Guide to cat insurance
- Decide between an accident-only, time-limited, maximum benefit and lifetime policy
- Pay particular attention to veterinary fee levels
- Consider whether you have or need options such as dental cover, alternative therapies and cattery fees
- Watch out for excess levels and co-insurance elements on the policy
Cats are supposed to have nine lives - but you wouldn't want to rely on that rule if your furry friend was injured or ill!
The more sensible option would be to take your feline to the vet for treatment, but this could lead to a bill of thousands of pounds, depending on what's wrong.
For many animal owners, this kind of sum is impossible to find - but doing nothing and leaving your beloved pussy in pain is not an option, either.
This is why pet insurance can be such a good idea.
You can pay the premiums in affordable monthly instalments and the right policy can give you purr-fect peace of mind that your feline will get the best treatment should anything happen.
Whatever cat insurance you choose, remember that there are several types of policy and it's essential to understand which one you're buying.
Read our beginners' guide to pet insurance to make sure that your policy covers the elements you're expecting and that there'll be no nasty financial surprises, but think about the following areas:
Choosing cover levels for cat insurance
Accident-only cat insurance policies offer limited levels of cover and are, therefore, likely to be the cheapest option.
Time-limited cat insurance policies are also at the lower end of the scale in terms of budget and cover.
Maximum benefit policies
Maximum benefit cat insurance does not place a time limit on how long you can claim for a condition, but there will be a financial cap - this is seen as a mid-level cover option.
Lifetime/Covered for life policies
Lifetime cat insurance is typically the most expensive option as it's the one that offers the most extensive cover. It should cover your feline for life, providing you keep renewing your policy.
Many cat policies come with an element of co-insurance. This means that, in the event of a claim, the cat owner is charged a percentage of the remaining vet fees after the excess has been deducted.
While this may seem troubling it can help to make insurance more affordable, especially for older cats, and it can help to increase competition between vet practices.
If you enter Gocompare.com's quote process any products with a co-insurance element will be clearly indicated on your results page.
Many people only associate pet microchipping with dogs, but the process can be used on cats and a variety of other animals.
Microchipping offers numerous potential benefits to owners and their pets, one of them being that it shows insurers you're a responsible owner - something that has the potential to result in a premium reduction.
The actual cost of pet vaccinations and procedures such as spaying and neutering are not covered by cat insurance, but there are a few things to think about.
Bear in mind that keeping your cat's vaccinations up to date might make you eligible for cheaper premiums, as some insurers take this into consideration.
Also, felines which aren't vaccinated might not be covered by some insurance policies for illnesses which are preventable by vaccination.
Pedigree cat insurance
Pedigree animals can be more expensive to insure than crossbreeds as they tend to have shorter lifespans and are more susceptible to health conditions such as hip dysplasia and diabetes.
Valuable pedigree cats are also more likely to be stolen, so if you have a pedigree you may want to make sure that theft is covered under the terms of your policy.
Older cat insurance
Some policies don't cover older animals as they're more likely to suffer from age-related conditions such as arthritis, as well as being at increased risk of a fall or accident.
The good news is that there are plenty of pet insurers which do offer cover for older cats, so shop around with our comparison tool before deciding which policy is right for your circumstances.
Think carefully before allowing a policy on an older cat to lapse.
While it's always a good idea to shop around and compare your options, if you don't renew your existing policy you may have difficulty finding a competitively priced alternative as your animal ages.
To find out more about the requirements for young cats, read our guide to kitten insurance.
Policy options to consider
This is likely to be your primary reason for taking out a policy, so ensure that the cover levels offered are suitable for your needs and look out for any time restraints.
Check whether the policy includes the cost of consultations, examinations, tests, x-rays, MRI scans, medication, bandages, surgery, and hospitalisation, and you might also like to think about areas like physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy.
Some policies will provide cover for behavioural conditions and their treatment and for the provision of a special diet, should it be recommended by a vet as part of treating a condition.
