Not every cat has 9 lives and those that do can cost a lot getting through them. Being prepared for accident and illness gives you peace of mind and the freedom to choose the best treatment for your cat when the inevitable happens.
How much does cat insurance cost?
Choosing the level of cover can be complex as companies offer an array of policies and add-ons. It is important to remember that insurance policies don’t cover routine preventative care like vaccination, neutering, flea and worming treatments. So when choosing your cover consider the premium and budget for preventative care also. The premium will vary with your locality, the age of your cat and his or her breed. Pedigree cats are more expensive to insure. Cats with pre-existing illnesses or diseases will also have a higher premium as well as having those conditions excluded. This means that the insurance company will not pay for any pre-existing condition that continues from the insurance period or recurs. Remember this if changing your insurance company, even with lifetime policies.
On average, premiums usually vary from £30 to 150 per year.
What level of cover should I buy?
Cheaper policies may be ‘accident only’. They may have a limit of £500-1000 to be claimed in the event of a road traffic accident, fall or fight. Although this will cover an emergency consultation, it can be used up in stabilising your cat if they are injured and may not cover investigations and the treatments of injuries. Sometimes a road accident will cause a ruptured diaphragm, this is an urgent life threatening injury. Stabilisation and treatment can cost £3000-5000. Cats will often suffer limb fractures after accidents, x-rays, MRI scans and orthopaedic surgery may be required to repair limbs. This treatment can cost in the region of £2000-4000.
Accident only policies do not help when your cat develops a long term medical condition. Annual policies can also provide insufficient cover for medical conditions as the condition is excluded after 12 months. Therefore if your cat develops diabetes, their illness would only be covered the first 12 months. Your cat will usually live for their normal lifespan but need insulin every day and examinations and blood tests regularly. A lifetime policy is ideal as a long term disease will not be excluded.
The policy limit per condition is perhaps the most important number, even with a lifetime policy. If your cat develops a lump and it is found to be a tumour, then biopsies, scans, surgery and chemotherapy can mount up to around £5000-7000. Overactive thyroid disease is very common in the older cat, definitive treatment at a specialist centre will cost £3000-5000. A limit of £5000-7000 per condition is usually sufficient. Rarely, conditions may be more costly but this is generally a sensible level of cover.
What should I consider when choosing an insurer?
Some insurance companies give assurances that claims are dealt with within a certain time period. This can help with cash flow, particularly with large claims. Insurance companies may offer a direct claim facility, after you pay the excess the veterinary practice will claim the rest from your vet. Check with your vet that they are happy to do this before initiating a policy for this reason. Not all practices direct claim and some only do so for certain companies. It may be worth checking for any pre-existing conditions when you call your vets as we can all forget consultations for small matters that later may affect insurance cover.
Check the policy excess to ensure that it is reasonable. Excesses are usually around £75-150 (2020) and lifetime policies often charge an excess per condition each year. Most companies offer pre-authorisation for expensive conditions or procedures. This gives you the peace of mind that the costs are covered. Your vet can help you to apply for pre-authorisation prior to treatment if it is appropriate. Multi-animal discounts can be a great saving if you have a number of animals. Charities such as the RSPCA offer insurance policies, in these cases you know that some of your premium is used to help less fortunate animals.
What extras are useful?
There are some extras in the cat insurance world which add value. Dental cover is optimal, some insurance companies will cover dental treatment if regular dental checks are performed and noted on regular routine veterinary examination. This is important as most cats will require some dental care in their teen years and some earlier. Well researched and developed anaesthetic techniques make this much safer than it once was but adds to the cost of the procedure. Also dental x-ray is now widely used, this improves the treatment your cat receives but makes dental treatment more expensive. So, dental cover is a useful bonus.
Prescription diets can be used to effectively treat some common conditions such as kidney disease, dental disease, diabetes and thyroid disease. These diets tend to be more expensive than normal diets so a policy which covers the difference is helpful.
Most companies offer cover for complementary therapies such as physiotherapy and acupuncture. This is about personal preference, most policies offer a reasonable level of cover.
Some insurance companies offer free virtual vet consultations which may be helpful.
If your cat is lost, most policies will cover the cost of advertising and some even provide a finder’s fee to encourage people to help search for them. If your cat becomes ill and this prevents you going on holiday, holiday cancellation insurance can be helpful. Similarly if you are unwell or unable to look after your cat, many provide boarding fee cover. Finally, if your cat dies, many policies will refund their purchase price.
There is overwhelming choice when considering cat insurance but prioritising the level of cover and policy type enables you to choose the one that suits you and your cat.
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