By Jeff Gitlen
If you’re a cat owner, you likely look forward to seeing your cute little kitty or cat when you get home every night – even if you left that morning with your clothes covered in cat hair. But having a cat can be expensive. The costs of food, litter, and toys to keep your cat entertained add up.
But the biggest expenses involved in owning a cat are veterinary costs. Pets Plus Us, estimates that regular annual veterinary care alone can cost over $900 per year. That includes $116 for flea prevention, $115 for an annual wellness profile, $38 for an annual fecal test, $132 for annual physical exam and vaccines, and $518 for professional dental care. That doesn’t even take into account any emergency pet bills because of accidents or illnesses. If your cat were diagnosed with something like cancer, it could cost you as much as $5,000-$10,000, and if your cat gets into an accident and breaks a leg, that could likewise cost several thousand dollars to treat.
People who have had multiple cats know the financial expense involved in caring for older cats and often turn to pet insurance to ensure that they won’t be forced to put their current cat down for economic reasons.
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, there are 1.6 million pets insured in America and over 179 million pets, but the number of insured pets is growing quickly.
The Costs and Benefits of Pet Insurance
Getting pet insurance is like making a bet with the insurance company. They are betting that you will pay more for your insurance then they pay out in claims, while you’re betting that you will pay less for your insurance that they will pay out in claims. Whether or not you come out ahead will depend on if your pet gets sick and needs to take advantage of the policy.
The cost of coverage varies depending on your pet’s breed, age, the cost of veterinary care, and the plan options that you choose. If you choose a higher deductible, then your annual insurance cost will be lower. If you choose a maximum ceiling for claims, then you will likely also save money. You can also pick a plan that covers just accidents, covers accidents and illnesses, or one that covers accidents, illnesses and wellness coverage like annual exams vaccinations. The more benefits you get – the more you’ll pay.
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average cost of policies in 2014 for cats was $285 for illness and accident coverage and $132 per year for accident-only policies.
While pet insurance covers illnesses, there are some pre-existing conditions and breed-specific conditions that they might not cover, so it’s important to read the fine print before signing up.
A pre-existing condition is a problem or disease that your pet is suffering from or showing signs of before you purchase your insurance policy. Even if your cat has not been diagnosed with a condition yet, there is often a waiting period after first getting your policy in which pre-existing conditions can surface and be excluded from your policy.
Before you get coverage, be sure you understand how your insurance company deals with pre-existing conditions. Common pre-existing conditions that aren’t covered includes heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, orthopaedic conditions, and cancer.
If you have a cat and you’re considering pet insurance, it’s important to get it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely your pet will develop a pre-existing condition that won’t be covered and which could be costly. Getting pet insurance when your cat is still a kitten is a good choice because you might also get you a lower premium.
Pet Insurance as an Employee Benefit
Before you take out your pet insurance policy, you might want to check if your employer is offering free pet insurance or a pet insurance discount. About 5,000 U.S. companies are currently offering pet insurance as one of their employee benefits. These companies include Hewlett Packer, Xerox, Yahoo, Levi-Strauss, Microsoft, and IKEA. Some companies pay 100% of the cost of pet insurance while others negotiate a discount and pass it along to their employees.
Should You Get Pet Insurance?
Whether or not you should get pet insurance for your cat might depend on your cat’s age and pre-existing conditions. If your cat has pre-existing conditions that likely won’t be covered via pet insurance, it might make sense to put the money you would spend on pet insurance aside to pay for future vet bills instead. If you currently have a healthy cat but are afraid that they might rack up costly vet bills in the future, then pet insurance might be a great option for you!