Pet insurance can be confusing and slightly overwhelming with a huge array of companies offering different types of policy and various terms and conditions. With an older cat, there are additional points to consider, such as condition exclusions.
If you’ve taken on an older cat or are thinking about insurance now that your cat is getting older, then here are some useful explanations and tips on what to look for.
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How old is old?
Happily, cats are living longer than they ever used to. Mostly due to improvements in home environments, nutrition, and veterinary care. Feline life stages have fairly recently been re-defined by International Cat Care , with a consensus now reached that cats aged 11-15 are called ‘senior’. And those hardy souls over 15 gain the grand title of ‘super-senior’!
Does my older cat really need insurance?
Sadly, although as cats age they may be less likely to get into mischief and have an accident, they do become increasingly vulnerable to some diseases. Arthritis, kidney problems, an overactive thyroid, and various types of cancer are all examples of common diagnoses in older cats. Veterinary medicine is advancing rapidly, and new diagnostic tests and treatments are available all the time, but they all come with a cost.
It is statistically more likely that people will need to claim on pet insurance than home or car insurance! Pet insurance is not just for accidents: many policies also cover illnesses, which can be useful for our older felines.
Types of insurance
The different types of policy can be bewildering, so here is a simple guide.
- Accident only policies: these policies will pay out for accidents. Such as if your cat eats poison, or is hit by a car. But won’t cover illnesses such as cancer or liver disease. Older cats are more likely to stay at home more but also more likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes. And so an ‘illness and accident’ policy is usually the better choice for a senior pet.
- Timed policies (e.g. 12 month policies): these policies will pay out for each condition for a set period (often 12 months). Then that illness will be excluded from the policy and the company will no longer pay for any further treatment. This type of policy works well for one-off incidents. Such as a leg injury which will be resolved over a few weeks/months. But can be difficult for more chronic conditions such as arthritis which will need to be managed for life. Again, this makes these types of policy less suitable for older cats.
- Lifetime cover: these policies have an annual limit for each condition which renews each year. For example, if your cat has an overactive thyroid and arthritis, and your policy cover is £3000, you can claim up to £3000 towards thyroid medication, blood tests, consultations etc. AND up to £3000 for arthritis medication, x-rays, consultations etc, per year. Each year, the £3000 per condition renews.
- Maximum cost policies: these have a top limit (e.g. £10,000) per condition, which has no time limit. But once you have maxed out this amount, the condition is then excluded and no further payment will be made.
Points to consider when comparing policies
So, you’ve decided on your type of policy, but now you’re comparing different quotes. Why do they vary? And what should you be looking for in the small print?
- Exclusions: it is very common when you take out a new insurance policy that the company will ‘exclude’ any previous conditions. This is especially relevant in older cats who may well have experienced forms of illness over their lives. Policies vary on the specificity of the condition, the time it occurred and how strict they are. So it’s worth delving into the small print.
- Amount of cover: this is important! Veterinary care has advanced hugely over the years and as more services and treatments are offered, care has improved but so have costs. Remember, ongoing conditions can add up if medication is needed constantly with all the monitoring that goes alongside. Cheaper policies with a limit of only £1-2000 don’t get you as much as you might imagine.
- The excess: as with many types of insurance, when you make a claim, you have to pay an excess. This amount can vary, with a general rule that lower cost monthly premiums come alongside a higher initial outlay on the excess when you make a claim.
- Percentage costs: some policies require you to pay a certain percentage of the treatment costs, alongside the excess. This can really add up, so make sure this is budgeted for if you take out one of these policies
- Extras: some policies cover ‘extras’ such as prescription diets, some do not. The same goes for things like acupuncture and physiotherapy. Some policies offer extras such as costs to help advertise if you lose your pet and hospitalisation fees if your pet has to stay in hospital.
Whether or not you decide to take out pet insurance for your elderly cat is a very personal decision, and depends on multiple factors. Premium costs do tend to be higher for senior pets, for the simple reason that they tend to incur higher vet bills! Taking out an insurance policy is by no means obligatory when you take on an older animal. But it is always sensible to have a plan and budget in place for those unexpected veterinary costs and to safeguard a happy, healthy future for your feline friend.