Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
We had a horrible thing happen to us in February of this year. I was sitting in our library, when my cat Lyla wanted to be let outside (evident by her impatient scratching at the front door). She is generally an inside cat, but likes to go outside each day for a few hours.
I let her out, and sat back down to read, my glasses off. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big, bronze blob and her white fur in our neighbor’s yard. Even without my glasses I knew exactly what was going on: she was being attacked by a dog.
I ran out of the house, yelling to my husband to let him know what was going on. Knowing that I could be seriously injured if I got in the middle, instead of jumping in I screamed repeatedly at the dog and pretended to run toward him back and forth to try to break his cat-killing instinct and get him to go away. Eventually, he did. Lyla fought a good fight, and thankfully was only bitten towards the bottom of her tail. She needed lots of stitches, but (thankfully again) the dog’s teeth just missed her spinal cord and did not hit any major organs.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Our cat is perfectly fine just months later, her hair almost grown back and everything, and seems to have a new lease on life. But the total cost of this (including surgery, pain meds, etc.) was close to $1,000.
Ouch. And of course we have no idea who the owners are of the unleashed dog, nor where to find them, so it’s not likely we will ever see this money again (we count ourselves lucky enough that our cat is safe and sound).
This got me thinking: would it have been worth it to us to have pet insurance for our two cats? Would it have dramatically cut down our vet bill enough to make the monthly premiums worth it? While I’m not sure if I can quantify the payout, I did decide to look into pet insurance options.
Typical Cost of Pet Insurance
Depending on the type of coverage chosen, pet insurance can cost between $5 and $90 per month. When I looked at pet coverage in my area, I found plans at my local grocery store chain (Kroger’s). Here are the prices for their plans:
- Accident Only: $7.95 for a dog or for a cat
- Accident and Illness: $16.95 for a dog and $11.95 for a cat
- Comprehensive Coverage: Starting at $38.95 for a dog, and starting at $28.95 for a cat
What Pet Insurance Will and Will Not Cover
There are many different plans available for pet insurance, with each plan covering accidents only, illness only, and preventative care in varying degrees. For example, my local grocery store (Kroger’s) offers pet insurance for a dog or cat in the following ways: Accident only, Accident and Illness, and Comprehensive Coverage. Here’s what the coverage looks like for these plans:
- Accident Only: Bites, cuts, broken bones, and swallowing objects are covered for a cat or a dog.
- Accident and Illness: This policy covers bites, cuts, broken bones, cancer, infections, and medications for dogs and cats.
- Comprehensive Coverage: This policy covers bites, cuts, broken bones, cancer, infections, medications, and routine expenses (such as annual exams, heartworm medication, microchip identification, vaccinations, behavior training, and flea & tick prevention) for dogs and cats.
Deciding If It’s Right for You
Remember that on top of monthly premium payments, which could be from $100 to several hundred dollars per year, you generally have to make a co-payment and meet a deductible before a pet insurance plan kicks in (though, like with health insurance plans, you may be able to pay a higher premium in order to waive co-payments and deductibles). Over the life of a pet, some people could pay up to $5,000 in premiums alone.
When considering whether or not getting pet insurance is right for you, you should also think about the age, relative health, breed, and vet costs in your area.
Pet Insurance Alternative
Also, remember that in the name of avoiding pet debt or having to make really tough decisions in the event of needing surgery due to not being able to afford costs, you could set yourself up a pet emergency fund. Each month, funnel the same amount away into a high yield savings account as you would to a pet insurance plan, between $8 and $30. You can then use this account to pay for annual expenses, or keep it intact solely for emergency type situations.
Do you have pet insurance? Have you used it? Do you think it’s worth it?
It is not a question of premium. You have to consider how much you will be reimbursed on a claim. Carriers base that on a “customary and reasonable” calculation which does not seem to factor in geography. So if you live in a high cost area and your vet has high fees, you will not likely recover the amount you paid. We maintained coverage for our cats for years. When one was diagnosed with cancer, the claims were totally covered but their reimbursement rate was so low that we barely recovered the premium we had paid that year. We got nothing towards the vet bills themselves. As far as I’m concerned, 18 years of premiums were wasted.