5 Reasons Why Outdoor Cats NEED Pet Insurance

by Richard Walther, DVM
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5 Reasons Why Outdoor Cats NEED Pet Insurance
If you own a cat that spends time outdoors, they’re at an increased risk for injuries, accidents, and serious health conditions that require veterinary care. Here’s how pet insurance can help.

If you own a cat that spends even a little time outside, you should consider enrolling them in pet insurance. They may love the freedom, but outdoor cats face more risks that could lead to expensive veterinary visits and ongoing medical conditions, resulting in a financial burden for many pet parents.

In this post, we’ll go over several of the most common hazards outdoor cats encounter to help you understand how policy coverage can offer protection.

Here are five threats that could make cat insurance for outdoor pets especially valuable:

Pro Tip: Cat insurance plans work by reimbursing you out-of-pocket costs spent on covered veterinary services, such as the treatment of an emergency trauma wound, parasitic infection, or acquired illness. Most providers offer flexible plans that give you the choice of how much to spend based on the degree of coverage.

1. Injuries

Thanks to their quick reflexes and keen senses, many owners believe that felines are capable of fending for themselves when spending time outdoors. However, there’s a number of health and safety risks an outdoor might encounter.

One of the most common dangers for outdoor cats is moving vehicles. Sadly, cats’ cautious nature cannot protect them from becoming a casualty, even in the country and suburban areas where traffic moves at lower speeds. According to the Bristol Cats Study, the majority of road traffic accidents (74.5%) involving cats were reported as being fatal to the animal, whereas 17% were non-fatal but involved serious injuries that required veterinary treatment.

When your cat roams outside, they could end up in a catfight with another neighborhood cat. Males are more likely to become territorial and aggressive, but unfixed females often have to fend for themselves, as well. Catfights often result in bite wounds that, if left untreated, can form a painful abscess. These typically require veterinary treatment, otherwise, they could develop into more serious conditions, such as cellulitis or septicemia, that can spread to other parts of the body.

Outdoor cats can also sustain life-threatening injuries from stray dogs, especially if your pet has learned to be trusting toward canines. Wild animals are also known to prey on domesticated cats, including raccoons, coyotes, and foxes even in urban areas.

Finally, unfriendly neighbors have been known to injure outdoor cats in response to them hunting birds or digging through gardens, for example. Sadly, many cats have been brought into shelters and veterinary clinics with injuries from arrows, shotguns, and BB guns.

If you were the pet parent to one of these unfortunate outdoor cats, emergency veterinary treatment could cost thousands of dollars or more. Cat insurance is valuable because it provides peace of mind by reducing the financial risk you’d take on in order to save your pet’s life.

2. Diseases

The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are around 60 million homeless and feral cats living in the States. Many of these animals carry transmissible diseases — such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and rabies — that can be passed on to your outdoor cat upon contact.

Veterinary treatment for these illnesses can cost upwards of $300. In addition, FIV and FeLV require lifelong monitoring and medication, whereas rabies can cause restlessness and confusion or paralysis, and are almost always fatal. Passing cats can also contaminate your property with diseases like Feline Panleukopenia that can survive in the environment for prolonged periods of time, potentially exposing your pet to an infection.

Pet parents can decrease the risk of diseases by making sure their cat is current on all recommended vaccines. Although no vaccine is 100% effective, your pet will be better protected against illness. Most pet insurance companies offer optional wellness coverage that reimburses owners for vaccination costs.

3. Parasites

If you have an outdoor cat, it’s generally safe to assume that it will have more trouble with both internal and external parasites than the average indoor cat. External parasites, or those that live on the outer surface of the skin, include fleas, ticks, and ear mites in cats that cause uncomfortable itching and possible secondary health issues. These parasites can also cause problems for you, the family, and other pets if they’re brought into the house.

More concerning, however, are the internal parasites outdoor cats may become infected with by touching contaminated water, soil, feces, or another infected animal. Some of the most common parasitic infections in outdoor cats include Giardia, Coccidia, heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.

These parasites can cause a variety of symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach issues, respiratory disease, and more. They can be incredibly debilitating to cats and often make them more susceptible to other viruses and infections. More importantly, if they go untreated, they can lead to organ failure and death.

Certain feline intestinal parasites, including hookworms and roundworms, can also cause disease in people. Not to mention, parasites can be quite difficult to eradicate from your home and your pet.

4. Poisons

The Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that every year there are up to 10,000 dogs and cats that die from exposure to ethylene glycol which is present in antifreeze, a commonly used chemical around the house. Even a small amount of this poisonous substance can be enough to cause symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, incoordination, muscle twitching, or even irreversible kidney failure and death.

Cats can also get in contact with rodenticide either directly or indirectly by eating a rodent that had recently ingested poison bait.

If you believe your cat has ingested poison, do not wait for symptoms to develop - take your pet to the vet right away. According to Preventive Vet, the average cost of treating antifreeze ingestion is between $2,000 - $6,000, whereas the treatment for rat poison ingestion can cost from $750 - $4,000. Luckily, most pet insurance plans cover emergency treatment for accidental injuries, illnesses, and poisoning.

5. Weather Conditions

If your cat is spending a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, they can be susceptible to ailments like hypothermia and frostbite. Symptoms of these illnesses include shivering, swollen or hardened skin, lethargy, etc. If you notice any of them, be sure to call your vet right away. Other common winter illnesses in cats that require sudden vet visits include flu, pneumonia, kennel cough, and the common cold.

Similarly, your feline friend could experience dehydration and heatstroke in the summer. These are serious conditions that can cause an illness and even lead to death.

If your cat is outdoors, make sure they have shelter from the elements, as well as water and food available at all times.

Pro Tip: Typically, insurance for cats is very cost-effective. Although each pet insurance company has its own rating formula that determines the final cost, cat insurance is generally cheaper than insurance for dogs.


Key Takeaways

  • Compared to indoor cats, felines that tend to venture outside are at a greater risk for accidents, injuries, and serious health conditions.
  • Some of the most common dangers outdoor cats face include injuries by motor vehicles, dogs, and other animals, contagious diseases like FIV and FeLV, parasites, poisons, weather-related illnesses like heat stroke and frostbite, etc.
  • Pet health insurance can provide peace of mind to pet owners by covering the cost of unexpected vet bills, as well as protecting your feline friend from unnecessary suffering by helping you pay for the treatment they need.

Ricky Walther, DVM

About the author

Richard Walther, DVM

Associate Veterinarian - Petco

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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