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As you probably guessed from this post's title, we had some vet bills that have made me seriously look into getting pet insurance.

First, let's start with the good news. After taking home our new kitten home we took him to the vet for a look-over and to get his rabies shop. He's in great shape and he was completely sweet with everyone in the office.

As we checked out I went ahead and made an appointment for our grumpy (but lovable) old cat. He needed a refill on his prescription. Since he gets really anxious and stressed out with the vet, he had to be sedated for the exam.

Should We Get Pet Insurance for Our Cat?

It looks like our big boy has even more reasons to be grumpy.

His blood work results revealed that he needs medication for his thyroid and his exam indicated that he has some arthritis in his hind legs.

For his thyroid, our options are:

  • Pills ($25/month): Cheapest of all the options, but right now Cookie has a hard time sticking with his own food bowl.
  • Ear-gel ($35/month): A bit more expensive, but this is actually a better fit for us as it would be easy to administer and keep away from the kitten.
  • Diet (?): The vet also mentioned that if we can get our cat on a very strict diet, that may ease the problem. However he cannot deviate from the diet at all. Our kitten can eat any of his food. Right now we're still trying to get them to not raid each other's bowls, so we have to pass on this option at temporarily.
  • Radiation($1,500): A one time fee to pay for treatment. I didn't hear much else that the vet said because this was way out of our budget.

He has also has some dental work that should be done soon, but the vet wants to get his thyroid issue under control before she gets the extraction done.

Based on his extraction last year, that will set us back by almost $200. As you can see, things are getting pretty pricey around here.

Our vet mentioned that while we can't get our older cat insured (drats!), we should look into getting a policy for our kitten.

Scouting Out Pet Insurance

Like we do with car and life insurance, it was time to shop around and see what deal we could get for pet insurance.

There are a few major companies, so I decided to visit their sites and see if I could get a quote from them.

  • VPI Pet Insurance: Our vet suggested that we check this company out as the office has worked with VPI for a quite a bit. Insurance policies range from $12.20/month – $16/month. You can add routine visits for about an additional $12/month.
  • 24PetWatch: When we adopted our kitten the shelter micro-chipped him using this company's services. It turns out they also offer pet insurance. They have 3 packages and it ranges from $16.95/month to $23.95/month with a $100 deductible.
  • Pet Care: J from Budgets are Sexy mentioned this company when he was looking at pet insurance quotes himself. They had the most policy package options from very basic to complete care coverage ranging from $9.95/month to $42.95/month.

After looking at the costs, I'm still on the fence.

Part of me wants to stash a bit of money in a high-interest savings account and only dip into it if we need it down the road.

The other part worries that Cookie may get similar health problems when he's older and it'll be taking a big chunk of our money.

The good news is that our older cat's problems have just recently surfaced. Up until last year he's had over a decade of pretty minor ailments.

Thoughts on Pet Insurance

I have to ask your advice on this – do you think pet insurance is a good deal or are we better off saving bit by bit now for future expenses?

Do you currently have pet insurance for your furry friends? If you do have insurance, who is it with and are you happy with their service?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

15 comments add your comment

  1. We don’t currently have pet insurance, but I plan on getting it soon. My dogs are getting older and I just know that the expenses are waiting to come.

  2. We have had pet insurance on our three cats for as long as we’ve had them (5,4 & 3 years). We use Purina Care. We pay $8.42 a month each. We have a $500 deductible and they pay 75% or 80% of the total. It covers preventative care, including flea/heartworm preventative. We have to pay up front and they send us a check. I don’t claim unless we have a sick sick animal, so if my deductible is met and I maybe go over $40 or so, I won’t claim it.

    We keep the $500 deductible in an emergency fund so we don’t have to worry about it. We have claimed twice and have received a check in the mail in 2 – 3 days. They are so awesome. My deductible has never gone up on any of them, either, so far.

    For me, it is peace of mind. I never ever have to choose between a house payment and saving the life of my cat (extreme, yes, but not something I ever want to have to do!). I can shell out $25 a month for these animals and know that I will be able to do/afford everything that they need.

    • Kerry that sounds like a great deal! I had seen higher prices for the ones that included preventative care, so I’ll look into Purina. Thank you for the tip 🙂

  3. Is pet insurance more like health insurance for humans, or more like extended warranties? If health insurance, then it could be a good deal, you would need to do some long term calculations or projections to make sure it works. Otherwise, keep the money and put it aside some extra money each month just for any “extra” expenses. And good luck, dealing with sick pets is so hard.

    • With the big companies it does appear to be like health insurance. Like skrpune mentioned in the comment above, they even have pre-existing condition clauses. That means we need to make a decision fairly soon with our kitten because of that.

