Cat Insurance. Is it Really Worth the Cost?

Cat insurance is a type of pet insurance that covers veterinary costs and medical expenses for cats in case of illness, injury, or accident. It functions similarly to health insurance for humans, with policyholders paying a monthly premium in exchange for financial assistance with medical bills. Cat insurance policies typically reimburse 70-90% of eligible veterinary costs after the policyholder pays a set deductible amount.

There is an ongoing debate around whether cat insurance plans are truly worth the cost or not. On one hand, cat insurance can provide valuable financial protection against unexpected vet bills, which can easily run into the thousands for emergency care or chronic conditions. On the other hand, premiums, deductibles and reimbursement limits mean that cat owners will still have significant out-of-pocket costs even with insurance. The value comes down to each pet owner’s specific situation and budget.

What Does Cat Insurance Cover?

Cat insurance policies generally cover unexpected veterinary costs like illnesses, injuries, accidents, and emergencies. This includes expenses like vet exams, surgery, hospitalization, medications, diagnostic tests, and X-rays (ASPCA, Money).

Common types of coverage include:

  • Vet bills for accidents/illnesses
  • Lost pet advertising and reward fees if your cat goes missing
  • Death benefits or theft coverage
  • Emergency boarding fees if you are hospitalized

Coverage limits, deductibles, and reimbursement percentages can vary greatly between providers. Make sure to read the policy details closely.

How Much Does Cat Insurance Cost?

an orange tabby kitten playing with a toy fish

The cost of cat insurance can vary significantly based on your location, your cat’s breed, age, and other factors. However, most sources indicate cat insurance costs an average of $47 per month for a policy with unlimited annual coverage.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average monthly premium for accident and illness coverage was $53.34 in 2022. The typical range falls between $28 to $90 per month.

Cats under 1 year old have lower premiums, with an average of $29 per month. Premiums tend to rise as cats get older, with an average of $51 per month for cats 1-7 years old. Purebred cats also have higher premiums than mixed breeds.

The cost can be much higher or lower depending on your location. Average monthly premiums range from $38 in North Dakota to $63 in New York. Deductibles, reimbursement rates, and maximum benefits will also impact your premium amount.

Pros of Getting Cat Insurance

One of the main benefits of cat insurance is that it helps cover unexpected vet bills. Without insurance, an emergency vet visit or procedure like surgery can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. According to an article on pet insurance from Sgu.edu, “pet insurance can be a financial lifesaver when a medical emergency strikes.” Having insurance helps provide peace of mind so pet owners don’t have to worry as much about affording urgently needed care (source).

Additionally, cat insurance policies typically cover liability costs in case the cat causes property damage or injuries someone. For example, if the cat scratches and injures a houseguest, the insurance policy would cover medical bills so the owner doesn’t have to pay those costs out of pocket. This provides protection and reassurance for cat owners.

In summary, the main pros of getting insurance are covering unexpected vet bills, providing peace of mind, and covering liability costs that may arise.

Cons of Cat Insurance

There are some potential drawbacks to consider before getting cat insurance. Some of the main cons include:

Monthly expense – Cat insurance comes with a monthly or annual premium that must be paid, which can add up over time, especially for multi-pet households. Some pet owners may end up paying more in premiums than they receive in claims over the life of their pet [1].

May not cover pre-existing conditions – Most cat insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions or any conditions related to them. So if your cat already has a chronic illness when you enroll, costs associated with that condition likely won’t be covered.

Caps on coverage – Many policies have annual or lifetime caps on reimbursements, usually from $5,000-$20,000. Once you hit that limit, you’ll be responsible for any further costs that year/for the life of your pet. For cats with expensive medical issues, caps may mean you still end up paying a significant amount out-of-pocket [2].

Important Factors to Consider

When deciding if pet insurance is worth it for your cat, there are a few key factors to take into account:

Age of Cat – Pet insurance premiums tend to increase with a pet’s age, so it’s often more cost effective to enroll cats when they are younger. Insuring kittens and younger cats means locking in lower premiums early on.

Breed Disposition to Illness – Certain breeds like Persians and Siamese are prone to hereditary health conditions, which makes insurance more valuable for covering potential costs. On the other hand, getting pet insurance for a mixed breed stray may be less critical.

Ability to Self-Insure for Vet Costs – If you have savings set aside or feel comfortable paying vet expenses out-of-pocket as they arise, insurance may be less necessary. But for most owners, being able to budget consistent monthly premiums is more feasible than covering sudden vet costs.

