As many a doting cat owner knows, caring for your moggy doesn’t just mean upgrading to full fat milk. The real crème de la crème is making sure they are looked after in any eventuality. Given vets’ bills tend to be expensive, one way to head off unexpected costs is by taking out pet insurance specifically designed for cats.
But how do you go about choosing the most appropriate policy? If you’re new to taking care of cats – and pet ownership has soared since the pandemic – there are a few things to consider to ensure you select the right cover at the right price.
What is cat insurance?
Cats are said to have nine lives, but sadly that doesn’t mean they are indestructible.
Cat insurance covers the cost of emergency vet treatment should your cat fall ill suddenly, or be involved in an accident. If you don’t have cover in place, you’ll have to pay the bill out of your own pocket – and that could be expensive.
According to the Association of Business Insurers (ABI), more cats are insured by their owners than ever before, but it’s also important to know what’s included in this type of cover.
These are the four main types of cat insurance and each one is slightly different:
Accident only. The cheapest level of pet cover and, as the name suggests, it will only pay out in the event of an accident, not if the cat falls ill or develops a medical condition.
Time limited. Covers your cat for a limited period, often 12 months. You can only claim once for a condition and there’s usually a set maximum payout.
Maximum benefit. This provides cover for illness and accidents up to a set cash limit, but without a time limit for making the claim. Can be useful if your cat develops a chronic condition.
Lifetime. The most expensive type of cover, but your cat will be insured for accidents and illness throughout its lifetime, subject to the policy terms.
How much do cat treatments cost?
This is useful to know before deciding whether you should plump for insurance.
Unfortunately, because it’s an unregulated market, vets can charge whatever they like. Typically, a check-up and diagnosis might come in around £60, but treatment can push the cost far higher.
According to the ABI, the average pet insurance claim in 2020 was £817. The average fees for some of the most common problems are around £430 for treating an abscess, £600 for a urinary tract issue, £900 for removing a tumour, and £1,090 for treatment for diabetes.
The costs can also add up. A broken leg, for example, might need an x-ray and splint, but then cause problems such as arthritis later in the cat’s life that then requires more treatment.
One bit of potentially good news is that a cat normally costs less to treat than a dog, or an exotic pet!
What isn’t covered with pet insurance?
Cat insurance tends to be for emergencies, so you are still going to need pay separately for vaccinations, check-ups and treatments such as neutering, claw clipping and staying free from fleas, worms and ticks.
Note also, that your cat is unlikely to be covered for microchipping, dental treatment, cremations, burials or pregnancy.
Your feline pride and joy might not be covered for a pre-existing medical condition either. If Tiddles does have a condition, such as diabetes, be upfront about it with your insurer or you’ll risk invalidating your policy at the very time you need it most.
In these circumstances, your insurer’s answer is not always a straight ‘no’ to them providing cover. Policies for pre-existing conditions might be available if your cat hasn’t shown any symptoms of the condition for a certain period, 24 months for example.
Also worth noting is that cat insurance may not pay out if there are signs of any neglect. This includes not keeping up to date with recommended inoculations.
What extras are available for cat insurance?
It’s not just medical costs that can be covered. If your cat goes missing or is stolen, some policies will pay for advertising, and even rewards, to help find it.
There might also be a 24-hour helpline included to call for advice should your cat be displaying any signs of discomfort or if they’ve become lethargic. Other extras could include cover for emergency boarding fees, dental care, or accidental damage in your home.
What else should I look out for?
There are often upper and lower age limits for cat insurance. Your cat usually must be older than eight weeks. The maximum age varies, but if you stick with an insurer and keep paying your premiums, it’s likely they’ll extend cover beyond the maximum age stated.
Unlike dog owners, you should be clear from receiving any third-party claims. A dog attack could result in a claim against the owner, but cats are generally considered ‘free spirits’, so you won’t be held responsible for their actions. No matter how much they dig in their claws.
How can I get the best priced cover for my cat?
The cost of cat insurance depends on the age, size, breed and health of your cat, plus factors such as where you live. Typical costs range from £80-£100 a year, although it’s possible to pay less by shopping around. Using a comparison service will produce a list of providers as well as policy details and what a plan actually costs.
The main aim is to get the right deal for your cat. Remember, also, that the cheapest cover isn’t always the better option; check the terms and conditions to make sure your pet’s covered according to its needs.
One way of lowering your premiums is not simply to let your cover renew. Insurers rarely reward loyalty, so check quotes from other providers and see what else is available even if you end up deciding to stick with your current provider.
Another way to keep costs down it to opt for a higher excess. This is the amount you agree to pay before a claim is settled.
Also, consider your cat’s risk of developing a medical issue. Older animals and some breeds may be more susceptible to certain conditions and illnesses potentially breaching what a policy’s maximum cover will pay out.