Is Cat Insurance Worth It? Here's A Cat Rescuer's Perspective

by Edwin Plotts
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Is Cat Insurance Worth It? Here's A Cat Rescuer's Perspective
Kitten at a veterinary appointment

Taking on the care of another living being is a big responsibility. When your pet is young and healthy it might not seem necessary to pay monthly premiums for pet health insurance, but investing in pet insurance early can save you thousands of dollars down the road. More importantly, it will ensure your pet has access to care when they need it the most.

Like dog insurance, cat insurance is an important investment that can keep your feline friend healthy and prevent you from spending too much money on vet care.

How do I know this? Well, my fiance (@sarazoekittens) and I rescue, rehabilitate, and foster cats in Brooklyn, NY. We've seen our fair share of vet bills, and my own cat Greyson was lucky to have pet insurance to reimburse us for a $1,200 dental extraction (due to feline stomatitis).

The Average Cost of Veterinary Care for a Cat Per Year

Caring for a cat costs approximately $1070 a year. You’ll shell out money for nutritious food, toys, climbing trees, kitty litter, a litter box, and training in the first year - not including vet bills.

But, being a cat owner isn’t always easy. Cats, depending on their age and breed, are also prone to illnesses that can break the bank without the security of basic pet insurance.

For example, let’s look at the most common illnesses, according to the ASPCA:

  • Feline urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common problem in cats. Lab tests,antibiotics, and even surgeries can total $6000. If not treated properly, they can easily recur. Older female cats are more likely to develop UTIs.
  • Diabetes is a costly condition for cats as well as humans. Cat owners might spend $300 a month on insulin, and $1000+ if your cat is hospitalized for ketoacidosis.
  • Kidney disease is especially expensive and complicated to treat. Depending on the type (chronic or acute/sudden onset), kidney treatments can cost $3000 for kidney-stone removal surgery, $2500-3000 for the first week of dialysis, then $500 per treatment afterward if needed.

Cats are also susceptible to communicable diseases such as ringworm and upper respiratory infections,which require antibiotics to treat.

In an average year, you can expect to pay anywhere from $110 to $550 for veterinary care and vaccines, as well as up to $200 for flea and tick prevention. This is, of course, assuming your cat doesn’t have a serious condition that requires treatment.

If your cat develops any of the expensive conditions above, you can expect to pay vet bills as high as $7,000 or more in a single year.

Regular Visits to the Vet

Like dogs, most cats should visit the vet at least once a year for a wellness check. This gives your veterinarian to check for problems that you may not be aware of just by observing your cat’s behavior at home.

NOTE: If you adopt a kitten or rescue an older cat, you’ll need to bring them to the vet more often.

According to Barry Veterinary Hospital in Miramar Beach, Florida, “Exactly how often your kitty will need to attend routine veterinary care exams will depend on her age and how healthy she is. Initially, your vet will probably recommend that your furbaby has a check-up every 12 months and annual wellness appointments tend to be standard for young and adult cats. If your kitten hasn’t received her full set of vaccinations, you may also need to attend appointments for these to be carried out. You will also need to schedule a visit to arrange to get your kitty spayed/neutered.”

Thanks to dietary improvements and medical advancements, pets are living longer than ever. Keep in mind that cats often live longer than larger breeds of dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a cat that is 7 years old is like a human who is 54 years old.

Pet ages compared to human years AVMA (Image source: AVMA)

As your pets get older, they may need to go to the veterinarian more often. The AVMA states, “Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but more in-depth, and may include dental care.”

Common Costs that Cat Insurance Can Cover

In general, there are three types of pet insurance plans:

  • Accident-Only Plans: These cover the veterinary costs associated with accidents. Physical injuries like broken bones are usually covered under accident-only plans, and you can get reimbursed for tests like CT scans and X-rays.
  • Accident/Illness Plans: These plans cover the costs associated with both accidents and cat illnesses. This is the most common type of pet insurance plan. If your cat breaks their leg, you’ll be covered, just as you’d be covered if your cat has a urinary tract infection.
  • Wellness Plans: Wellness plans are usually offered as an add-on feature to accident/illness plans. These plans cover many the costs of routine care, such as checkups and vaccines.

