Is Pet Insurance Right for You and Your Cat?

cat with vet

One of the most important aspects of being a responsible cat guardian is 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 well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase those 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.

How do you determine whether pet insurance right for you?

Could you afford an unexpected $1000 or $2000, should your pet become ill? If your answer is no, pet insurance may be a viable option. You may not like paying a monthly premium, but, just like human health insurance, you may be glad you paid the premium if you ever need to use the coverage for your pet.

Pet insurance is all about risk management. Some clients may pay more in premiums than they receive in reimbursements (and they would be the lucky ones with healthy pets), but they’ll know that, should something catastrophic happen to their pet, they’ll be covered. Pet insurance companies are in business to make a profit, so they need to generate more money in premiums than what they pay out to pet owners.

Some pet guardians may prefer to put aside a certain amount of money each month into a savings account dedicated to pet care expenses instead of paying monthly insurance premiums. The advantage of doing so is, of course, that, if your cat needs little beyond annual well visits, the money belongs to you, not the insurance company. The risk is that you may end up with unexpected and expensive vet bills, should your cat need additional care. Saving for pet care expenses may also require more financial discipline than paying a monthly premium bill.

If pet insurance seems like a viable option for you, do your homework. Research the different plans carefully. Read the fine print. Premiums and coverage vary widely from plan to plan.

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?

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of whether pet insurance is right for you and your cat. It is a personal decision that needs to take your financial situation and your risk tolerance into account.

10 Comments on Is Pet Insurance Right for You and Your Cat?

  1. MittensMom
    May 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm (5 years ago)

    I think pet insurance is a nice option for kitties who may develop chronic issues, especially if you have a specific breed that is prone to certain health concerns, if you are a person who doesn’t have the discipline to save, or if you just can’t conjure up the money to pay for costly care in one lump sum. It is a nice way of putting a little aside to help with potentially costly bills.

    As one of our work benefits, my company offers discount pet insurance, which is awesome! Although, I am still not 100% sold on the idea for my kitties (and this is coming from someone who has, in the past 6 months, put out more than $3500 in vet bills for my cats; in routine, emergency and specialist care). I think if you are able to save from the time they’re young, most cats (especially indoor cats) wouldn’t really start costing major money until they get much older (obviously, there are always exceptions). By then, one should hopefully have a decent amount set aside to at least help offset the costs.

    I don’t like the fact that, unless you pay extra, the plans (at least VPI’s) won’t cover routine care which, as with humans, can prevent LOADS of costly bills in the future.

    The other concern I have about pet insurance is the broader potential economic impact of it. Pet insurance would possibly result in increased demand for a number of procedures which are already rather costly; some necessary (which would be good) and some unnecessary. The fear is that, with the increasing demand and the larger pool of money to pay for them, the prices will continue to go up (likely at a faster pace than the standard inflation rate). This trend could end up mimicking the situation with human healthcare in the US: many procedures and medications, including some very standard ones, would be ultimately be priced so high that uninsured pet owners just may not be able to afford even basic care their furbabies would need. Of course, if they are sick and need care, no insurance company will want to cover them. I would hate to see that happen. 🙁

    Of course, everyone needs to decide for themselves based on their own circumstances. It’s great for people to have this checklist to help them weigh their options. (Ingrid, your posts are awesome, as usual!)

    I know people who have insured their pets and think it’s an amazing lifesaver and others who have spent the money for years “just in case” and have never needed to use it.

    Side note: Awwwwwwwww. The kitty in the photo looks just like my 8month old, Lucifur (“Luci”). 😀

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 18, 2014 at 5:29 am (5 years ago)

      I also share your concern about the broader economic impact of pet insurance. I’m hoping that veterinary medicine learned from what is happening on the human side, but only time will tell.

      I believe some plans now cover wellness care.

      Reply
  2. Susan
    June 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm (6 years ago)

    I thought I was paying a lot for my pet insurance, but after one mishap totaling about $1000, the insurance promptly paid out about the same amount as I had paid into it since having the policy. Glad I had it!

    Reply
  3. I HAVE CAT
    October 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm (8 years ago)

    ingrid, great article. i’ve been feeling super overwhelmed about assessing insurance companies for my clowder so this is super helpful. THANKS!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m still trying to decide whether this is right for me and Allegra and Ruby, Tamar.

      Reply
  4. Layla Morgan Wilde
    May 2, 2011 at 10:25 am (8 years ago)

    I’ve never come across an viable insurance policy for older cats. Have you?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm (8 years ago)

      I haven’t, Layla. I guess in that respect, human and pet health insurance are the same.

      Reply

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