Your Cat Could be Costing You. Do Furry Friends Hike Home Insurance Rates?


Pets are a beloved part of many families, with over 85 million cats and 77 million dogs owned as pets in the United States alone. While pets provide comfort and companionship, they can also pose risks that may impact homeowners insurance policies and premiums. Understanding how cats may affect homeowners insurance can help pet owners make informed decisions when shopping for coverage.

This article provides an overview of how cats can potentially damage the home, cause insurance claims, and influence premium rates for homeowners insurance. It includes tips for minimizing risks associated with cats as well as options for securing adequate coverage. The goal is to help cat owners understand any potential insurance implications, reduce risks, and obtain the right homeowners policy to protect their home and furry family members.

How Cats Can Damage the Home

Cats can cause various forms of damage to the home with their natural scratching and climbing behaviors. One major way cats damage homes is by scratching furniture, curtains, and carpets ( Cats have a natural instinct to scratch objects in order to remove the dead outer layer of their claws and mark their territory with scent glands in their paws. Without adequate scratching posts, they will turn to furniture, carpets, and other household items. Scratching can lead to torn fabric, ruined upholstery, and frayed carpets.

Another common behavior is knocking over belongings as cats jump up on shelves, tables, and counters. A curious cat exploring a home can inadvertently knock over vases, house plants, framed photos, and more. Cats may also intentionally knock over items when seeking attention or as a form of protest. These antics can lead to broken household objects and possessions being damaged.

Insurance Claims Related to Pets

Pets, especially dogs, are responsible for a significant number of insurance claims each year. According to an analysis by the Insurance Information Institute (III), there were 17,597 dog-related injury claims filed in the U.S. in 2022, amounting to over $1 billion in dog bite payouts (source). The number of claims has decreased slightly from 17,989 claims in 2021.

The most common types of pet-related damage include dog bites, scratches, urine stains, torn carpets, and chewed belongings. Dog bites account for the majority of claims and often require medical treatment for the victim. Scratches on floors and furniture are another frequent claim, as cats’ claws can damage many household surfaces.

The average cost of a pet-related homeowners insurance claim is around $500-750, with dog bite claims averaging $44,760. The size of the claim depends on factors like the extent of property damage, medical bills in a bite case, and policy limits. Repairs for scratched flooring, urine stains, or wall damage can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars in severe cases.

Factors That Determine Premiums

Some of the key factors that insurance companies use to determine homeowners insurance premiums include:

  • Location – Where the home is located is a big factor, with higher risk areas like coastal regions or areas prone to natural disasters carrying higher premiums. Urban areas also often have higher premiums than rural areas.
  • Value of the home – More expensive homes cost more to repair and replace, so insurance premiums are higher for more valuable properties.
  • Claims history – Frequent or large claims will drive premiums up, while a long period without claims can lower premiums.

When it comes to pets, some insurers ask about them on applications while others don’t [1]. Certain breeds perceived as high-risk may increase premiums. But overall, pets are usually a minor factor compared to location, home value and claims history.

Tips to Minimize Cat Damage

There are several things cat owners can do to minimize damage caused by scratching and other behaviors. Providing appropriate scratching surfaces is key. According to AHS, cat scratching posts and scratching pads can help redirect clawing away from furniture and walls. Cats have different preferences, so offer both upright and horizontal scratching posts. Place posts near furniture that the cat attempts to scratch.

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can also reduce damage from scratching. Blunt nails do less harm to surfaces. Ask your veterinarian to show you proper nail trimming technique. Cutting the nails every 2-3 weeks helps keep them short.

It’s also wise to keep valuables and breakables out of reach from cats. Items on tabletops or low shelves are tempting targets for batting paws and curious cats. Securing fragile objects inside locked cabinets is safer. Child locks can also restrict access to cupboards.

Securing Coverage for Pets

Most standard homeowners insurance policies provide some liability coverage for dogs that cause injury or property damage, but the limits may be insufficient for high-risk breeds. Additional liability coverage is available as a relatively inexpensive addon or rider to many policies according to A Guide To Understanding Homeowners Insurance And Pets. This extra coverage provides protection in case your dog bites someone and they sue for damages. However, some insurers exclude certain breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds from coverage. Cats are rarely mentioned in homeowners policies, but any pet has the potential to cause damage that leads to claims.

Being Open with Your Insurer

It is important to be upfront with your insurer about owning pets, especially dogs. According to The Truth About Insurance, you should disclose to your homeowner’s insurance company if you have a dog living on the property. Failing to disclose a dog can lead to issues down the road if there is an incident.

Some tips for being open with your insurer:

  • Disclose pets upfront when applying for or renewing a policy. Don’t wait for the insurer to ask.
  • Keep your insurance agent informed anytime you get a new pet. Most insurers require notice within 30 days.
  • Provide details like the breed, age, training, and temperament of dogs.
  • Consider getting your pet licensed and microchipped to show you are a responsible owner.

Being honest with your insurer prevents canceled policies or denied claims later on. It also allows the insurer to properly evaluate risk factors and adjust your premium if needed. Although premiums may increase slightly, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your pets are properly covered.

Alternatives for High-Risk Breeds

If you own a dog breed that is banned by many insurance companies, you still have some options for coverage. Specialized pet insurers like Embrace and ASPCA may offer homeowners insurance policies that do not exclude certain breeds. However, coverage may be limited compared to a traditional insurer.

You can expect to pay higher premiums for homeowners insurance if you own a high-risk dog breed, sometimes 50% or more than average rates. Insurers view these breeds as more likely to bite, attack, or cause property damage. Limited options for coverage also reduce competition among insurers that can help keep rates lower.

Working with a knowledgeable independent insurance agent is recommended when trying to find coverage for a banned breed. They can identify the few insurers willing to cover certain breeds and help you get quotes for comparison.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to home insurance, cats generally pose little risk for increasing rates or being denied coverage. Here are the key takeaways on cats and homeowners insurance:

  • Cats pose little risk for most policies – Cats are unlikely to cause significant damage that would result in denied claims or increased premiums. Most insurers do not consider cats a high risk.

  • Take steps to minimize damage – Simple precautions like regular nail trims, scratching posts, and avoiding high-risk breeds can reduce chances of property damage.

  • Disclose pets to be safe – Even if not required, it’s best to inform your insurer of pets to avoid issues later. Omitting pets could risk denied claims.

Overall, standard homeowners policies are highly accommodating of cats with few coverage restrictions. Responsible pet owners are unlikely to see rates rise solely due to owning a feline companion.

Key Takeaways

Cats can potentially increase your homeowners insurance premiums, but there are steps you can take to minimize risk and avoid rate hikes. The main takeaways are:

  • Cats may damage your home through scratching furniture, knocking things over, etc. Insurers may raise rates if they pay out claims for cat-related damage.
  • Disclose any pets to your insurer upfront. Hiding pets is considered fraud and can result in nonpayment of claims.
  • Consider getting separate pet insurance to cover vet bills and liability for dog bites or other incidents.
  • Train your cat properly, trim their claws regularly, and provide appropriate scratching posts/ surfaces to mitigate property damage.
  • Restrict access to certain rooms or surfaces if needed. Childproof latches, covers, and perches can protect valuables.
  • Routine cleaning and maintenance will also help minimize damage from shedding, accidents, etc.

While cats can raise homeowners insurance costs, responsible pet ownership greatly reduces the risk. Be forthcoming with your insurer and take proactive measures to protect your home.

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