There are no cat insurance plans that cover pre-existing conditions (but some plans do cover curable conditions after a certain waiting period with no recurring symptoms). If your cat comes down with an illness before your pet insurance kicks in, you’ll have to pay the veterinary expenses for treating that condition out of pocket.

However, many pet insurance plans cover congenital illnesses (illnesses that begin at birth), hereditary conditions, and breed-specific illnesses.

The Most Common Cat Illnesses

According to the ASPCA, the most common cat illnesses include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
  • Heartworm
  • Rabies
  • Ringworm
  • Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Intestinal Worms

If you sign up before any of the above conditions manifest, an accident/illness plan with good coverage will likely cover everything you see above. This can be a lifesaver.

For example, illnesses like cancer and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can get expensive to treat. If your cat has chronic kidney disease, you may also need to buy regular supplements or medications to treat your cat.

Feline leukemia virus does not yet have a definitive cure, so a cat must make regular trips to the vet to therapies, exams, and observation. Meanwhile, cancer can require expensive radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

Renal (kidney) failure is common in older cats. According to VCA Hospitals, “treatment costs will vary with each individual case.”

cat-costs-for-treatment

If you have insurance, you’ll only have to pay a fraction of the cost for treating these types of illnesses. Many plans can help you pay for your cat’s prescription medications. Some even cover the costs of dietary supplements, which is a potential treatment if your cat has kidney disease.

Cat Insurance Plan Options

If you’re shopping for cat insurance, generate a personalized comparison with Pawlicy Advisor. All you’ll need to do to compare plans is to enter some information about your cat.

Pawlicy Advisor will use its algorithm to deliver a top recommended result — a quote that matches your cat’s coverage needs, risk factors, as well as your budget.

Here, you’ll see a top recommended plan for a 3 year-old mixed-breed cat named Babs:

cat insurance recommendation

Pawlicy Advisor will provide you with a Coverage Score and a Lifetime Price Score. The Coverage Score tells you how this plan ranks in terms of coverage compared to others that are available. The Lifetime Price Score tells you how much, or how little, the cost of the insurance will go up as your pet ages (the higher the number, the better).

If Babs was older, she'd need a higher level of coverage. Her monthly deductible will also be slightly higher than that of a younger cat because she'd be more susceptible to illnesses.

Aside from the Top Recommended Plan, you can click on “View Additional Plans” below to look at a range of available quotes from the best pet insurance providers.

For example, in Babs’ case, there were 97 other options for insurance! Younger cats will even more options than that.

You can check to see exactly what’s covered under any specific plan by clicking on “Coverage Details” after clicking on a quote. Once there, you’ll get a complete list of the costs that plan can cover:

cat insurance coverage details

You can even find plans that cover extra costs like prescription foods and even alternative therapies. You might have to pay a little more on your monthly premium, but this kind of coverage can open entire new pathways of care for your cat.

NOTE: If you have more than one cat, Pawlicy Advisor will automatically apply multi-pet discounts.

Comparing Cat Insurance Plans

There are two ways you should compare cat insurance plans. You can do so based on cost and you can do so based on coverage. If you’re shopping based on cost, you’ll need to pay attention to the following:

  • Your Annual Deductible: The amount you’ll need to cover out of pocket each year before your insurance kicks in.
  • Reimbursement Percentage: The percentage of covered veterinary costs your policy provider will reimburse you for after you reach your annual deductible.
  • Annual Coverage: The maximum dollar amount your provider will reimburse you for each year.
  • Monthly Premium: The amount you must pay each month to keep your plan active.

Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to your plan’s level of coverage as well.

When looking at the policy details page of a quote, scroll down and you’ll see an option to compare the plan to similar plans.

Compare Current Policy To Similar Plans (Example plan comparison)

The best way to compare cat insurance plans is to see cost and coverage details from top providers side-by-side. You can spend a few hours creating your own spreadsheet, or you can use Pawlicy Advisor’s comparison tool — there’s nothing else like it on the market.

