Month: May 2011

Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines to Make Vet Visits Easier for Cats

cat with stethoscope The Conscious Cat

Vet visits for cats should become a little easier in the future, thanks to the new Feline Friendly Handling Guidelines just released by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine.

While cats outnumber dogs as pets (according to the latest statistics from the American Pet Products Association, there are 78.2 million households that own dogs versus 86.4 million that own cats), pets receive significantly less veterinary care than dogs. Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.” According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.”

Additionally, many cat owners cite the difficulty of getting the cat into a carrier, driving the cat to the clinic, and dealing with a scared or stressed cat at the clinic as reasons for fewer visits. The goal of the feline-friendly handling guidelines is to reduce these barriers by helping cat owners understand feline behavior, preparing the cat and the client for the vet visit, creating a cat-friendly environment at the veterinary practice, and training veterinary staff on how to meet the unique needs of their feline patients.

The guidelines suggest that by understanding the unique social and behavioral characteristics of cats, and by recognizing early signs of fear, vet visits can be made less stressful for both cat and owner. Recommendations include the following:

• Rehearse trips to the veterinary practice by using positive reinforcement (treats)
• Rehearse clinical exams at home by getting cats used to having their paws, ears and mouth handled
• Get cats used to carriers
• Locate the cat well before the scheduled visit to the vet clinic
• Bring items that carry a familiar scent
• Notify the veterinary team in advance if the cat is easily stressed.

For veterinary practices, the guidelines offer suggestions on how to make the hospital more cat-friendly:

  • minimize wait times
  • schedule cat appointments during quieter times of the day, or
  • schedule dog and cat appointments at different times
  • dedicate an exam room to cats only
  • provide a cat only ward for cats who need to be hospitalized.

The guidelines go into great detail on how to interact with cats in the practice. The mantra “go slow to go fast” applies in almost every interaction with cats, from getting the cat out of the carrier to minimizing the stress of medical procedures. Veterinary staff should be trained to recognize and respond to cat signals, especially feline body language. Restraint should be minimal whenever possible. I was particularly delighted to see that the panel does not condone lifting the cat or suspending its body weight with a scruffing technique.

The guidelines offer recommendations for working with fearful or aggressive cats, ranging from pre-visit techniques that may include medication to using restraint methods, including chemical restraint, if required, stressing the need to be sensitive to each individual cat’s response.

A section on how to help cat owners cope with cats returning home from their vet visit and possibly upsetting other resident cats, and a comprehensive resource section, rounds out the guidelines. You can read the complete guidelines here.

Photo: dreamstime.com

You may also enjoy reading:

Is your vet cat-friendly?

How to make your cat’s trip to the vet less stressful

About the author

Book review: The Complete Cat’s Meow by Darlene Arden

The Complete Cat's Meow Darlene Arden

When I look at cat care guides, I typically review them to see if they are something I would recommend to other cat owners. After almost three decades of either caring for cats, working with cats, or writing about cats, I don’t expect to find much that I haven’t read or heard about before. And yet, I bought The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Your Cat, because I knew that a cat care guide written by Darlene Arden would be special. I wasn’t disappointed.

Darlene’s wealth of knowledge, thorough research, and engaging writing style come through on every page. But even more than that, it’s Darlene’s love for cats that makes this book special, beginning with the introduction’s closing phrase “The Complete Cat’s Meow will…help your feline companions live longer, healthier, happier lives. In return, you will reap a boundless bounty of love and affection” to passages such as “open your heart and your home to a kitty and watch the love flourish.” One only has to look at the photo of Darlene with her cat Aimee on the back cover to know that Darlene isn’t just an expert on all things cat, she truly loves cats.

Reading this book is like a conversation with a good friend who loves cats as much as you do, but knows more about them than you do. The book covers newborn kittens, how to choose the right cat for you, how to prepare your home for your new kitty, understanding cat behavior, nutrition and health care. Darlene presents an extensive list of feline health concerns ranging from urinary tract disease to cancer to dealing with emergencies and surgeries. The book also includes a listing of popular breeds with detailed descriptions of their appearance and personality.

