Frequently Asked Questions by Cat Owners: Part 2

Kitten Plays in the Grass
Kitten Plays in the Grass

Table of Contents:

  1. What Is the Lifespan of a Cat?
  2. Does My Cat Need to Attend Wellness Exams Even If They Are Feeling Fine?
  3. Does My Cat Need Pet Insurance?

Our first Cat FAQ guide addressed a few common questions that pet parents ask their veterinarians.

Since there’s always more ground to cover when it comes to keeping your cat happy and healthy, we figured we’d dive into more topics that pop up in doctor’s office conversation:

What Is the Lifespan of a Cat?

The length of a pet’s life is a question no one can answer. In general, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 13-17 years old. Some cats will overachieve and live into their 20s, but many cats will not survive into their teens.

A recent study in the United Kingdom observed 4000 cats and their causes of death. The most frequently attributed causes of mortality in cats of all ages were trauma (12.2%), renal disorder, non-specific illness, neoplasia, and mass lesion disorders in descending order.

There are some known factors that have been shown to decrease a cat’s life span.

  • Outdoor access. Cats that are allowed outside tend to live shorter lives than indoor-only cats. Cats that are outside unsupervised are more likely to encounter dangers such as vehicles, larger animals, or toxins. Indoor cats are safer due to a more consistent environment with less unknown dangers.
  • Intact reproductive status. Cats that are not spayed or neutered are more likely to try and escape compared to altered (spayed/neutered) cats. In addition, female cats that are not spayed are at higher risk to develop mammary cancer, which can affect their life span.
  • Purebred vs Crossbred heritage. The aforementioned UK study showed that purebred cats had shorter life spans on average compared to crossbred (domestic/mixed breed) cats.
  • Insurance. Uninsured cats on average will have a shorter life span than insured cats. Pet insurance helps to provide a high level of care without finances being a limiting factor.

Regular wellness exams and blood work with your veterinarian are useful to pick up on disease processes early and institute therapy immediately. Young, healthy cats commonly only need wellness exams every 6 months to a year, but as they get older, their wellness exams should be more frequent. Seeking early medical therapy if your cat is ill can also improve the outcome, compared with starting medical therapy as a disease progresses.

Does My Cat Need to Attend Wellness Exams Even If They Are Feeling Fine?

What to Expect at the Vet

 

Yes, just like humans, cats need yearly exams and blood work to identify any changes or trends. During a wellness visit, veterinarians are able to perform a full physical exam on your cat that includes:

  • Obtaining vitals, such as weight, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature.
  • Evaluating the teeth for tartar formation and the progression of dental disease.
  • Auscultation of heart and lungs, which helps to identify heart murmurs (abnormal heart sounds).
  • Palpation of the abdomen, which helps to identify enlarged organs and masses.
  • Orthopedic evaluation for lameness or joint pain.

Completing a full physical exam helps a veterinarian identify changes since their last assessment and make recommendations based on findings. The earlier abnormalities are found, the sooner further diagnostics or treatment can be discussed.

In addition to completing a physical, blood work is typically performed during these visits. This procedure helps vets discover the beginning stages of organ dysfunction before it becomes advanced. One of the most common diseases that older cats can develop is kidney dysfunction. Yearly blood work can help to identify changes and trends in kidney values and renal biomarkers. Early identification of kidney disease and initiation of dietary modifications has been shown to slow the progression of disease.

Wellness exams are also used to create an open forum to discuss questions and concerns with your veterinarian. This is the perfect time to discuss diet modification, monthly flea/tick preventatives, and behavioral changes. Since this time is specifically designated for you and your cat, it’s best to come prepared with questions and concerns that need to be addressed.

After your wellness exam, your vet will make recommendations for a follow-up appointment. For younger pets, the next appointment will be scheduled for any time between 6 and 12 months. For older cats, appointments will be more frequent. If your pet becomes ill or develops a new disease, your veterinarian will want to see them sooner and make a treatment plan.

Does My Cat Need Pet Insurance?

Cats, just like dogs, can get sick and having health insurance can provide peace of mind if an unfortunate situation occurs. The cost of accidents and underlying diseases could add up and pet insurance will allow you to provide the best care for your pet without worrying about finances.

Most pet insurance plans cover illnesses and accidents, which means that if your cat is not feeling well or something traumatic occurs, their injuries will be covered by your plan. The amount of coverage is individualized and will differ from one plan to another. Most pet insurance plans do not cover wellness visits, vaccinations, or monthly preventative medications.

Research what pet insurance company and plan works best for your pet and your budget. Some plans will have a lower monthly premium, but a higher deductible. Other plans will have a yearly maximum deductible versus a deductible for each injury and illness. It is also encouraged for owners to investigate whether a pet insurance company pays the hospital directly or reimburses pet owners for expenses. This last point is very important because, if your chosen company only does reimbursement, all expenses would need to be paid out of pocket initially. It is best to enroll your cat when they are young, since the premiums are often linked with age of enrollment.

The cost of pet care can add up, especially as your cat ages. Pet insurance helps to ensure that you can provide your cat with veterinary care without financial strain.

To find out more about pet insurance, read What is Pet Insurance, How Does It Work, and Is it Right for You?

For more answers to common cat questions, check out Part 3 of our FAQ.