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Cats don’t have nine lives, and no one knows this better than a veterinarian. As a practicing vet, I treated injured animals and mourned the deaths of those I could not save. And these days, as the chief veterinary officer for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), I see the names and the information as our claims come in, and I know that behind every claim is a story — and a much-loved animal.
Sometimes people ask me if I miss “helping animals,” and I tell them I don’t miss it because it’s still my job: VPI gives pet owners the means to afford much-needed veterinary care. We help save pets' lives every day.
But while I take pride in working to cover the costs of veterinary care for pets who need it, I also enjoy using our claims data to educate pet owners and prevent problems before they happen.
Recently, I asked our researchers to find the top five accident-related claims for cats, in order to give pet owners a heads up when it comes to avoiding these feline calamities. Here’s what they found, in order of the number of claims in 2013, with the average claim amount in parentheses after each item:
In all, these five conditions accounted for more than $281,000 in claims at VPI. As a veterinarian, I look at this list of injuries and I can see some trends. I can also see some ways to avoid these accidents — and I bet you can, too. Key among them? Keep your cat indoors.
Of the top five accident claims for cats, being outdoors is arguably an increased risk factor for them all. Cats who roam freely are more likely to be hit by cars, attacked by other animals (such as dogs or coyotes) or get into fights with other cats.
Being hit by a car can account for many of our patients' soft-tissue traumas, as well as abrasions and possibly fractured teeth. And those cats who end up in our claims data are the lucky ones who survive being hit and make it home — many do not.
While lacerations can also result from being hit by a car, bite wounds are from other animals. A scratch or wound on the eye can also often be the result of an encounter with another animal. And while some of these accidents may involve altercations between indoor pets living in the same household, many do not.
Keeping cats inside significantly reduces the risk of these five types of injuries. I know that some people believe cats cannot be happy inside, but there are many resources that can help you make your cat’s indoor home a happy one. The data suggest a longer, healthier life for your cat if she’s on the inside of your screen door, rather than on the outside.
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