The two sections that really stood out for me are the ones on new kittens, and on how to choose the right cat for you. In the kitten section, Arden goes into great detail on how a responsible breeder raises kittens. At fist, I was a little skeptical about the emphasis on breeders in this section, because I’m not someone who would ever purchase a kitten, (nor does the author advocate this as the only way to bring a kitten into your life). I quickly realized that the author uses the example of how a responsible breeder raises a litter of kittens to illustrate how kittens are raised in ideal circumstances, such as being handled and socialized from a very early age, and not being separated from their mother until they’re at least 12 weeks old. In the section on how to determine which cat is right for you, the author carefully reviews all aspects that should be considered, from age to breed to coat length. I have not seen these two aspects of cat care covered this thoroughly in any other cat care guide I’ve read, and I read a lot of them!

This is not to say that the other sections aren’t covered with the same level of depth and attention to detail. Every section in this book provides excellent information. In addition, the book is beautifully illustrated throughout with black and white photos and some absolutely stunning full color photographs in the middle. It also features an exceptional resource guide.

If you’re only going to buy one cat guide, this is the one to get. The Complete Cat’s Meow is not only a great book for those who are new to sharing their lives with cats, it really belongs in every cat owners library.

Darlene Arden with cat AimeeDarlene Arden is an award-winning writer, lecturer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. She is the author of numerous books on pet care and  hundreds of articles and columns for all of the major cat and dog publications, as well as for newspapers and general interest publications. Darlene is passionate about helping animals live longer and better lives. For more information about Darlene, please visit her website.


I purchased this book.

About the author

Quality of Life: What Does It Mean for You and Your Cat?

Buckley's Story

Last updated June 2019

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things someone loving a pet will ever go through. Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine is fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering when there seems to be no hope for recovery. It is a difficult decision to make at best, and it can be nearly impossible for some pet owners. There are so many factors that play into it.

What is quality of life?

The term that is used the most in this context is “quality of life.” But what does that really mean? Are there hard and fast rules as to what constitutes good quality of life? Of course not. Quality of life means something different for every person, and for every animal.

There are some fairly obvious markers. Pain is one of them. No pet owner wants to see a beloved pet suffer. Animals, especially cats, are masters at masking pain, so this can be difficult to detect. Another marker is appetite. For most pet owners, the first indication that something is wrong is usually when a pet stops eating. A third important marker is dignity: Is the pet still able to relieve herself on her own, or does she need assistance with urination and defecation?

But even these three markers are not always helpful when trying to make a decision. Pain can be managed with medication. Some pets stop eating or eat very little but are still happy and are enjoying life. And who is to say that the dog that needs assistance with being carried outside to urinate or the cat who needs help to get into the litter box and needs to be cleaned off afterwards does not appreciate this level of care from his loving human and is otherwise happy and content?

A final gift of love

It is often said that making the decision to euthanize a pet is the final gift of love we can give our animals. I wholeheartedly believe that, but it still does not make the decision process any easier. Love and denial can be intricately linked, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate one from the other.

I’ve had to make this decision with three of my cats: with Feebee in April of 2000, when he was losing his seven-month battle with lymphoma, with Buckley in November of 2008, when her heart disease was complicated by multiple other issues, and much too soon again with Amber in May of 2010 , after she came down to a sudden, unexpected illness, which was, most likely, virulent systemic calici virus.

All three of the decisions were agonizing for me, but I also know that each time, I made the right decision – for my cat, and for me. That’s not to say that it would have been the right decision for someone else, or for someone else’s cat.

Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads.

Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads. It becomes a decision of love, not something to be reasoned out on an analytical and intellectual level.

