Feline veterinary care: What will it take to turn the tide?

In recent years the veterinary community has worked to keep cats healthier by encouraging proven preventive care as well as trying to convince owners get cats to veterinarian sooner when they are sick.  But the message is frustratingly hard to get across, it seems.

Part of that, we know, is stress: More cat-owners than dog-owners cite stress as a reason they won’t bring a cat in, as shown in this slide from the Bayer-Brakke Veterinary Usage Study  (2012; slide title edited for contextual clarity):













But even with the important work done in the fields of low-stress handling, client education and practice design in recent years, cats still just don’t seem to rate the care dogs do. Bayer-Brakke also identified “sticker shock” as a reason why cat-owners didn’t come in, and that’s where our recent Nationwide® | Purdue Veterinary Price Index comes in. Based on what we saw in our most recent report, pet owners are not spending on cats what they’re spending on dogs, based on actual claims to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI — soon to be known simply as Nationwide).

And the gap is pretty dramatic.

Spending less, falling faster

While prices for both canine and feline wellness care roughly kept pace with consumer pricing for all goods and services, overall and medical pricing for feline veterinary care was both dramatically less and fell faster over the 2009-2014 study period, as seen in these two slides from the presentation I gave at the AVMA Convention along with Dr. Kerry O’Hara, our Director of Research, Data Analytics and Market Strategy. First, overall pricing:













Comparing medical pricing was even more dramatic:

























And what about the cost of an average visit? In our analysis of the data, we showed a significant gap between what’s being spent on cats vs. dogs. In other words: Not only is what’s being spent on cat care falling more, but the gap between the average claim for dogs and cats was pretty dramatic to begin with. Compare these two slides,  “bonus content” not offered at the AVMA seminars because of time constraints:
























Do cat owners love their cats less than dog owners do? I doubt that’s the case. But the idea that cats are largely self-sufficient is hard to change, and getting that change accomplished likely will require the combination of many different approaches.

Download the executive summary of our latest Nationwide | Purdue Veterinary Price Index here.