Pet insurance on indoor cats - worth it?
April 20, 2013 10:26 AM   Subscribe

People with pet insurance on their cats. Have the benefits ever outweighed the costs? It seems very expensive to me. I've not had it before as it wasn't around when I got dear old Dot. Bearing in mind these are fit 3 yo cats with no pre-existing conditions who were well cared for in previous home and will be living indoors only. The only people who have had good use out of their pet insurance who I know are lady with cat who was in a road accident and had lots of ops and MRIs and lady with 2 rescue dogs who have had joint and allergy problems.

Please no derailing on the indoor cats thing, we have a large house with many playthings and lots of room, and someone home all day. Of course here is a photo of them.

I have looked back over the cats I've had and none I recall having anything that's cost more than a few hundred pounds a year. The quote we've had for "lifetime" cover is more than our house insurance premium!
posted by LyzzyBee to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I imagine it depends on what you consider to be a reasonable cost for medical treatment. I know there are some pet owners who consider any medical cost to be unreasonable for an animal, and opt to euthanize rather than treat. Myself, in one year had a dog receive a diagnosis of cancer (multiple surgeries + chemotherapy), and a cat receive a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (multiple visits to specialists, including a cardiologist, medications, monitoring checks, and an emergency room visit for the eventual thrombosis). I think most people fall somewhere in the middle.

In both of my cases insurance would have been worth it financially, if only to avoid an out of pocket expense of several several hundreds of dollars all at once (just the emergency room + overnight monitoring was $800; the cardiologist was close to $1000).

I guess another consideration is that indoor cats live longer, which increases the chance that when something eventually does go wrong it will be chronic.
posted by lilnublet at 10:44 AM on April 20, 2013

Response by poster: Not thread sitting but I see I didn't address this issue.

We are happy to pay out multiple hundreds of pounds for necessary treatment but are careful about not extending a pet's life beyond where it's comfortable itself (a situation we had to face with our last cat, so are now familiar with and have tested within ourselves, and not something I want to discuss here).

With that pet, we had some issues along the way, but nothing that cost that much. With previous pets, they have not lived so long but have had the odd bout of cat flu and that was that.

We have funds to cover the odd expense like that, and would never begrudge that, just feel it's an emotionally manipulative possible waste of money to pay out so much each month.

Hope that clarifies that point.
posted by LyzzyBee at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2013

One of our indoor cats woke us up one night with repeating seizures. After a week in intensive care at our emergency vet hospital, a CAT scan and thousands of dollars in bills, he's been healthy and happy for over 4 years. We think he was eating house plants.

We didn't have pet insurance. We do now.
posted by heatherann at 11:03 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Indoor cats can get sick even if they are healthy. All three of my aunt's indoor cats became ill at once. One nearly died. The vets could never figure out what caused the illness, but treatment for all three cats came to over $5k.

I've investigated health insurance for my dog, but found the small print so confusing that I gave up.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:22 AM on April 20, 2013

Consumerist just ran a couple of articles about this very thing, and included some hard data about premiums and coverage levels. (Sorry, I can't link.) It seems that in most cases it does not pay off, because even when an animal has a serious illness incurring large expenses the insurance only pays a portion of that, so when the owner's balance is added to the amount paid for premiums over the years there are no savings.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:34 AM on April 20, 2013

Have the benefits ever outweighed the costs?

If the benefits outweighed the costs on average, the insurance company would immediately go out of business (or increase costs). It is not possible to benefit, on average, from insurance. This holds true for any form of insurance.

The caveat here is that insurance companies are often able to negotiate better rates for treatment than individual customers are. If you are able to get those rates or are comfortable with your veterinarian, insurance makes no sense unless you can't afford to take care of your pet. If you want the "easy way out", insurance makes sense, but you should be viewing it as a cost, not a savings.
posted by saeculorum at 11:36 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pet Insurance - Good Deal or Rip-off? (US-centric, but probably applicable to all situations)

In my experience, having had insurance for indoor cats, a couple of things you really want to look at are - are payments capped? Especially if you live in an expensive area, if payments are capped at a low rate it might mean you might get very little reimbursement for an expensive procedure if it is "not supposed" to be that expensive, but it is where you live.

(On preview - what BlahLaLa said. You want to be sure that you will actually be reimbursed for that big unexpected vet bill and not get back just pennies on the dollar.)

And remember you still have to front the money before you get reimbursed, so you still need that high-limit credit card or CareCredit or fat checking account or whatever to have on hand. You can have insurance but still be screwed if you're "cash poor" at the time of the procedure.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2013

With my cat who developed diabetes, the insurance absolutely paid for itself over four years of insulin and blood tests, and a final horrifying pet ER bill. My other insured cat died unexpectedly young, and the insurance company definitely made out on her. It's a crapshoot, but one where you can improve your odds if you choose a good plan or get really screwed if you don't.
posted by Stacey at 11:51 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pet insurance is, in almost no cases, actually a winning proposition financially. It might be a winning proposition psychologically, in that it's a lot easier to justify an expensive treatment you've been already paying for via insurance payments rather than shelling it all out at once in response to a crisis.

Here's a post by an acquaintance of mine who ran the numbers on it, and concluded that pet insurance was generally a poor deal: Should you insure Fluffy and Spot?
posted by jackbishop at 12:11 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had three cats who weren't insured, and ended up with a large credit card bill each time one of them was ill. For the most part they were healthy for years, but I was always worried about how I'd pay for anything major if they needed it. And as they got older, inevitably they did.

Then I got two cats who I got insured. One had cancer twice - the insurance paid for the first surgery, but not the second as it was a recurrence of the same cancer. She later died of a very aggressive anaemia that first became apparent on a Wednesday and by the following Sunday she was put to sleep. The bill for that - hospital stay, tests, treatment - was several thousand pounds. It was a big relief that I only had to pay the first £50, and it meant I didn't have to make a decision at the outset based on potential cost. I suppose where she was concerned, I 'got my money's worth' out of the premiums I'd paid over the time she was with me.

My other cat had a cyst on her toe that was £600 to remove - again only the first £50 was down to me. She's nearly 12 now, and in good health, but pet health care is becoming more sophisticated, with more treatments available for illnesses that might in the past have resulted in early euthenasia, so I'm anticipating that there'll be further claims on her insurance at some point in her future.

For me it comes down to this: I may pay in monthly premiums far more than I'll ever get back on any claim, but it gives me peace of mind that when my cat's ill, any decisions I make will be based on her health needs rather than my financial needs.
posted by essexjan at 3:14 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the good and honest answers and the links. We have found an insurance co that do a lifetime cover (otherwise you only get one year if they get a chronic condition and then you are not covered for that thing anyway). I don't think we live in an expensive area as such and our vets are good and trustworthy, but the premiums on the company they were covered by at the shelter for a month were so high!
posted by LyzzyBee at 3:21 PM on April 20, 2013

My friends cat has diabetes and the insulin is very expensive. Poet insurance would have been good for that. I think usually the point of it is psychological, as noted above. If your cat gets cancer or liver failure or something, you then only have rip worry about quality of life, not that awkward "is it justifiable to spend thousands of dollars on an animal?"question. You might also feel more willing to try treatments that don't have guaranteed success. E.g without insurance I'm not going to pay hundreds for medication that "might"help.
posted by lollusc at 3:50 PM on April 20, 2013

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