No easy answer

I think it’s impossible to ever be completely comfortable with the decision to end the life of someone we love so much. We do not want our pets to suffer, and when we are really in tune with our animals, we know when they are ready to make their transition. Any remaining doubt is usually caused by our sadness and grief at the thought of having to go on without their physical presence in our lives. I also believe that sometimes, our animals also love us so much that they often stick around longer than they might want to because they know how much we will miss them when they’re gone.

There is no easy answer for the question of what quality of life means. It’s going to mean something different for each person, and for each cat. And as your cat’s guardian, you’re the only one who can answer it.

Have you had to make this decision for your cat? What does quality of life mean for you and your cat?

Portions of this post are adapted from Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

Related reading:

How to cope with losing a pet

The final farewell: options after your pet dies

About the author

Product review: NOse Offense for Pets

NOse Offense...for Pets review

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new odor remover on the market. Many of these products have a strong scent and do little but mask the offending odor, whether it’s litter box odors, or any other “pet generated” smells. For someone like me, who doesn’t like scented products at all, the overpowering fragrance of most of the odor removers I’ve tried is worse than the initial offending odor.

NOse Offense...for Pets review

When the folks at NOse Offense contacted me and asked whether I would like to review their product, I was intrigued, because the product claims to neutralize odors without the use of any fragrances. No artificial vanilla or citrus scented cover ups? Just complete elimination of the offending odor? I was hopeful.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Let me just say that pet odors are not a big problem at my house. I feed raw, so Allegra’s and Ruby’s stools literally don’t smell (for most people new to raw feeding, this is one of the most startling, and quite pleasant, positive “side effects!”). Urine odors aren’t much of a problem, either, because I work from home and I’m very conscientious about scooping as soon as the girls deposit something in the box. Allegra has been known to complain that she can’t even finish covering up before I come with the scoop and baggie…

So I didn’t get much of a chance to try the product on cat odors, but I tried it on several other odors that I don’t particularly enjoy. I don’t like lingering cooking odors, no matter how yummy the meal I just enjoyed may have been. When I’m done eating, I don’t want to smell my dinner for the next few hours. A few light squirts of NOse Offense, and the lingering cooking odors dissipated almost immediately.

I sprayed NOse Offense around the litter boxes, but as I said, odor isn’t much of a problem for us, so I can’t speak to its effect. I wanted to test the product with something else, and I found the final frontier of odors: the trash can in the garage. I empty my kitchen trash into it several times a week, and it then gets picked up once a week. I also empty the deposits out of the litter boxes directly into that trash can. Over the course of a week, it gets pretty rank in there, especially during the warmer months, when temperatures in my garage easily reach the 90s. I sprayed NOse Offense into the trash can, and it actually got rid of the nasty smell. 

I also like that the product is made with natural and organic indgredients,  doesn’t contain alcohol, phenols, aerosols, or phosphates, and is completely biodegradable. It is also eco-friendly and made from recycled materials.

For more information about NOse Offense for Pets, please visit their website.

About the author

Helping Your Cat Through a Move

moving with cats

Cats don’t like change, and moving probably ranks high on their list of least desirable activities. If cats had their druthers, they’d stay in the place they’re alredy comfortable in for the rest of their lives.

Moving is stressful for humans, and it’s even more stressful for cats.  Unfortunately, at some point in their lives, most cats will have to make a major move with their humans. Making the transition as stress-free as possible for your cat can go a long way toward avoiding problems associated with moving, such as fear-based house soiling, hiding, and aggression.

There are three phases to helping your cat through a move with as little stress as possible: preparation, the actual move, and settling into the new home.

Preparation

Get your cat used to his carrier. Leave the carrier out where the cat can always see it. Leave a few treats in the carrier every now and then so your cat can discover them on his own. You can also try feeding your cat in his carrier so he will associate it with something pleasant. If your move involves a lengthy drive, start taking your cat on increasingly longer rides in the car so he can get used to it.

