Do You Really Need Pet Insurance for Your Cat? The Surprising Truth


Pet insurance has become increasingly popular among pet owners in recent years. With veterinary costs continuing to rise, many owners see pet insurance as an affordable way to protect themselves from large, unexpected medical bills for their furry companions. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, nearly 70% of U.S. households own a pet. But do most of these pet owners also have insurance? Let’s take a closer look at the data on pet insurance coverage rates, especially for cat owners.

Pet Insurance Overview

Pet insurance is a type of health insurance policy that helps cover the costs of veterinary care for dogs and cats. It works similarly to human health insurance in that pet owners pay a monthly premium, and the insurance company then reimburses a portion of eligible medical expenses like vet visits, medications, surgeries and more (

When you sign up for pet insurance, you select a plan with different coverage options and annual limits. Plans may reimburse 70% to 90% of costs after you pay a deductible, which can range from $100 to $1,000 or more. There are usually copays and coinsurance as well (

Once enrolled, you take your pet to the vet as normal. The vet bills you for services, then you submit a claim to your pet insurance company. They’ll review it, determine the reimbursable amount based on your policy, and send payment. This helps reduce the financial burden of unexpected vet expenses.

Cost of Pet Insurance

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average accident and illness plan pet insurance premium in 2022 was $53.34 per month or $646 per year. However, the cost can vary significantly depending on factors like the age and breed of your pet, the level of coverage, annual limits, deductibles, and reimbursement rates.

A ValuePenguin survey found that most pet owners pay between $20-$50 per month for an accident and illness policy. Premiums tend to be cheaper for cats than dogs. Adult dogs average around $64 per month while cat insurance averages $53 per month.

According to MarketWatch, plans with higher annual limits, lower deductibles, and higher reimbursement rates will fall on the higher end of the range. However, even basic accident and illness policies provide substantial financial protection compared to having no coverage at all.

Benefits of Pet Insurance

One of the main benefits of getting pet insurance for your cat is that it can help offset the costs of veterinary care for injuries and illnesses. According to ValuePenguin, pet insurance will typically cover 70-90% of your vet bills after you pay a deductible. This can provide significant savings, as vet bills for cats can easily run into the thousands of dollars if they have a major condition or require surgery.

For example, treatment for a ruptured ACL in a cat could cost $2,500 or more when you factor in the initial exam, diagnostics, surgery, medications, and follow-up care. With pet insurance, you may only have to pay a fraction of that out-of-pocket after reimbursement. This can provide valuable financial protection against unexpected veterinary costs.

Pet insurance can also cover expenses related to chronic illnesses in cats, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or kidney disease. The ongoing medications and lab work required for these conditions adds up over time. With insurance, a percentage of these costs will be covered after reaching your deductible for the year.

In addition, wellness plans offered by some pet insurance companies will cover a portion of routine vet care like vaccinations, lab tests, and dental cleanings. This can be a way to save a bit on the regular care your cat needs to stay healthy.

Common Exclusions

While pet insurance plans cover many veterinary costs, most also have exclusions for certain conditions, diagnoses, or treatments. Here are some of the most common exclusions pet owners may encounter:

  • Pre-existing conditions – Any illness or injury a pet had before enrollment is usually excluded from coverage.
  • Hereditary conditions – Congenital and breed-specific conditions may not be covered.
  • Cosmetic procedures – Things like tail docking, ear cropping, or declawing cats are often excluded.
  • Preventive care – Routine veterinary visits, vaccinations, dental cleanings, and flea/tick medication are generally not covered.
  • Alternative therapies – Treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic care, hydrotherapy are typically excluded.
  • Special diets – The cost of prescription or therapeutic pet foods is usually not covered.
  • Behavioral issues – Conditions like anxiety and destructive behaviors are often excluded.

It’s important for pet owners to read the fine print and know exactly what is and isn’t covered before purchasing a policy. Exclusions can vary significantly between providers.

Claim Process

Filing a claim with pet insurance is straightforward. First, pay the veterinarian bill in full after your pet’s appointment or procedure. Next, complete a claim form, either through your insurer’s website or mobile app, or by printing out a paper form to submit by fax or mail. On the form, provide information like your policy number, pet’s name, date of illness/injury, and an itemized invoice from the vet.