Overall, pet insurance tends to make the most financial sense for younger cats, purebreds vulnerable to medical issues, and owners who prefer budgeting monthly rather than self-insuring large vet bills. But your own circumstances are what matter most when deciding if it’s worth it.

Examples of Cat Insurance Plans

There are several reputable providers of cat insurance in the United States. Here is an overview of some of the top options:

a persian cat getting an exam by a veterinarian

Trupanion (https://trupanion.com/) is one of the largest pet insurance providers in North America. They offer customizable plans that cover 90% of veterinary costs with no payout limits. Their plans cover illnesses, injuries, emergencies, prescriptions, and more. Trupanion has a simple claims process and fast direct payouts to vets.

ASPCA (https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/) offers comprehensive plans that cover vet exam fees, surgeries, hospitalization, prescriptions, and alternative therapies. Their Vethelpline provides 24/7 access to veterinary professionals for advice. ASPCA plans have an annual deductible and reimburses 70-90% of covered costs after the deductible is met.

Nationwide (https://www.petinsurance.com/) is a well-known insurance provider that offers pet insurance plans with customizable reimbursement rates and annual limits. Their plans cover accidents, illnesses, cancer treatments, emergency care, prescriptions, and more. Nationwide has a 24/7 vethelpline and a mobile app to manage your pet’s policy.

Claims Process and Reimbursement

Filing a claim with your cat insurance provider is typically straightforward. Here are the general steps:

  1. Take your cat to the vet and pay for services upfront.
  2. Request an itemized invoice from the vet.
  3. Complete a claim form provided by your insurance company.
  4. Attach the itemized invoice.
  5. Submit the documentation by mail, email, fax or through your insurer’s online portal.

Most pet insurance companies process claims within 2-5 business days. Reimbursements are typically sent by check within 7-10 days, though some companies offer direct deposit for faster payment.

According to industry data, the average reimbursement percentage for cat insurance claims is around 80%. However, this can vary widely depending on your policy. Plans with higher premiums and deductibles often reimburse at 90% or more after the deductible. Budget plans may only reimburse at 70% or less.

a woman holding an insurance reimbursement check

It’s important to read your policy terms closely and understand any exclusions or limits that may impact reimbursements for your cat’s care.

Alternatives to Cat Insurance

While cat insurance can provide valuable financial protection, some pet owners may want to consider alternatives that could offer more flexibility or cost savings. Two popular alternatives to traditional cat insurance policies are pet savings accounts and rewards credit cards.

With a designated pet savings account, owners can set aside funds that are earmarked for vet bills and emergencies. These accounts allow owners to have more control over how much they save each month and avoid paying premiums. The money accrues interest over time and can be withdrawn as needed for pet medical costs. Some banks like HSBC even offer accounts specifically designed for pet savings. The downside is the account balance is limited to how much the owner deposits.

Rewards credit cards can also help offset pet healthcare costs. Cards that offer cash back, points, or miles can be used to pay vet bills and procedures. Then the accumulated rewards can be redeemed to help defray some of these expenses. The Petal Visa Credit Card and CareCredit are two examples that provide benefits for pet parents’ wallets. With no limits on rewards accrual, this option allows owners to get as much money back as their spending habits and credit limit permit. Just be sure to pay off the balance each month.

While alternatives like savings and credit cards have advantages, traditional pet insurance likely remains the best option for serious accident and illness coverage. But for owners seeking more flexibility or limited protection, the alternatives are worth consideration.

The Bottom Line

a grey kitten sleeping peacefully on a blanket
The decision of whether or not pet insurance is worth the cost depends on each individual’s needs and situation. Cat insurance can provide valuable financial protection against expensive veterinary bills for accidents, injuries or illnesses. However, premiums, deductibles and reimbursement rates vary widely between plans.

For a generally healthy cat in a stable financial situation, the cost of premiums over time may end up being more than the payouts received. But for a cat with chronic health issues or a household on a tight budget, insurance can be well worth it to reduce large unexpected vet expenses.

Pet owners should consider factors like their cat’s age, breed disposition to illnesses, lifestyle and budget when deciding if insurance makes sense. Reading the fine print of plans, looking at premium costs and knowing reimbursement rates is essential. While expensive emergencies can happen to any pet, insurance may not offer value for all cat owners. Weighing one’s personal situation against the costs and benefits can help determine if cat insurance is a worthwhile investment or not.

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