Put moving boxes out several days, or even weeks, before you actually start packing so you cat can explore the boxes, and get used to their presence. Most cats consider boxes fun toys, and allowing them to become familiar with the boxes can create a pleasant association. When you actually start packing, watch your cat closely. If she seems to become agitated or nervous watching you pack, you may want to confine her to a quiet room away from all the action.

If your cat is easily stressed in general, this is the time to think about using anti-anxiety medications or natural anti-anxiety products. I highly recommend Stress Stopper,  a holistic remedy developed by feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. I also like Composure Calming Treats. Some people also have good success with the Comfort Zone Feliway Diffusers when it comes to managing stress for cats.

Moving Day

Confine your cat to a quiet room or bathroom that the movers do not need to access. Post a sign on the door asking so movers keep out of that room. Make sure your cat has a litter box, fresh water, and comfort items such as a bed and favorite toys in the room with him. If you have multiple cats who get along, place all of them in the same room together. However, if you have cats that don’t get along, make arrangements to keep them in separate rooms.

Some people recommend boarding your cats for moving day, but unless your cat is used to and loves the boarding facility, I don’t recommend this. It adds yet another layer of stress to an already stressful situation.

When it’s time to move your cat, place her in her carrier while she’s still in her safe room. With all the furniture and boxes gone, the rest of your house will no longer be familiar territory, and your cat could get spooked and bolt.

Settling in your new home

Before you even move your cat into your new home, cat proof the entire house. Check window screens and make sure  they’re secure and can’t be pushed out by an excited kitty who’s not used to the new sights and sounds yet. Close off any nooks and crannies where a scared cat could hide. Make sure that any chemicals such as pest control traps or cleaning supplies that may have been left behind by the previous owners are removed.

Set up a quiet room for your cat that includes a litter box, fresh water, and his comfort items. This can be your bedroom if you cat sleeps in the bedroom with you. Scatter some cat treats around the room before you let the cat out of her carrier to explore. For the first few days in the new home, especially while you’re still unpacking boxes, it may be a good idea to confine the cat to her quiet room. Moving in is a busy time, but make sure you spend time with your cat in her safe room to reassure her that some things in life haven’t changed. Play with her, or just sit with her while you’re reading.

When the initial rush of unpacking is done, start giving your cat access to the rest of the house and let him explore gradually. Supervise your cat during these exploration sessions until he’s comfortable. Place litter boxes in their permanent locations in the house during this phase so that you can eventually eliminate the litter box in the safe room. Alternately, you can keep the litter box in the safe room and gradually transfer it to a permanent location.

Let your cat’s temperament be your guide as to how long this initial settling in phase needs to be, and how quickly you can move from one stage to the next. As with new cat introductions, no two cats will react to the stress of moving the same way. Some cats will immediately explore and take over their new house, while others will take weeks to venture out of their safe room.

 

Photo ©Ingrid King

About the author

Meet Doodlebug, a rare male tortie

male tortoiseshell cat

It’s no secret that I love torties. From my first office cat Virginia, to Amber, Buckley, Allegra and Ruby, there’s just something about these cats’  particular coloring, and their unique personalities, that has always appealed to me.

Tortoiseshell cats are named for their coat color, which is a mottled or brindled combination of brown, black, tan, gold, orange, and sometimes cream and blue. Those of us who fancy torties know that they have unique personalities, often referred to as “tortitude.”

They also have unique genetics. The vast majority of tortoiseshell cats are female, because two X chromosomes are required to produce black, gold and orange coloring. Male cats only have one X and one Y chromosome, so technically it’s genetically almost impossible for a male to inherit the tortoiseshell coloring. A male tortoiseshell has an extra X chromosome, making it an XXY. According to a study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, only 1 in 3000 tortoiseshell cats is male.

Given all that, it’s no wonder that I was excited when I came across one of these rare male torties.

