Pet Insurance Blog

When To Buy Cat Insurance: A Licensed Agent's Perspective

Kari Steer, Licensed P&C Insurance Agent at Pawlicy Advisor
Kari Steere
Licensed Insurance Producer - Pawlicy Advisor
woman on laptop playing with cat

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), about 25% of U.S. households own a cat. If you’ve recently adopted a cat or kitten, you may be wondering when the best time is to enroll in cat health insurance.

Many pet parents wait to buy cat insurance until it’s too late because they’re concerned about the price of the monthly rates or aren’t sure how pet insurance works. But without cat insurance, veterinary costs can add up. You could be stuck with thousands of dollars in veterinary costs if your cat gets seriously ill.

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Here’s what to know when buying cat insurance:

Enroll in Cat Insurance While They’re Kittens

Whether you’re thinking about adopting a kitten or you’ve recently brought one home, it’s a good idea to enroll your new pet in health insurance as soon as you can. The sooner you get coverage, the sooner you can start getting reimbursements for unexpected veterinary costs.

No pet insurance will cover pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is any health condition that was diagnosed before your pet’s health insurance took effect.

man holding kitten while working

If you buy insurance only after your cat gets sick, the insurance company won’t cover the costs of treating that illness. Some conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or arthritis, may even require long-term care.

The veterinary costs associated with ongoing treatments can add up. For example, even a short-term hospitalization of your pet can cost up to $1,700 without insurance. If your pet needs surgery, you could be stuck with costs as high as $5,000.

By enrolling your cat when they’re still young, you’ll ensure they have coverage for any illness that emerges during their lifetime. Just be sure to read over what conditions are covered by your plan. Some pet insurance policies won’t cover certain conditions.

A good practice is to enroll your cat into an insurance plan right after you adopt them. Some conditions can emerge in your cat’s early years and can affect them for the rest of their lives. With cat insurance, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your pet will always have access to affordable care.

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Enroll in Cat Insurance Before Their Senior Years

Even if your cat is already an adult, you should still consider enrolling in an insurance plan before they reach their senior years. Your cat will be more susceptible to illnesses and accidents as they age.

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age, and most do so by the time they are 12.” Health issues like dental disease, kidney disease, degenerative joint disease, and hyperthyroidism are common in older cats.

If you enroll in an insurance plan before your cat reaches old age, your pet insurance can cover expensive illnesses & injuries more prone to senior cats.. This will help you save money on veterinary expenses later in your cat’s life, and it will ensure your cat always has access to the care they need. Some providers don’t offer pet insurance for older cats, so if you wait too long, it might be too late.

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Get Cat Insurance in Time for Seasonal Safety Risks

The best time to buy pet insurance is as soon as possible and as soon as you’re ready. Even if your cat is still young and healthy, you can’t predict your cat’s medical future.

That said, if you need to wait to buy cat insurance, there may be certain times of year that are better to get enrolled than others. For example, pets are subject to different types of health risks in the summer and winter. These times of year may make pet insurance even more valuable because of the amount they’ll reimburse you for common veterinary costs.

woman holding cat in the snow

Outdoor cats that don’t engage in enough physical activity during the winter may become overweight or obese. This is also true for cats who stay indoors year-round. This can increase their risk of serious and often expensive health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

There may be new risk factors in your home that you aren’t aware of as well. Some household plants can be toxic to cats — such as poinsettas, holly, and mistletoe — and many holiday decorations like tinsel and snowglobes can be very dangerous if accidentally ingested.

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Likewise, outdoor cats in the summertime could encounter certain diseases. Fleas, ticks, and other insects are particularly active during the summer. These parasites aren’t just a nuisance — they can cause serious illnesses in your pet.

There are also physical risks to consider. Other animals, such as predators, also tend to be more active in the spring and summer. Pet insurance with accident coverage could cover snakebites, coyote attacks, and other animal attacks.

Keep Waiting Periods in Mind When Enrolling

While considering when to sign up for cat insurance, the most important thing to remember is to enroll before your pet needs to use it. It’s essential to factor in how soon pet insurance takes effect, as most plans require a waiting period before they will reimburse any claim for an accident or injury. Any condition that emerges during that waiting period won’t be covered, and they are likely to be treated as pre-existing conditions by the insurance company. You’ll either have to wait to get your cat the critical care they may need or pay for veterinary expenses out-of-pocket.

Most cat health plans require a 14-day waiting period before they take effect. However, these lengths can vary and could differ based on the type of claim. For example, some companies require a 30-day waiting period for illness coverage, meaning you can’t sign up for a plan and use it on a pet’s sickness the next day.

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You may also need to have an active insurance account for a certain period to get coverage for specific conditions. For example, some plans require you to wait 6 to 12 months before they will cover ligament problems, hip dysplasia, and other common conditions. If you are concerned that your cat may develop serious conditions like these, you should enroll soon so you’ll be able to get them covered.

Once your waiting period is over, you’ll be able to submit claims and get reimbursed for your cat’s veterinary expenses.

Why Cat Insurance Is Worth It

Cats are generally less expensive to care for than dogs, but their veterinary costs can still add up.

The most serious health conditions can cost thousands of dollars to treat. According to research by Catster, insurance claims for intestinal issues in cats can reach over $5,000. Similarly, insurance claims for cat cancer can reach over $14,000.

That’s why it’s so important to enroll your cat in an insurance plan as soon as possible. If you can do so while they’re young, you’ll be prepared for emergencies for the rest of their lives. You’ll also get peace of mind in knowing that you’ll be reimbursed for 70%, 80%, or 90% of an unexpected vet bill - which means you can give your cat the best care possible..

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Luckily, Pawlicy Advisor makes it easy to compare plans before buying, so you can get the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Try the free comparison tool today!

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Kari Steer, Licensed P&C Insurance Agent at Pawlicy Advisor

Kari Steere
Licensed Insurance Producer - Pawlicy Advisor

Kari Steere is a licensed P&C insurance agent in all 50 states and has focused entirely on pet insurance since 2019. As an animal lover with a rescued Terrier named Barry, when she's not helping pet owners find the perfect plan on Pawlicy Advisor, she runs a ranch in Oregon and rehabilitates any animals that come across her path.

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