Conscious Cat

June 12, 2012 25 Comments

Should You Get Pet Insurance For Your Cat?

Posted by Ingrid

cat_with_vet

Responsible cat guardianship includes ensuring regular health care for your cat throughout his life. All cats should have annual wellness exams, and older cats should see the veterinarian twice a year. Costs for routine exams vary; depending on what part of the country you’re in, they will range anywhere from $45 to $150 (exam only). And that’s only for well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase these costs. The average cost for a visit to an emergency vet can easily run between $1000 and $2000, depending on the severity of the problem.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in pets that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, pets can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans. Of course, all of these treatments come with a price tag.

As a result, pet insurance has become increasingly popular over the past decade. There are several companies offering a variety of plans, and deciding whether pet insurance is right for you, and choosing the right plan, can be overwhelming.

Could you afford an unexpected $1000 or $2000 for a medical emergency, or even more for a chronic serious illness? If your answer is no, pet insurance may be a viable option for you.

With more and more companies offering pet insurance, how do you pick the right one?

The following questions can help you choose a pet insurance provider:

  1. Is the company licensed in your state?
  2. Does the company have a good reputation? How long have they been around?
  3. Is the policy information easy to understand?
  4. Does the company offer customer service during business hours?
  5. Can you see any veterinarian you want?
  6. How much have premiums increased over the last few years?
  7. Will premiums increase as your pet gets older?
  8. What is covered and what is excluded from coverage?
  9. What is the company’s policy on pre-existing conditions?
  10. Does the company cover benefits for wellness visits and preventive care?
  11. Does the company cover holistic care?
  12. Is there a waiting period before coverage becomes active?
  13. Is there a maximum age for enrolling your cat?
  14. Are there reimbursement limits per case, per year, per lifetime?
  15. Is a physical exam required prior to enrollment?

CatChannel.com recently published a helpful comparison chart for plans offered by some of the major pet insurance companies in the United States.

Do you have pet insurance for you cats? If you do, are you glad that you have it?

Photo: istockphoto

 

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25 Responses to “Should You Get Pet Insurance For Your Cat?”

  1. Vicki says:

    I live in Australia, and have pet insurance – I took it out 4 years ago when my Main Coon cats, Sasha and Max, were babies, and it has been worth it. It costs just under $300 per cat annually. Sadly we lost Max this year after a short battle with kidney failure – he needed surgery and lots of care, and having insurance helped us big time. The vet bill came to $7,ooo, I we luckily had this set aside for a rainy day and was able to claim it later, and we got most of that back. Whilst we are still in shock at the loss of our sweet boy, the insurance has helped us through a tough time.

  2. Well, well…this is rather timely.

    We just dropped our dog (yes our DOG) Dakota at the vet this morning for urinary issues. We think he may have a UTI. (We are hoping that that is all that it is)…

    To answer your question, yes, we have it for both our cat and our dog. We just got insurance through Trupanion a few months ago and thankfully, so far haven’t used it (til possibly now)
    One thing I didn’t like when I looked at the form this morning was they wanted the exact date that dakota was neutered (he was neutered when we got him and I can’t find it)

    Anyway, I have featured Trupanion many times on my blog(s) and a fellow blogger (Snoopy’s Dog Blog) uses Trupanion and LOVES THEM. They also came highly recommended by one of the receptionists at our vet who has their insurance.

    Stay tuned…..

  3. Dianda says:

    One of my cats has an insurance. The other cat is getting one soon, once she got a chip. :)
    With most of the pet-insurances here, is that as sooner as you get your pet an insurance (for example, when it’s still young), the cheaper it will be for you! And with most of the insurances here in Holland, there is no waiting period. But if your pet gets a surgery within 30 days, you have to pay it yourself.

  4. Rose says:

    I adopted a cat from a shelter and he came with one month of “free pet insurance.” The policy said it would expire at the end of the one month period unless I extended it and paid the premiums. I took him to the vet and it turned out he had a condition which would require cortisone shots every month or two. I extended the policy and paid the monthly premium for about 6 months. After several trips to the vet over that time, I filed a claim and submitted the records. The insurance company DENIED the claim and would not pay anything at all, saying it was a “Pre-Existing Condition.” I appealed ,saying that the cat came with the policy before he ever went to the vet so how could it be a “pre-existing condition”? They explained that the “free” policy he came with was a separate policy, and when I extended it, I was actually starting a NEW policy, thus anything discovered by the vet in that first month was considered a pre-existing condition. I don’t know why I expected pet insurance companies to be any better than human insurance companies, since their primary objective is to make money, not to care for their clients, so I canceled the policy immediately and will never buy pet insurance again.

    • Ingrid says:

      What an awful experience, Rose. It sure sounds like this should have been explained better all around, from the shelter who gave you the “free” insurance, to the insurance company woh extended the policy.

  5. Kate says:

    I don’t have insurance for my cats, but as they are both over the age of 5 now I’m definitely considering getting it in the near future in case they need any special attention as they age. Do you recommend that indoor cats have insurance their whole lives or is it safe to assume that it’s not needed as long as I’m keeping up with annual visits while their young & living indoors?

    • Ingrid says:

      Insurance is always about managing risk, Kate, and while indoor cats are safer than cats who go outside, there’s really no way to draw a correlation between living indoors and the need for pet insurance. You will pay higher premiums for older cats, so if you’re going to get insurance, the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be. It really comes down to answering the question of whether you could handle an unexpected medical expense without insurance, or whether you’d feel better knowing that you have the insurance if/when you need it, and that’s a very individual decision.