Doodlebug belongs to Sharon, one of our readers. He is 16 months old and is the son of Sharon’s other tortie, Callie. The fact that he was a he came as quite a surprise to Sharon. She actually called him Chloe for the first couple of months of his life, and she was caught rather off guard when she took him for his first vet visit. I asked what the vet’s reaction was when he realized that he had one of these rare male torties as a patient. “He was actually pretty matter of fact,” reports Sharon. “He told me that he would change the gender notation in the record, and that I might want to find another name.”

Male torties are believed to be sterile. Doodlebug is currently unneutered, but, says Sharon, “that will change the first time he sprays something.” He’s an indoor cat with limited access to an enclosed yard, and her other three cats are spayed. Doodlebug has shown no interest in roaming, spraying, or mounting the other cats. The vet has given him a clean bill of health.

As for tortitude, Doodlebug appears to be more laid back than the average tortie. He is very mellow, and likes to spend hours drowsing next to Sharon while she is on the computer or watching tv. He can be a bit possessive when one of the other cats takes over “his” side of the chair, but he’s very gentle about nudging them out of his territory. Eating is another favorite past time. In addition to his regular diet of dry cat food, he enjoys sampling the regional cuisine, including fried catfish and crawfish. He also loves chicken and sausage gumbo and will happily eat even the okra in it.

Because of their genetic rarity, some people mistakenly believe that male tortoiseshell cats are worth a lot of money. In reality, they’re only worth as much as any other cat who is loved and valued by their owners, and as we all know, there is no price tag on love.

Doodlebug is unaware of his newfound fame and remains unavailable for comment.

Photo of Doodlebug used with Sharon’s permission

You may also enjoy reading:

Tortitude: the unique personality of tortoiseshell cats

About the author

How to Prevent Litter Box Problems

cat using litter box

There is nothing as distressing for a cat owner as having a cat that eliminates outside the litter box. It’s also one of the most common reasons why cats are returned to shelters.

The reasons why cats eliminate outside the litter box vary, and include litter box aversion, urine marking, hormonal problems, and medical issues. When faced with inappropriate elimination (and this can be urine as well as feces), a thorough veterinary exam should always be the first step.

There are quite a few things owners can do to prevent litter box problems from happening in the first place, and the first step is to understand what cats want when it comes to their litter boxes. While some cats may be particularly fussy and need to have their bathroom preferences catered to in special ways, there are common errors that many cat owners, especially those new to cats and their needs, tend to make. These include:

Too few boxes

The rule of thumb is that you should have as many boxes as you have cats, plus one extra. This may mean that even if you only have one cat, you may need to have two litter boxes. This is especially important in multi-level homes.

The wrong location

Humans tend to want litter boxes out of sight, so they often end up in laundry or utility rooms or in dark corners of the basement. This may be fine for many cats, but it can cause problems if the area is not quiet. If the litter box is placed next to a noisy washer or dryer, or a furnace, and if the appliance starts up just as your cat is doing her business, she may never use that box again. Good spots for litter boxes are bathrooms, or a quiet room that isn’t used much.

The wrong type of litter

There have never been as many choices of cat litters as there are now. Unfortunately, many of the litters are designed more with the human in  mind than the cat. There is no perfect litter – each type has its advantages and its drawbacks. Most cats prefer a sandy substrate like clumping clay litter. While some cats readily accept some of the more environmentally friendly litters such as pine, wheat or corn, others will simply refuse to use a box containing those products.

Never use scented litters or scented litter deodorizers. Cats sense of smell is far more sensitive than ours, and the overpowering scent of these litters can be a big turn off for them.

Not enough litter

Keep at least 2-3 inches of litter in the box at all times – add fresh litter after you scoop out waste to maintain this level. Most cats like to scratch and bury what they produce, and they will get frustrated when there’s not enough litter to allow them to do that.

The box is too dirty

Scoop the box at least twice a day and remove all urine and feces waste. This is only possible with clumping litter. If you use a non-clumping litter, you should discard the entire content of the box whenever there is waste in it, and replace with fresh litter. If you use clumping litter, you should replace the entire litter about once a month.

