Before purchasing a pet insurance policy for your cat, do your homework. I worked in the pet insurance industry for a couple of years and am licensed in property and casualty insurance – so I know the in’s and out’s of pet insurance policies.
Below, you’ll find the information to help you make an informed decision. Be wary of sites that promote one company over another or rank them. Many of the companies listed as #1 are just paying higher advertising costs. Instead, figure out what’s important to your cat before purchasing a policy. I hope you find this guide helpful in finding the right policy for you and your cat!
Click on each question to reveal the answer.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is a financial tool that operates similarly to auto insurance. A pet insurance plan will protect you from having to pay in full for extremely expensive vet bills. People will find the most value in pet insurance if their pet experiences a serious accident, injury or illness. Pet insurance is not meant to cover the everyday routine care your pet cat receives, such as annual bloodwork and exams.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet Insurance Deductibles, Reimbursement and Payout Levels
Pet insurance usually requires the pet owner to pay their vet directly for any bill and then seek reimbursement from the pet insurance company, so be sure to save your receipts! You’ll have to make a variety of decisions when choosing a pet insurance plan for your cat including the following:
Annual Limit – The annual limit is the maximum benefit you can receive from the pet insurer in a policy year. Annual limits can range from $2000 up to unlimited. Give this number careful consideration because if your pet became really ill, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars. No one wants to have to choose between what’s in their bank account and the level of care they can afford to help their cat.
Deductible – Most pet insurance plans offer annual deductibles. An annual deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before any benefits are paid. Annual deductibles usually range from $100 and up to $1,000. Some companies offer other options and if interested you should call to inquire about that.
Reimbursement rate – A reimbursement rate is the inverse of a co-pay. It’s the amount of money you’ll be reimbursed for eligible expenses. Reimbursement rates usually range from 50% up to 90%. Select policies have 100% reimbursement, but they tend to be very expensive.
Policy Info Example:
$10,000 Annual Limit, $500 Deductible, 90% Reimbursement rate
It’s important not that you’ll pay the entire $1,200 at the vet’s office. Then you’ll submit your claim and receipts for reimbursement. Here’s an example:
- Vet Bill: $1,200
- Subtract the deductible (You pay $500)
- Remaining Vet Bill = $700
- 90% Reimbursement Rate. Pet insurance will pay you back 90% of eligible expenses.
- If all $700 of the remaining bill are eligible expenses you’ll be reimbursed 90% of the $700 equalling $630.
You paid $500 for the deductible and $70 was not reimbursed, so your total out of pocket cost is $570
If a new situation arises where the vet bill is $1,000 within the same calendar year, you’ll be reimbursed 90% of the eligible expenses. That’s because you would have already paid the annual deductible and the plan will pay 90% of the bill. You would only be responsible for $100 of the $1,000 bill.
What does pet insurance for cats cover?
Pet insurance for cats covers a wide variety of accidents and illnesses, depending upon the type of plan you choose. It’s critical that pet parents understand that pet insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions. If you have a young cat or kitten that is in good health, then your cat will be covered for conditions that arise in the future. If you have a senior cat or a cat with a lot of health conditions, those conditions will not be covered by a new pet insurance plan for cats.
Pet insurance is not meant to cover the everyday routine care your pet cat receives, such as annual bloodwork and exams.
What types of coverage are available?
Most pet insurance companies offer accident only, accident & illness, and optional wellness/routine care.An accident-only insurance plan for your cat will only cover accidents that your pet experiences. Examples of accidents include a poisoned pet, broken bones, sprains/strains, being hit by a car, etc.
Note – Pet insurance plans for your cat will not cover owner neglect or abuse.
An accident and illness cat insurance policy will cover everything mentioned above in “accidents” but will also cover any illness that occurs in the future, so long as the illness is not a pre-existing condition. This could include kidney disease, thyroid disease, urinary tract infections, allergies, diabetes, etc.
A wellness or routine care plan is not technically insurance. It’s a financial tool that helps with budgeting for routine care items and will cover things like routine vet exams, vaccinations, spay/neuter, microchipping, dental and more. Pay special attention to the limits of the plan. Many pet wellness plans will have a schedule of benefits where there is a maximum payout for each type of service. Certain services can only be used once, like spay/neuter and microchipping.
What procedures and other medical items are covered by pet insurance?
