Top three cat health insurance claims

This page discusses the top three cat health insurance claims in America as per five pet insurance companies (2018).

Trupanion said that their number one insurance claim concerned undiagnosed vomiting and diarrhoea. The second and third were urinary tract infections and kidney disease respectively.

ASPCA reported the top three as: gastrointestinal conditions, hyperthyroidism and thirdly diabetes.

Embrace’s top three were: gastrointestinal conditions, urinary tract disease and thirdly diabetes.

Nationwide pet insurance reported the top three as: urinary tract infectious disease/cystitis, dental conditions such as periodontitis and infections of the mouth and thirdly kidney disease.

Pets Best insurance reported their top three cat health claims as: kidney disease/failure, hyperthyroidism and thirdly gastrointestinal conditions.

Cat checked for health
Cat checked for health. Photo: Shutterstock.
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I am not a veterinarian although I read a lot about cats. Can we deduce something from these lists? Looking at the results in the round i.e. generally, it seems to me that there are two main health conditions in domestic cats: gastrointestinal issues and urinary tract health issues. Some veterinarians might agree that kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism are the top chronic diseases in cats. Diabetes can be linked to diet as can kidney disease. There appears there might be an overlap here (top ten diseases).

Apparently, 40 percent of the treatments concern chronic conditions i.e. conditions which are ongoing and cannot be cured. These are not limited to elderly cats.

Trupanion provided the researcher (the source of these lists1with the cost of these treatments. The average cost to treat undiagnosed vomiting/diarrhoea under their policies was between US$300 and US$500. The average cost of treatment for urinary tract infectious diseases varied between $200 and $400. Finally, kidney disease cost between $500 and $1000. The biggest claim under their policies concerning an adult cat with kidney disease which cost over $40,000 to treat. The biggest claim for urinary tract disease cost $13,600. The highest claim they paid out for undiagnosed vomiting was $9650.

What might be behind these conditions? Is it reasonable to argue that these diseases are connected by genetics? What I mean is are the inherited diseases? Well, they are not in my opinion. Certain cats might have a predisposition to develop certain diseases and these are normally purebred cats because they are selectively bred which can bring to the forefront recessive genes which cause illnesses.

However, in this instance it seems to me that there might be a link between these chronic diseases and the food that cats eat. If we take the Trupanion results all three diseases are concerned with what a cat ingests and what a cat expels. They concern what goes in and what goes out. What goes into a cat can affect what goes out of a cat. Some people argue that kidney disease and urinary tract infections are exacerbated and/or caused by dry cat food because it is unnatural and high in carbohydrates. It has also been proposed that the high carbohydrate content of dry cat food can bring on diabetes in cats.

Does your vet support healthy eating?
Does your vet support healthy eating?

A typical urinary tract infectious disease would be cystitis. This is brought on by stress in combination with dry cat food or can be. Stress can be brought on by an absent owner. This points to cats in households where the owner is absent for long periods and puts down dry cat food out of convenience because they aren’t there. If my assessment, which is made on the spur of the moment, is correct and the root cause of this human behaviour is an inability of the owner to provide adequate cat care because of the circumstances under which they live which might mean a full-time job or it might mean a lack of funds to buy high quality cat food. P.S. Feral cats have a relatively low incidence of cystitis. Why?

You may know that one advocate of removing dry cat food from a domestic cat’s diet is the vet Elizabeth M Hodgkins who has written the book Your Cat. She also accuses dry cat food of causing type 2 feline diabetes i.e. sugar diabetes.

Cystitis is often called “idiopathic cystitis” because the cause is unknown or unspecified. The well-known book1 on home veterinary care that I have (and which is respected) indicates that two home treatments can resolve feline cystitis: feeding wet cat food over dry cat food and reducing stress. You can take your pick as to how to reduce stress. The best way to do it is to be there for your cat as much as possible provided you are a good caregiver. If that is impractical then antianxiety pheromones such as Feliway might help. If your cat is stressed despite the fact that you are there a lot then look for causes such as the presence of other cats either outside the home or inside the home (major cause if cat conflict). This website has lots of discussion on stress in cat so please use the search facility at the top of the page.

Is the kitten healthy?
Is the kitten healthy? Checklist infographic.

Poor oral health is incredibly typical of domestic cats for the simple reason that they (1) eat commercially prepared food which does not have an abrasive quality as would bones and fur if they were eating a small mammal and (2) cat caregivers do not cover this problem by cleaning their cat’s teeth. I suspect that incredibly few cat owners clean their cat’s teeth (no criticism intended as I don’t do it either). In reality it should be done but it can only be done if you train your cat as a young animal to accept it. There are pages on this site about doing that.

Cat with open mouth, yawning
Oral health. Photo: PoC.

Hyperthyroidism comes up in the lists at least once and it is almost always linked to cancer which tends to occur in older cats. Second-hand cigarette spoke may be a factor. Perhaps another factor, and I am speculating here, is the quality of the air inside their homes. What about fire retardants in sofas and protective chemicals in carpets? There are lots of polluting chemicals inside homes which, because they are volatile, leach out into the atmosphere. Research is needed on how they affect cats.

Hyperthyroidism - a cat showing symtoms
Hyperthyroidism – a cat showing symptoms. Picture in the public domain.

The issues that I’m really addressing here is whether we, the humans and caregivers, can do something about minimising these chronic diseases. I don’t see us discussing that in any detail. We seem to accept these diseases. It is rather surprising that a large percentage of domestic cats die of kidney disease. It should be noted too that diabetic nephropathy ( kidney failure) is a common complication of type I and type II diabetes. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in kidneys. There is therefore a link between diabetes and kidney disease in cats. A common cause might be diet.


2. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook 3rd edition.

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