Pawlicy Advisor's instant comparison charts are a thing of beauty.

For example, compare high-level details and coverage information for both plans side by side:

Comparison High-Level Details

coverage details

This makes it easy to see which plan is best for your unique cat. It will also help you compare the lifetime cost of each plan, as well as their monthly costs.

The Average Cost of a Cat Insurance Plan

The above examples paint a fairly good picture of the affordability of cat insurance. Most cat insurance plans with decent coverage — even for older cats — can cost less than $100 per month.

average monthly premiums for accident and illness insurance on dogs vs cats

For younger cats, you can find plans that cost as little as $20 or less per month.

For example, Babs’ Top Recommended Plan was only $12 per month. That’s a plan with good coverage that is totally worth it. It could save Babs' parents thousands of dollars in veterinary costs if Babs develops a serious illness like cancer or kidney disease.

How Pet Insurance Helps with Your Cat’s Veterinary Care

The biggest benefit of cat insurance is obvious. If you get an expensive vet bill, you can pay without worrying about how the cost will impact your finances. But insurance has an additional benefit — not for you, but your cat.

Many pet parents forgo veterinary services because they can’t afford the cost. With pet insurance, you never have to avoid necessary care for your pet ever again. You can go to a routine visit with the peace of mind that your furry friend is covered even if the vet finds something wrong.

More importantly, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you can cover the cost of emergency care. If your cat contracts a communicable illness like Feline Calicivirus (FCV), a good insurance policy could cover some of the costs of antibiotics, nursing care, and even hospitalization.

The Pet Insurance Claims Process

Pet insurance doesn’t work the same way as human health insurance. Instead, it works in a similar way to car insurance.

When your pet gets sick or needs to go to the vet, you’ll still need to pay the vet for their services. But if you have insurance, you’ll be able to submit a claim to your pet insurer. The pet insurance company will then reimburse you, the pet owner, for a percentage of your costs based on your policy.

Most pet insurance claims take less only a few days to process, but some claims are processed in less than a week. You can see how quickly each provider typically reimburses customers when shopping for plans on Pawlicy Advisor.

It’s important to remember that only claims for covered costs will be processed and reimbursed. If you have a plan that only covers accidents, you won’t be able to obtain reimbursement for illness treatments. Similarly, if you have an accident/illness plan that excludes coverage for prescription foods, you’ll need to cover those costs out-of-pocket.

How to Get the Best Cat Insurance Quotes at the Best Price

If you’re a pet parent, you only want the best for your cat. You can use Pawlicy Advisor to get cat insurance quotes from top providers and instantly compare them side-by-side. You can then customize your ideal plan to suit the precise needs of your unique cat.

The sooner the better, as you'll want to enroll before your cat develops health issues. After analyzing pet insurance options for tens of thousands of cats and dogs, Pawlicy Advisor found that these ten cat breeds are most likely to develop health conditions before enrolling in pet insurance: Mixed (breed-unkown), Domestic Shorthair, Domestic Mediumhair, Domestic Longhair, Siamese, Russian Blue, Maine Coon, Persain, Ragdoll, American Shorthair (pure-bred).

Start today by entering details your cat and your budget, then review your recommendation and personalized quotes to find the best policy. We work with the best pet insurance providers in the business, including the ASPCA, Pets Best, Petplan and more.

There's a reason Pawlicy Advisor is the first pet insurance marketplace actively endorsed by thousands of veterinarians across the US ;)

Edwin Plotts, Director of Marketing at Pawlicy Advisor

About the author

Edwin Plotts

Foster/Rescue Parent & Director of Growth - Pawlicy Advisor

Edwin Plotts rescues and rehomes cats in Brooklyn, NY - while leading Pawlicy Advisor's brand growth. He's a pet parent of two rescued sibling cats: Greyson and Babs. He's also an avid volunteer with Flatbush Cats and The Toby Project.

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