  4. I do sometimes wish that I had gotten pet insurance for my dog, but as with human insurance, there are pre-existing conditions clauses. He’s now 14, and he’s been through two bladder stone removal surgeries and a toe amputation. Those surgeries were not cheap, but since we do a pretty good job of stashing money away for small emergencies, we were able to handle the costs. All in all, when calculating in deductibles, we probably spent about as much money on the surgeries as we would have on pet insurance over the last almost 12 years we’ve had him. At this point, there’s too may past issues and he’s probably too old for us to be able to get reasonably priced coverage, so I’m just going to keep at the cash-stashing and do my best to make sure we’re financially able to cover any pet-health related costs.

    • I appreciate you sharing how cash stashing has worked out. That has kind of been our policy, but we’ve underestimated this past year so we grabbed some of our savings to cover the expenses.

  5. I don’t know about pet insurance. I don’t have it for either of my pets, but my dog is a walking accident, so maybe it would be a good idea. She got bitten by my former landlord’s dog (!) and I can’t get her to leave the bite area alone to heal. We’ll be seeing the vet next week. On the other hand, my cat is 14, and though he has heart failure, he hasn’t been a huge expense (not much you can do for heart failure but wait it out and make him happy). They gave him a year and it’s been over two, so I’m happy! I do have a tip on how to get a cat to swallow a pill though. Throw it in the back of their throat, and hold their mouth closed with one hand while massaging the throat with the other. The massaging will cause the cat to swallow, and since you’ll feel it, you’ll know when to let go. I have a 99% success rate with this method and the cat swallows the pill in under 5 seconds, so it’s not too traumatizing. 🙂

    • Thanks Meghan for sharing the trick with the pills. I hadn’t really consider pet insurance since until recently it seemed unneeded. We’re still debating getting it for the kitten, but we should figure out something soon.

  6. Elle, I’m in the process of taking our animals for their annual visits. We have an 8 year old dog, a 7 year old dog and a 2.5 year old cat. Our cat is an outdoor “barn” cat who has a job to control the rodent population on our old farmland. Unfortunately, he likes to get hurt. We’ve spent about $350 before on x-rays that showed nothing. When the vet suggested $1500 exploratory surgery we changed vets. I love my animals, but I am a very practical person. This wasn’t $1500 to fix the cat…just to find out what was wrong with him.

    I have not opted for pet insurance. I think by the time we paid for insurance on all three animals we would have saved enough to pay for any treatment we would be willing to afford in the first place.

    I think if you are the kind of person who would not be able to face having to put your pet down when faced with expensive treatment, then the insurance is worth it. My only concern would be whether the insurance company would cancel the policy if your pet had a lot of expenses.

  7. If they are simply pooling the premiums and using actuaries to ensure that they can make a profit after estimated payouts, then you lose money if your pet is healthier than the norm, and might save money if it is significantly less healthy than the norm – the insurance company is not in this for your benefit. If you are strictly looking at this from a financial standpoint, you would not want to use this type of insurance.

    If the insurer negotiates reduced charges for procedures, in addition to pooling and determining premiums using actuaries, of course, this could be an overall savings, even if your pet is slightly healthier than the norm – keeping in mind the insurance company is not in this for your benefit. Of course, then the providers would be sticking it to the uninsured to try to recoup their profits, which is not relevant if you were looking at this in a strictly financial standpoint.

    In either case, the insurance is unlikely to cover the most expensive procedures, or at least not cover enough of the charge that it would be feasible for you to pay your part of the procedure (for something like a heart transplant, if that is even available). So you may still end up having to make a purely financial decision to not do everything you can for your pet – though having insurance would move that point further to the extreme.

    In the end, it is a gambol, either financially or emotionally. You know the insurance company is in it to make a profit, the provider is in it to make a profit, and you are most likely in it out of concern for your pet (plus wanting to be financially responsible, of course, since you are frequenting this blog). If you don’t buy the insurance, there is a small possibility you will lose, emotionally, if you were forced to make a financial decision over the welfare of your pet, or lose big, financially, if you decide to do everything you can, damn the cost. If you buy the insurance, you are fairly likely to lose, financially, and there is still a chance (though smaller, the degree depending on your financial situation) that you will lose emotionally.

    • See this description of how premiums are calculated: It was written for human insurance, but almost certainly also applies to pet insurance. The insurance companies may be less stringent about pet premiums (preliminary exam requirements, for example), as there is a lower ceiling on the maximum cost of veterinary procedures.

  8. I had a cat with a blood clot that ended up costing me thousands of dollars, when she passed and I adopted another I thought about pet insurance but got to confused by all the disclaimers. Instead each month I put double what the cost of the insurance would have been ($50/mth) into a ‘cat’ savings account for any emergencies. No problems yet (knock on wood) and now the account is established enough if any problems pop up I can cover it. Good for the long run, no so much if any problems had come up right away.

  9. I don’t have pet insurance and recently I’ve read a few articles that make me feel good about the decision. If you go to the Consumerist’s website (affiliated with Consumer Reports) and search for ‘pet insurance’ you can find articles from consumers that show they would have been better off had they just saved the money. A lot of the time the insurance doesn’t cover as much as you would expect!