Once insured, your cat should expect to be reimbursed for covered conditions (but not for pre-existing conditions). Coverage usually includes:
- Surgeries and hospitalization
- Labs and other diagnostic tests like MRI, CT, Ultrasound, etc
- Chronic conditions like diabetes, thyroid conditions, kidney disease and others (as long as they were not pre-existing)
- Hereditary conditions are conditions that are passed down through genetics. Check with your pet insurance company to see if they cover hereditary conditions. Many will cover them as long as the pet is not showing signs or symptoms at the time of policy purchase.
- Congenital conditions are conditions that occur in-utero including but not limited to:
- Cerebellar hypoplasia
- Eye and eyelid defects
- Heart defects
- Cleft palate
- Deafness associated with white fur and blue eyes
- Hereditary conditions are conditions that are passed down through genetics. Check with your pet insurance company to see if they cover hereditary conditions. Many will cover them as long as the pet is not showing signs or symptoms at the time of policy purchase. If you have a purebred cat – be sure to ask specifically about hereditary conditions as they relate to your pet’s breed.
If your cat has a hereditary or congenital condition, then be sure to inquire about that condition before purchasing the policy. Also be sure to read the pet insurance company’s sample policy. If a sample policy is not posted on their website, request one through customer service.
Pet insurance policy extras
Other features/coverages that go beyond the basic pet insurance policy for cats can include:
Behavioral therapy is available on some pet insurance plans. For cat owners, behavioral therapy can be useful if your pet develops behavioral issues that you can’t solve at home including inappropriate elimination or litter box issues, excessive yowling or meowing, aggressive behavior and more.
Alternative therapies are becoming increasingly popular among pet owners who want to take a more natural approach to pet health care. Alternative and holistic therapies can include acupuncture, chiropractic, stem cell therapy, ozone therapy, herbal remedies and more.
Prescription Medications and Food
Some pet insurance companies will cover prescription food and/or medication. Coverage for prescription medicine is much more common than coverage for prescription food. Some pet insurance companies will cover prescription food but usually only for a limited time. Check your policy for details.
Be sure to read the fine print when it comes to dental care coverage for your cat. Most pet insurance companies will not cover routine dental care (exams and cleanings). Coverage usually includes tooth extractions and treatment for dental disease but only if your cat has had regular dental exams or cleanings. If your cat’s teeth have been neglected, a pet insurance policy for your cat is unlikely to cover any dental care.
Don’t confuse 24/7 vet chat with 24/7 customer service. 24/7 Vet Chat allows you to talk to or text with a licensed veterinarian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a great service for those times when you’re not sure if your pet needs to see a vet in-person immediately. They cannot prescribe meds.
Other perks with pet Insurance
Some policy have other perks that might be important to you, including:
- Vacation Cancelation
- Lost Pet Rewards
- Mortality Benefits
Are any pre-existing conditions covered by pet insurance?
If there’s one area of pet insurance that confuses people the most, it’s pre-existing conditions. No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is any condition that your pet showed signs or symptoms of prior to the pet owner purchasing a policy. If the pet hasn’t been to the veterinarian for a while, then the next vet visit will determine what pre-existing conditions your pet has, if any. Some (not all) pet insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions if they are not chronic conditions and the condition was considered cured. A good example of this would be some sort of infection that was treated and cured (like an ear infection). Be sure to check with the pet insurer you’re considering about this. Many pet insurance companies have special stipulations around scenarios like this. You must read the fine print. If you can’t find it, ask for a sample policy.
About Pet Insurance Fraud
Some pet owners think that they can enroll in pet insurance right after noticing that their pet isn’t feeling well. If your pet hasn’t been to the vet recently, then the pet’s next vet visit will likely determine the baseline for your pet’s health as it relates to the pet insurance policy. Pet insurance fraud is a crime. Do not try to “trick” the system by misrepresenting your pet’s health when you apply for a policy.
My cat has a pre-existing condition. Can she still be covered?
No pet insurance company will cover a pre-existing condition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be covered for any other condition that might arise in the future. A pet insurance company will review your pet’s medical records to determine what your vet has stated about any conditions your pet has had in the past. If you have not had your pet seen by a veterinarian usually within a year, then any condition that appears or is diagnosed at your next visit will be considered pre-existing.
