Feline Preventative Care

Tracy Libby

Preventative Care for Cats

When our stray rescue cat, Inky, tore his cranial cruciate ligament, the veterinary bill set us back nearly $1,400. That's the good news. The bad news is that a year later Inky tore the same ligament in his other knee and that cost us another $1,400. A cat tearing his cranial cruciate ligament is not rare, but not nearly as common as in dogs. Either way, our stray rescue now has better knees than I do.

Inky, who appears to have used up two of his nine lives, is currently living the well-deserved life of a pampered feline—along with his four feline siblings. While our pocketbook took a big hit, we don't regret the money spent. We consider ourselves, as well as Inky, quite fortunate.

While our situation may be unusual and excessive, Americans spent an estimated $28 billion on veterinary expenditures in 2011, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, with $7.365 billion (26.3 percent) of the pie chart going to feline veterinary care. The AVMA estimates that cat owners spent on average of $191 for veterinary care in 2011, mainly on physical exams, vaccinations, drugs, or lab tests. However, the 2013-2014 national pet owners survey from American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc., (APPMA) estimates the figure higher, at $575 for the average cat owner.

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Whether your cat's veterinary bills have fallen higher or lower than these averages, chances are you can save some money. And who doesn't want that? Preventative care, according to veterinarians, is key to reducing veterinary costs. To help keep your checkbook in the black, consider these proactive steps:

  • Feed well-balanced, good-quality food

    Good nutrition contributes to healthy skin, strong bones and ligaments, and optimum health and longevity. Premium cat food is more expensive up front, but the long-term benefits are worth it since good nutrition can reduce diet-related veterinary bills. Good nutrition allows your cat to maximize nutrients while eating less, so your wallet benefits in the long run too.
  • Keep your feline fit and trim

    One of the best preventative measures owners can take is to keep their cat (as well as all pets) fit and trim. Doing so can increase a cat's lifespan by 2.5 years. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) 2012 Pet Obesity Survey, 58.3 percent of cats are overweight or obese, and 45.3 percent of cat owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese cat as "normal weight." Overweight pets are subject to many of the same diseases as their human counterparts including osteoarthritis, heart and respiratory problems, and diabetes, which adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars in veterinary bills and surgical procedures. Be smart. Consult your veterinarian about how to keep your cat fit and trim.
  • Groom your cat weekly

    Hair and skin are reflective of overall health. Regular brushings and nail trimmings will help to prevent painful mats and broken nails. Daily inspections of the ears, nose, mouth, teeth, feet, coat, and skin can help you spot minor issues before they escalate into potentially life-threatening and expensive problems.
  • Keep parasite prevention and vaccines current

    Internal and external parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and worms), and feline diseases like panleukopenia (distemper), feline herpesvirus, and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can wreak havoc on your pet's health. Gastrointestinal parasitism is a common problem in cats, with prevalence rates as high as 45 percent. When left untreated, many of these issues can become life-threatening, which is a great deal more expensive than the cost of parasite prevention or vaccinations.
  • Spay or Neuter Your Cat

    While this will cost you some cash up front, the long-term benefits are well worth the expense. Altering your cat reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies in females, as well as the possibility of several lethal health problems later in life, such as infections, cysts, and cancers. Neutering a male cat is almost sure to reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate gland and possibly prostate cancer too. Plus, it usually decreases a cat's marking (spraying urine), as well as his tendency to roam, which, in turn, decreases the chances he will fight with other cats, get lost, or, heaven forbid, get his by a car. Plus, you'll be doing your part to help prevent pet overpopulation.
  • Schedule (and Keep!) Regular Veterinary Checkups

    Wellness exams are the cornerstone of preventative care. Preventative care, including dental cleanings, blood work, urinalysis, etc., helps to detect diseases early on when they are likely to be easily treatable—thereby extending the quality of life before more expensive procedures become necessary.
  • Consider Pet Insurance

    Pet Insurance can act as a safeguard against the cost of unexpected illnesses and accidents (like torn cranial cruciate surgery—twice!) Studies indicate 3 percent of cat owners have pet insurance.

Following these simple and doable guidelines will assure your cat has the best chance to live a long, healthy, and happy life, and that's something we all want.

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

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Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.