The box is too clean

Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners to clean the litter box. All you really need to use is hot water and some mild, unscented dish soap. Let the box dry thoroughly before you replace litter. If you feel you must “sanitize” your box, use some bleach and hot water, but be sure to rinse thoroughly with hot water to eliminate any remnants of the scent of bleach.

Liners

Most cats don’t like liners. They don’t like the crinkly sound the plastic makes when they walk on it, nor do they like the way it feels under their paws.

Covered or hooded boxes

I don’t like covered or hooded boxes, and most cats don’t like them, either. They’re often too small for the cat to comfortably turn around in and do their business, and they trap odors inside, making it very unpleasant for the cat to use. Dust can also be much more of a problem in a covered box, as it becomes more concentrated. Cats will always breathe in dust when they dig in the litter box, but in a covered box, this becomes a bigger problem. If you must use a covered box, at the very least, remove the filters provided by some manufacturers. They’re designed to trap dust and odors, making it nice for you, but not so nice for kitty inside the box!

Litter mats

These mats are designed to trap litter that’s stuck to your cat’s paw and prevent it from being spread further throughout the house. The trouble with them is that they’re often made with nubs or deep grooves that don’t feel good on sensitive kitty paws, and this might stop a cat from going anywhere near the box.

By approaching the issue of litter boxes from the cat’s point of view, you can prevent many of the problems associated with inappropriate elimination.

Graphic: dreamstime.com

About the author

SmartyKat products: a bonanza of kitty fun

SmartyKat sisal post

When the big box of products from SmartyKat® arrived, it was like kitty Christmas in April at our house. My little product tester was ready and eager to get started!

The SmartyKat® CompleteNeeds® system is designed to meet cats’ unique needs when it comes to playing, hunting, scratching, interaction, privacy, independence, and more.  From scratching posts to kitty hammocks to litter box accessories, SmartyKat® offers a dizzying array of products.

We got to test the ScratchScroll™ and the SisalColumn™ scratchers, the HammockHouse™ cat condo, the CrackelChute™ and the LoofaLeap™ wand toy.

SmartyKat ScratchScrollThe ScratchScroll™ is a well-designed, sturdy wave scratcher, covered in a mix of different scratching surfaces including a couple of different texture carpets and sisal. Allegra was more enamored with the space underneath the scratcher and the little feather snap in toy than the actual scratcher. The feather toy snaps out easily, but not to easily that she could rip it out herself, and can be exchanged with several other toys in the SmartyKat® line.

The SisalColumn™ is a well-made scratcher. The base is pretty sturdy, and Allegra loves vertical scratchers, so she took to it almost the minute I had it assembled. It is probably better for smaller cats, even at a mere 8 pounds, Allegra managed to make the base move just a bit when she used it, so it might topple over with bigger cats.

SmartyKat CrackleChuteThe HammockHouse™ was the biggest hit. I was a little worried when I realized that there was “some assembly required” – words that usually instill fear in my heart. However, the HammockHouse™ came with instructions and diagrams that actually made sense, and I had it assembled in less than a minute. The frame is sturdy even though the actual house is lightweight. Allegra loved leaping in and out of the two entrances. She hasn’t used the hammock part. I was curious whether it would hold even a big cat without collapsing the house, so I used an 18-pound bag of cat litter to test it, and the house passed this test easily.  This product is listed in the privacy section, and Allegra gives it her wholehearted approval for just that. She’s afaid of thunderstorms and usually hides out in our downstairs bathroom behind the shower curtain during storms. The first time we had a storm after the HammockHouse™ arrived, she was curled up inside it.

Allegra is a big fan of kitty tunnels, so the CrackleChute™ was an instant hit. The chute is designed to be connected to the HammockHouse™, which made it even more fun.

