, there are other costs of adopting a dog or cat you’ll need to be prepared for, aside from the essentials like food or medicine:

No matter where you decide to get a pet, expect to pay an adoption fee before you’re able to welcome them into your home. There may also be other requirements you’ll need to meet, but it will be worth it to help a pet in need.

The Zoetis Petcare Team

The Zoetis Petcare Team

As the world’s largest animal health company, Zoetis develops and creates innovative products that improve the health of your pets. The full line of Zoetis Petcare products are so trusted and effective, they’re in almost every veterinary practice in the country.

    1. How Much Does a Cat Cost? Petfinder. Accessed January 17, 2020.
    2. How Much Does a Dog Cost? Petfinder. Accessed January 17, 2020.