Olly is a healthy 6-year old cat. His cat mom, Peggy, only brings him to the vet for his 3-year rabies vaccine, or if Olly isn’t feeling well. Peggy takes out a pet insurance policy for her cat Olly but the last time Olly was at the vet was 3 years ago for his vaccines. The pet insurance company will review Olly’s vet records for any pre-existing conditions. Since Olly hasn’t seen a veterinarian in 2 years, any condition that becomes known at Olly’s next vet visit will be considered pre-existing. Shortly after purchasing the cat insurance policy, Peggy takes Olly to the vet and he is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism; otherwise he’s healthy.
Hyperthyroidism won’t be covered, however everything else should be covered. From a pet insurance perspective, Olly will be covered for any accident or illness that arises except for hyperthyroidism as long as Peggy is taking him for regular wellness checks each year and the policy is paid without interruption.
What determines the cost of my pet insurance policy?
Pet insurance costs are determined by a variety of factors including:
Age – The older your pet is, the more expensive the policy will be. Aging pets have more health problems, so expect to pay more if you’re enrolling an older pet.
Breed – The breed of your cat affects the rates you pay. Some breeds are predisposed to certain hereditary conditions and therefore policies will reflect that higher risk with higher priced policies
Gender – Your pet’s gender could have an affect on the pet insurance policy premiums.
Geography – Where you live affects the price of your policy. Because the cost of living and the cost of veterinary care can vary widely across the country, pet insurance rates are adjusted accordingly.
Plan Configurations – The choice you make when configuring cat’s pet insurance policy affects the rate. The annual limit, deductible and reimbursement rate affects the cost you pay for your policy.
Note: It’s easier to decrease coverage over time and more difficult to increase coverage. If you are not sure, choose a plan with higher reimbursement rates and annual limits. You can always reduce those limits if you decide to later in your cat’s life.
Discounts you may be eligible for
Pet insurance is expensive, so if you can get a discount, you definitely should. Discounts to be on the lookout for include:
- Military discounts – If you’re active duty or a military veteran, find out if the insurer has a discount for you.
- Multi-pet discounts – most pet insurers have a multiple discount, but you must check because some do not.
- Employee discounts – if your employer has a relationship with the pet insurer, they may have secured a special discount for you
- Spay/Neuter discounts – Some insurers will provide a discount if your pet is spayed or neutered
- Paying annually – Many pet insurers will provide a discount if you pay for your policy once per year, rather than in monthly installments.
How to lower premiums on pet insurance policies
If you’re looking to pay a lower monthly out of pocket cost for the monthly or annual premium for pet insurance, you can do it in a variety of ways:
- Choose a higher deductible. The higher the deductible you choose, the lower the premium will be. A plan with a $1,000 deductible will cost less than a plan with a $500 deductible.
- Choose a lower reimbursement rate. The lower your reimbursement rate, the lower your premium will be. A plan with a 90% reimbursement rate will cost more than a plan that reimburses you at 70%.
- Choose lower annual limits. A plan with unlimited annual coverage is going to cost more than a plan that caps out at $5,000 per year.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you are sufficiently covered.
Also note that many pet insurance companies will not increase your annual limit without having you purchase a new policy which means any conditions your pet may be covered for under a less expensive policy could be excluded from a new policy.
Determine what's important to you in a pet insurance policy
Before you purchase, be sure you are clear on what is important to you in a policy. We talked above about a wide variety of considerations from aging pets to chronic, congenital and hereditary conditions. The best way to know what you’re getting is to review the sample policies.
- What features are important to you?
- Do you have an aging pet?
- Does your pet already have any medical conditions?
- What kind of budget do you have?
Tip! When obtaining your quotes, try to make an apples-to-apples comparison by using the same annual limit, deductible and reimbursement rate in each quote. By doing this, you can quickly see how policies vary in cost and then determine which features each policy offers that meets your budget and your pet’s needs.
Beware of rating and review sites
When researching companies, it may also be helpful to read the reviews to see if any red flags arise. In the pet insurance industry, there are dozens of “review” websites that on the surface, appear to be unbiased. The truth is, many of these sites will list whichever company is paying them the most to be at the top of the list. So do not rely on review sites to make your decision for you.
Get several quotes and compare
Shop around and get a few quotes. You are never locked into any policy configuration until you actually purchase the policy. So feel free to get as many quotes as you need to help you figure out what works for you.