Submit the completed claim form along with invoices and medical records from the vet visit. Most pet insurance companies process claims within 2 weeks. Once approved, you’ll be reimbursed based on your policy’s coverage details, minus any deductible or coinsurance. Reimbursements are typically sent by check but some insurers offer direct deposit. If any part of the claim is denied, the insurance company will provide an explanation.

Pet insurance policies cover veterinary fees for accidents, injuries, and illnesses. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Other common exclusions are elective/preventive procedures like spaying/neutering, exam fees, grooming, and non-medical expenses. Always check your specific policy’s covered services before filing a claim.

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Major Providers

There are several major pet insurance companies that cat owners often choose from. Some of the top providers include:

Trupanion – Trupanion is one of the largest pet insurance providers in North America covering over 600,000 pets. They offer plans with 90% reimbursement and no payout limits.

Healthy Paws – Healthy Paws is known for comprehensive accident and illness coverage with unlimited annual and lifetime benefits. Their plans have a 15 day waiting period.

Nationwide – Nationwide is a trusted insurance brand that offers wellness coverage options. Their plans have a 14 day waiting period and 70-90% reimbursement.

ASPCA – The ASPCA partners with Crum & Forster to provide comprehensive pet insurance plans with unlimited annual benefits. It has a 15 day waiting period.

Lemonade – Lemonade is a newer pet insurance company with innovative tech and flexible coverage options. It features a 14 day waiting period.

By partnering with top-rated providers like these, cat owners can find plans to suit their budget and needs when it comes to protecting their furry friends.

Cat Owner Survey Data

Recent surveys show that pet insurance coverage rates are significantly lower for cat owners compared to dog owners. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s latest pet ownership survey in 2022, only about 14% of cat owners had pet insurance, versus around 24% of dog owners. The 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association found similar results – 15% of cat owners had pet insurance compared to 24% of dog owners.

Overall, only around 2% of all cats in the U.S. are insured, compared to over 20% of dogs. The lower insurance rates for cats may be attributed to lower average veterinary costs. According to Forbes, the average annual cost of caring for a dog is $1,400, while cat costs average around $900 per year.

In terms of total pet insurance subscribers, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports over 3.1 million cats were insured in 2021, compared to over 6.2 million dogs. While the overall percentage remains low, the number of insured cats has been steadily rising over the past decade.

Is It Worth It?

When deciding whether pet insurance is worth it for cat owners, there are pros and cons to consider.

On the pro side, pet insurance can provide peace of mind by covering unexpected veterinary costs if your cat gets sick or injured. This can be especially helpful for purebred cats that may be prone to hereditary conditions. Pet insurance allows cat owners to get their pet the best medical care without worrying about cost. It can also prevent cat owners from having to make difficult decisions about euthanasia or treatment due to financial constraints (Source).

However, pet insurance does come with monthly premiums that add to the overall cost of cat ownership. Some exclusions like pre-existing conditions may limit coverage. The reimbursement process can also be tedious with paperwork required. According to one survey, only 2-4% of cat owners currently have pet insurance (Source).

Overall, the choice comes down to each cat owner’s financial situation and risk tolerance. For cat owners who want to be prepared for unexpected veterinary costs, pet insurance can provide valuable protection. But for owners with tighter budgets, the monthly premiums may not make financial sense if their cat remains relatively healthy.


As we’ve learned, there are many benefits to getting pet insurance for your cat, especially if you are unable to cover the costs of unexpected vet bills. Some key takeaways are that policies vary widely in terms of deductibles, premiums, caps on reimbursement, and exclusions. Older cats often have higher premiums or may not be eligible. The major providers like Nationwide, Trupanion, and Healthy Paws all offer comprehensive coverage but can also reject claims for pre-existing conditions. Ultimately, whether pet insurance is a smart financial decision depends on your individual circumstances and risk aversion. It’s usually advisable for cats with chronic illness or younger cats prone to injuries. For healthy adult cats, keeping an emergency fund may be more cost effective. But pet insurance can provide invaluable peace of mind. While not always necessary, for many cat owners it can absolutely be worth it.

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