Here’s a video of Allegra with the HammockHouse™ and CrackleChute™:

I could barely get the LoofaLeap™ wand toy off of its cardboard backing before Allegra went wild. The combination of different textures and the  movement created by wiggling the wand proved to be irresistible. As the human on the other end of the wand, I would have preferred it to be a bit longer, but I’m a quick learner and after the first few tries, my hand was no longer part of the game. A truly interactive game!

All of the products are well-made and should stand up to even multiple cats for quite some time. They’re also pretty to look at. I’ve always felt that there’s no reason that cat toys have to be ugly, and the SmartyKat® folks seem to share this view.

Ruby Scroll and Scratch SmartyKat

Ruby wasn’t part of our family when I wrote this review, but she has since given four paws up to the LoofaLeap™ wand toy and the CrackleChute™. She also thinks that the The ScratchScroll™showcases her cuteness perfectly. She’s less thrilled with the The HammockHouse™ – mostly, because Allegra likes to hide in it and then pounce on an unsuspecting Ruby when she walks by, just minding her own business.

For more information on the entire SmartyKat® line and where to purchase, please visit their website.

You  may also enjoy reading:

Keeping your single cat happy

Cat scratching solutions

About the author

Is Pet Insurance Right for You and Your Cat?

cat with vet

One of the most important aspects of being a responsible cat guardian is ensuring regular health care for your cat throughout his life. All cats should have annual wellness exams, and older cats should see the veterinarian twice a year. Costs for routine exams vary; depending on what part of the country you’re in, they will range anywhere from $45 to $150 (exam only). And that’s only well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase those costs, the average cost for a visit to an emergency vet can easily run between $1000 and $2000, depending on the severity of the problem.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in pets that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, pets can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans. Of course, all of these treatments come with a price tag.

As a result, pet insurance has become increasingly popular over the past decade. There are several companies offering a variety of plans, and deciding whether pet insurance is right for you, and choosing the right plan, can be overwhelming.

How do you determine whether pet insurance right for you?

Could you afford an unexpected $1000 or $2000, should your pet become ill? If your answer is no, pet insurance may be a viable option. You may not like paying a monthly premium, but, just like human health insurance, you may be glad you paid the premium if you ever need to use the coverage for your pet.

Pet insurance is all about risk management. Some clients may pay more in premiums than they receive in reimbursements (and they would be the lucky ones with healthy pets), but they’ll know that, should something catastrophic happen to their pet, they’ll be covered. Pet insurance companies are in business to make a profit, so they need to generate more money in premiums than what they pay out to pet owners.

Some pet guardians may prefer to put aside a certain amount of money each month into a savings account dedicated to pet care expenses instead of paying monthly insurance premiums. The advantage of doing so is, of course, that, if your cat needs little beyond annual well visits, the money belongs to you, not the insurance company. The risk is that you may end up with unexpected and expensive vet bills, should your cat need additional care. Saving for pet care expenses may also require more financial discipline than paying a monthly premium bill.

If pet insurance seems like a viable option for you, do your homework. Research the different plans carefully. Read the fine print. Premiums and coverage vary widely from plan to plan.

The following questions can help you choose a pet insurance provider:

  1. Is the company licensed in your state?
  2. Does the company have a good reputation? How long have they been around?
  3. Is the policy information easy to understand?
  4. Does the company offer customer service during business hours?
  5. Can you see any veterinarian you want?
  6. How much have premiums increased over the last few years?
  7. Will premiums increase as your pet gets older?
  8. What is covered and what is excluded from coverage?
  9. What is the company’s policy on pre-existing conditions?
  10. Does the company cover benefits for wellness visits and preventive care?
  11. Does the company cover holistic care?
  12. Is there a waiting period before coverage becomes active?
  13. Is there a maximum age for enrolling your cat?
  14. Are there reimbursement limits per case, per year, per lifetime?
  15. Is a physical exam required prior to enrollment?

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of whether pet insurance is right for you and your cat. It is a personal decision that needs to take your financial situation and your risk tolerance into account.

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