Cat insurers tend not to insure against accidental damage in the policyholder's home, largely because pets are temperamental and it's difficult for underwriters to assess how well a cat has been trained.
Many cat policies will cover the cost of damage caused to another person's property up to a specified amount, but watch out for exclusions - there are often a lot of them.
What would happen if you had to go into hospital unexpectedly? Would you be able to arrange for a friend or relative to look after your pet at short notice? If not, your cat might need to stay in a cattery, which can be costly. Some policies take this into consideration and will cover emergency fees up to a certain cost.
Did you know...?
- Third party liability cover is not generally available for cats as felines are considered to be 'free spirits', meaning that their owners cannot be held accountable for their animal's actions
Taking your cat on a trip
Cat insurance can cover accidents, illness and emergencies whilst you're away with your animal on holiday, or emergencies that prevent or curtail your vacation.
Holiday cover and pet travel might be included as standard on your policy or you might have to take out an add-on to cover your trip.
Missing cat cover
If you want to advertise for a missing cat or even offer a reward for its return, some policies may make provision for this.
Dental fees for cats can be expensive, so watch out for any exclusions around this area of their health and wellbeing.
Death due to an accident or illness
Under some policies, the insurer will pay a lump sum if your cat dies following an accident or illness. This might cover, for example, the cost of an expensive pedigree animal. Some policies might also pay for your four-legged friend to be cremated if his or her death was caused by an accident or illness.
Alternative therapies such as homeopathy, massage and acupuncture can be useful treatments for felines as well as humans. Not all insurance policies will cover these kinds of therapies, but some do, so compare options to find out which might best suit your cat.
Third party liability
Dog owners often take out third party liability insurance, which can cover the cost of damage to another person's property accidentally caused by their canine.
This sort of policy also covers potential costs and compensation if a dog injures another person or animal by, for example, biting them or knocking them over.
But this sort of cover is NOT generally available for cats as felines are considered to be 'free spirits', meaning that their owners cannot be held accountable for what they do.
Did you know...?
- Accidental damage cover is not typically available for the cat owner's home, and if cover is available for another person's property there are likely to be significant exclusions
Common cat illnesses
Just like humans and dogs, cats can get cancer.
Cancer affects fewer cats than dogs but it's still a common illness, particularly in older animals. It can also prove very expensive, with treatment often taking place in specialist animal cancer centres.
Many owners think that vaccinating a kitten against the feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) will stop them from getting serious illnesses such as cancer. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee against cancer and your cat could still become ill.
Adequate insurance can take care of the expensive vet bills this might incur - when taking out a policy, check that it covers all aspects of feline cancer such as the diagnosis, treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and recovery. Some policies will pay out for alternative therapies, too.
Like cancer, hip dysplasia is more commonly found in dogs, but it does affect cats, too. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition where the hip joints fail to develop properly and deteriorate over time.
Some insurance policies do not cover hereditary conditions, so make sure you check the details of your policy.
Cats commonly suffer from abscesses, often as a result of fighting other moggies. An abscess occurs when the tissue around a bite or wound becomes infected.
Abscesses can be very painful but you might not realise your pet has one if it's hidden by fur, so look out for other symptoms such as your cat going off its food or being lethargic.
Treatment includes a vet draining the abscess, sometimes with the animal under sedation, and following this up with a course of antibiotics. Again, this can be expensive, but many cat insurance policies will cover the cost of the treatment.
Cats are independent and, if you let them out of the house, you won't be able to control where they roam.
Did you know...?
- Many people only associate dogs with microchipping, but the procedure can be carried out on cats and many other pets
This puts them at risk of incidents such as road traffic accidents or falling out of a tree or off a wall when they're climbing.
Cover for accidents and injuries can alleviate the cost of potentially expensive trips to the vet to treat broken limbs and lacerations.
Whichever policy you opt for, we advise you to read the small print carefully to make sure you have the right level of cover.
And remember that insurance is intended to cover unexpected illnesses and events, not things such as vaccinations and routine grooming treatments - don't forget to factor in these costs before you buy a cat.
By Rebecca Lees