Pet insurance for your cat
Sorting out the right insurance for your cat can be a headache, but could save you an expensive vets bill and keep your cat healthy
At some time, and probably several times, during your cats life you will need to take him to the vet for some sort of treatment and it will probably cost quite a lot. Statistically though, on average, you will pay more for insurance than you will save on vets bills - if it was the other way round, the insurance companies would be out of business.
Does my cat need insurance?
What insurance does is covers you for the unexpected. If your cat suddenly becomes ill or injured and you have to spend several hundred, or even thousands of dollars or pounds for treatment then the small monthly payment you have been paying suddenly becomes very good value. Most policies cost around $15-30 (£10-20) and will cover the cost of treatments after an initial excess. The cost of your insurance will depend on certain factors such as the breed and age of your cat, and there are lots of variables in the multitude of policies available.
Existing conditions & vaccinations
Insurance policies will not pay for existing conditions or treatments required because the cats vaccinations were out of date. This is something to think about when choosing your policy, as some offer 'lifetime' payments for new illnesses whilst others may only last for a year. After that time you may have no insurance against the illness and will not be able to change to a new policy as it is now an existing condition.
Limits are the maximum amount the insurance company will pay. Limits can be applied to conditions or illnesses and timescales of treatment.
A low cost policy which offers "up to $5000 for vets bills" might actually only offer $1000 per condition for a maximum of one year. This means if your cat were to develop an illness which needed ongoing treatment at a cost of $1200 per year for the rest of its life, the insurance will only pay out $1000 for the first year, leaving you to pay the other $200 and the full $1200 for every year afterwards.
Condition payout limits with annual renewability
Providing you renew the same insurance every year, some policies can simply be 'restarted' every year. This usually means that an illness is covered for life, as long as the policy is renewed each year. A lifetime policy with a limit of "$1000 per condition per year" will pay up to $1000 for the treatment of an illness every year for the life of the cat. In this example, if your cats illness required treatment every year of $1200, you would only pay $200 every year.
Can you afford unexpected injuries without insurance?
Lifetime policies usually have the highest monthly cost, but offer full protection. With a lifetime policy, there is normally a yearly limit on payouts, but none on timescales or conditions. In this example, if your payout limit is $5000, and your cat develops an illness which requires $1200 per year, your insurance will pay the full amount (minus the excess) every year.
The excess is the amount you pay first, and the insurance pays the rest subject to the policies limits. If your excess is $50 and treatment is $1200, you pay $50 and the insurance pays $1150. In most cases, trips to vets are for minor problems and are less than the $50, so you still pay for most visits but are insured against bigger problems.
Always read the small print to check what may not be covered. Typical exclusions include dental work, vaccinations, neutering, and third party damage (e.g. if your cat damages someones property)
Insurance policies cover more than just vets bills and can include cover for:
- accidental death
- cost of advertising and finding a lost cat
- boarding fees (if you are in hospital for example)
- Holiday cancellation (if you need to return home for you cat)
Most additional cover items are not worth worrying about and it is best to concentrate on the value and time limit terms of payouts for illnesses.