Posted on: May 27th, 2016 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

You just got a new kitten. You see a brochure about Pet Health Insurance, and wonder if you should get it. But you expect to have many healthy years of kitty fun, and as time goes on you just kind of forget about insurance. Your cat is young, you don’t need it now. But unfortunately, as your cat gets older, problems can develop. And once those problems develop, insurance may not cover them. So should you buy insurance? Read Sherlock’s story for an example of why you might want to keep that brochure and follow up on it.

Sherlock’s Annual Exam
Sherlock is a 9 year old brown tabby with quizzical green eyes. She was a new patient, along with a 3-year old male as her new housemate. Sherlock was scheduled for a routine preventive care and vaccine appointment. Since we always ask if there are any concerns, her mom mentioned a bit of weight loss (which she thought may have been partly due to the younger cat) and some occasional vomiting.

On examination, I noticed two things: one, that Sherlock’s breathing was a bit more pronounced and more rapid than normal. (Normally, you don’t notice a cat’s breathing, unless they’ve just been racing around. And while stress can cause this, usually it will improve after a couple minutes; for Sherlock, it didn’t change). Second, even though Sherlock was normal weight to slightly thin, I could not hear heart sounds. So, a chest x-ray was the next step.

The diagnosis…
The radiograph showed a large mass in the front of the chest. The most likely problem at Sherlock’s age is a thymoma. This is a benign tumor, but a tumor this large in the chest requires extensive diagnostics, including a needle aspirate of the mass for a diagnosis, and then surgery.

Thankfully, Sherlock’s mom had gotten insurance when Sherlock was young, so this will not be a “pre-existing condition”. While we have a long way to go, our hopes are that Sherlock will do well. But, this was again a reminder that getting pet health insurance when cats are young will help out a lot if something like this happens when they are older. Sadly, people will ask about insurance after we’ve diagnosed a problem; by then of course, the problem is pre-existing and will be excluded. So, if your cat was found to be healthy at the last preventive care exam, we can recommend some pet insurance companies to look into for your cat.

Our hopes, best wishes and crossed fingers go to Sherlock and her family. We will keep you posted.