  6. Great information Ingrid.

  7. Donn Umber says:

    According to Consumer Reports’ analysis, pet insurance is rarely worth it:
    http://bit.ly/LiDSc7

    • Ingrid says:

      I guess the bottom line for almost any insurance is that you don’t really want it to be worth it, Donn – as in, you hope you’re never going to need it!

  8. Bridget says:

    I am a believer in pet insurance. After years of coverage, it may or may not turn out to be ” worth it” financially (ie: I may spend more then I get back) but the peace of mind is priceless. Mind you, I would max out my credit cards and take out a home equity loan if needed so it isn’t a question of being able to get appropriate care for my cats. For me, having insurance allows me to concentrate on making the right decisions medically and not worry about the cost.

    There are major differences between pet insurance companies! Many consider the annual renewal of a policy as a “new” policy and therefore exclude any illnesses that occurred the prior year (even though the pet was insured; anything the pet was treated for is now a “pre-existing “condition). Some companies have many, and difficult to understand, limitations. Some pay 90% of what they consider to be reasonable costs, which may have nothing to do with real life. Two of the three companies in the CU survey do not, in my opinion, offer good (or even adequate) coverage.

    I have had PetPlan insurance now for several years and couldn’t be happier. They offer coverage for the life of the pet, consider policy renewals as such and not as a “new” plan, and have always paid exactly as promised.

  9. Cathy says:

    I know I’m commenting a few days after this is posted, but I wanted to record my answer in the “no” column.

    Years ago, I had a cat who came down with hypothyroid disease. She wasn’t that old and so I paid for the radiation treatment on my credit card. She lived for several more years after that I consider it money well spent.

    When I got the cats I have now, I decided to purchase insurance because I didn’t want to have to pay for expensive medical bills on my credit card without reimbursement. Then, one of my cats got sick. She has a reoccurring sinus infection/nasal discharge issue. The vet put her on repeated rounds of antibiotics which would help, but it would always come back. My regular vet suggested we take her to a specialist.

    The initial visit to the specialist was almost $200. They suggested a thorough examination that would have come out at $2400. Guess how much the insurance company was willing to cover of these expenses? $100. I didn’t forget a 0 there, either.

    We decided not to spend the money just to find out that her problem wasn’t caused by a blockage and was untreatable (one of the very real possibilities.) Fortunately, the Lysine gel that we had started her on cleared up the nasal problems. Now, I give it to her 2x a day and the nasal problems have cleared up.

    I didn’t renew the policy.

  10. Charity says:

    I just posted this on Jackson Galaxy’s facebook page and thought I would share it here as well:

    I don’t have straight out insurance, but I have all three of mine on wellness plans thru Banfield (found in PetSmart). It was a $69.99 one-time membership fee (reduced to $45 for each additional cat) and then it’s $25 bucks a month per cat for the plan. It includes unlimited vet visits (for the vet to physically examine your pet) as well as a yearly teeth cleaning, 2X bloodwork, 2X fecal exams, a urinalysis (which we needed desperately). We also receive 15% off most other medications and tests that aren’t covered. Preventative care has saved us thousands.

    Last August one of our cats was diagnosed with enlarged kidneys. They were 3 times the normal size. He just began to act strange and stopped eating and drinking. When we couldn’t afford the x-rays she used the money in the donation jar to help us through. We had him on the plan, and our vet did everything in her power to help us through the ordeal, including knocking off all tests that were cleared up by the x-rays, free fluid transfusions, she also taught me how to give the transfusions at home. Knot was 11, and he’d been a completely outdoor cat for the first 7 years of his life. Putting him to sleep was the hardest thing my husband and I have gone through together. I don’t think words can describe how forever grateful we will be to our vet Dr. Smith as well as the whole staff at our Peachtree City Banfield. (Unfortunately Dr. Smith is moving back home to Pennsylvania, and we will miss her very much :( she loved our pets almost as much as we did, but we did trade email addys and promised to stay in touch.) She recommended us to another doctor in the office that she went to veterinarian school with, but honestly the whole staff has been amazing.

    We have been keeping more money in savings to cover any emergencies not already covered by our Wellness Plans.

  11. [...] month, Ingrid of The Conscious Cat posted about pet insurance.  She had read an article recently on the CatChannel.com about Cat Insurance Options.  In their [...]

  12. Thank you for the information. I’ve had policies with two different pet insurance companies: ASPCA and Trupanion. I cancelled the policy with ASPCA because you never knew what they would pay for and what they wouldn’t based on their “unpublished” fee schedule. I switched to Trupanion over 2 years ago and have been very pleased. You can choose your own deductible and once that is paid, Trupanion covers 80% of the allowable charges, which you know what is covered and what isn’t. The disadvantage is that is isn’t a wellness plan (annual shots, checkups, dental cleaning, and doctor’s fee), but it does cover illness and accidents. I’ve been very pleased with Trupanion.

    Be very careful that you read the fine print on these policies. If they state they will pay the allowable rate based on the region – avoid the company!

  13. [...] or $2000 for a medical emergency, or even more for a chronic serious illness? If your answer is no, pet insurance may be a viable option for you. Some plans also cover routine wellness [...]

  14. Ruth says:

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to get pet insurance, but the cost is prohibitive–I have 11, yes 11 babies, all of which are unplaced fosters.

    They range in age from 6 months to 14 years. The babies, 6 months, 2 years and 3 years are not too expensive, but how can I justify getting some of my luvs insurance and not the others? Its like covering some of your children, but not the other.

    Any Advice?

    • Ingrid says:

      An alternative to pet insurance is to start a separate savings account for pet care expenses, Ruth. Treat it like an insurance premium – in other words, put a set amount into the account each month. That way, when you need the money, it’ll be there.

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