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The best pet insurance for cats can appear expensive. So is it really worth insuring your pet against illness to help with vet fees?

Pet vet bills can be expensive

About 90% of cat insurance claims are for veterinary treatment. So insurance may save you money over your cat’s lifetime. You don’t want to have to learn the hard way. Unlike other forms of insurance pet insurance is optional. Its main purpose is to cover the cost of non-routine treatments.

Why Bother To Get Health Insurance For Cats At All?

You don’t have to be a vet to realise feline veterinary treatment can be expensive. From an owners point of view it can really be one thing after another, especially if you own a pedigree cat.

One of our Maine Coons had a routine operation to remove a benign tumour his neck. One week later he developed a serious condition called pyothorax. It couldn’t be cured medically so required surgery. 2 years later, we’re still treating the aftereffects. We’ve now spent upwards of £14,000. This kind of money is hard to find.

We’ve written this so you don’t have to go through the same experience.

While pyothorax isn’t the most common condition, you may, like us, just end up being unlikely. If you love your cat, it really is worth insuring it.

You don’t want to find yourself in the worst of all possible situations: Having to stop your pet’s treatment for a curable condition. Or consider euthanasia. We initially set the budget at £1,500. We thought we would be able to draw the line there. But then our red line went to £3,000 then £5,000 then finally £10,000 for 2 weeks in intensive care and surgery.

To Treat Or Not to Treat

Even if your cat is insured you can decide not to put it through some treatment such as chemotherapy. It’s the cat’s interests that count.

Likewise, if your cat isn’t insured you can still choose to throw money (credit cards) in the way we did. It’s very important the vets treating your cat know this. When our cat had pyothorax, we were given the option of euthanasia when medical management failed. By the same measure, advances in veterinary science can now prolong life. While vets will always act in the interests of their feline patient, turning down treatment or stopping it is sometimes the best option to avoid further suffering.

Not all veterinary emergencies cost thousands to treat. For example, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common heart disease in cats. If your cat is found to have the obstructive version before it shows clinical signs i.e. heart failure, then it’s likely to be prescribed beta blockers. These are inexpensive. Likewise, medications for chronic kidney failure aren’t expensive either.

However, it’s one thing knowing all the treatment options. It’s quite another being able to pay for them. Joint diseases, very common in cats, are very good examples.

Of course some cats never see a vet from one year to the other, just for annual vaccinations but is that a good thing? Research also shows insured pets visit the vet more frequently, implying a greater level of owner care.

And don’t for a minute think indoor cats are immune to illness. That’s far from the truth. For example lymphoma, is a blood cancer and is the most common cancer across all cat breeds. The risk of acquiring lymphoma isn’t influenced by whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat.

The Alternative – Save Into Your Own Fund

An alternative to pet insurance is trying to set aside some money each month into your emergency treatment fund. Of course, it isn’t always possible to make regular contributions. But if you’re good with money, £20 per month per cat, roughly equivalent to insurance premiums should do the trick. But it’s important to recognise the consequences if one of your cats is on the wrong side of an RTA it will deplete your fund significantly. However there is no reason why you can’t create a DIY insurance fund.

The Costs of Pet Insurance Versus The Benefits

Over the lifetime of a 16-18 year old cat, you might spend upwards of £2000 on premiums. Is it worth it? As indicated above, advances in veterinary medicine, with a great many hi-tech treatments available mean you can easily spend that in one year on a non-life-threatening condition if you opt for gold standard level of treatment.

In 2015, one pet insurance provider has estimated veterinary fees are rising by more than 10% a year, far higher than the rate of inflation. The average claim is now well in excess of £620 per year. According to the Association of British Insurers, pet insurance companies pay out more than £1m per day in claims although they do not pay out on all claims.

Get a Quote for Cat Insurance – But Choose the Right Policy

Thanks to changes in regulations there are now a bewildering number of pet insurance providers and policies. It’s important to choose the right policy for your cat. There are also multi cat insurance policies.

Not all cat insurance policies work the same way. It’s important to understand the small print.

It’s important to recognise that the cheapest policy isn’t always the best one for your pet. Being kind to your pocket won’t get you the most comprehensive cover.

The consequences of choosing the wrong policy are very real. Say you reach a limit for a condition and decide to change insurer. Unfortunately the same ailment will be treated as a pre-existing condition by the new insurer. This means it may not be covered. Some insurance companies will cover pre-existing or ongoing conditions – it’s important to do your homework. The excess – the amount you have to pay towards a claim varies.

There are other considerations too. While the chance of getting some illnesses peaks at perhaps 4 to 6 years of age as in the case of pyothorax, older (geriatric) cats are more at risk of contracting hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure, diabetes, degenerative joint disease and some types of cancer.

Also, be wary of what’s known as co-insurance. Once the excess is paid, you may have to pay a percentage contribution towards the balance of a claim. This can rack up costs but also lowers the cost of premiums and may influence an insurance provider’s claims rate. Currently pet insurance providers do not appoint vets. Co-insurance partially offsets rising vet fees.

Types Of Policy

Policies tend to fall under the following categories:

Lifetime Cover

The most expensive type of policy but also the most comprehensive. Here the monetary limit on veterinary fees is refreshed each year for the lifetime of the cat.

Maximum Benefit Cover

Also known as Per Condition policies. Her each separate condition is covered by a limit. So for example, once you start claiming for Feline Diabetes or Lymphoma you drawn down from the limit for that condition. So when you reach the limit, that’s it.

12 Month Time Limited Policies

This type of policy tends to be cheaper. The amount that can be claimed for any condition runs for 12 months or if the monetary limit is reached first. Once the applicable limit is reached the condition is then excluded from cover.

Accident Only Policies

The cheapest of all policies and excludes illnesses. This type of policy is more popular with dog than cat owners.

What Else Influences the Price of Your Policy?

As well as policy selection, the following can influence cost:

  1. Whether your pet is a pedigree or a moggy
  2. Whether neutered or entire, male or female
  3. Age at the time cover is sought
  4. Your location (post code)
  5. Type of policy
  6. Pre-existing conditions

Cat Insurance – Policy Extras, Omissions and Exclusions – Terms And Conditions

The small print.

You can also insurance your cat against death or loss from theft or straying. Some policies also cover advertising and reward if your cat goes missing. Overseas travel and cattery or homecare costs can be included in the event you are hospitalised.

An important omission from some policies is Dental Treatment. Veterinary dentistry costs can vary widely even within the same city. Veterinary dental treatment is typically not included in cat insurance policies. Even when cover is provided certain conditions must be met such as annual dental examinations.

If you decide to let your cat have kittens or are breeder, few policies cover pregnant females and young kittens.

Routine vaccinations, echo and DNA screening are excluded from all policies.

How Much Cover Do You Need?

There is no one insurance policy suits all. This is especially true for pedigree breeds associated with specific illnesses. Some insurance companies simply understand the risks associated with certain breeds than others. Policies with fewer exclusions and genuine lifetime cover are preferred. Premiums can rise if a claim as made, but only genuine lifetime cover with annual re-setting of the limit may give piece of mind. This type of cover is especially recommended for pedigree cats and those who spend at least some time outdoors free roaming.

One more thing. New policies are coming onto the market all the time so make sure your research is up to date.

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