Cat insurance

Everything you need to know if you’re thinking about getting pet insurance for your cat

Do you need cat insurance?

Pet insurance helps to protect pet owners against unexpected costs related to their pets. Pet insurance helps to cover vet bills and can also pay for additional routine care for the ongoing maintenance of health and wellness for your pet such as vaccinations, teeth cleaning and alternative therapies. Most pet insurance policies help to cover up to 80% of vet bills for selected accidents, illnesses and surgeries.

To get a better idea on whether or not pet insurance is worth it for you, we have a look at what cat insurance is, the expenses associated with cat ownership, common risks and problems as well as what is included in cat insurance.

How has the cat evolved over the years and what kind of cat do you have?

The domesticated cat today is a small carnivorous mammal which are kept for pets by humans as they are valued for their companionship. Despite being solitary hunters, cats are a social species and communicate via vocalizations like meowing, purring, hissing, growling and grunting as well as cat-specific body language. There are approximately 60 cat breeds as recognized by various cat registries.

In Australia, there are approximately 3.9million pet cats and they are the second most popular type of companion pet after the dog. Nearly 3 in 10 households own a cat and in Australia, more than 50% of Aussies live in a household with a dog and/or cat than with a child. Veterinary services currently cost Australians approximately $2.2 billion per year.

Doing research on the type of cat you have can also give you additional knowledge and information on any predetermined illnesses or health conditions that are known to the breed.

Cats can be a fantastic perfect pet. They are affectionate but can also be very self-sufficient in feeding, toileting and are clean, quiet pets.

What are common risks and problems for cats?

Diseases which can affect cats include acute infections, parasitic infestations, injuries as well as chronic disease, thyroid disease and arthritis. Vaccinations are available for many of these infectious diseases as well as treatments to eliminate parasites such as worms and fleas. Approximately 250 heritable genetic disorders have been identified in cats.

Parasiticides (treatment for external and internal parasites) for pets make up 64% of all pet healthcare products sold in Australia. Vaccines and antisera are the next largest product category. Rates for desexing have remained stable for the past few years and microchipping and registration for dogs and cats is compulsory across most states and territories.

Kidney disease is a lifelong disease and it is a common ailment for cats as well as the second-priciest condition – averaging $649 a year to treat. Approximately 30% of cats will develop some degree of kidney compromise and many of these cases will progress to kidney failure. When the kidneys fail to perform properly, the cat’s life is at risk.

When a cat develops kidney disease, it means their kidneys are not properly filtering the blood. To treat this, owners must put their cat on a special diet and bring it for multiple checkups and blood tests to monitor the nitrogen levels in their blood. Warning signs to get your cat checked out include lethargy, drinking a lot of water, frequent urination and taking a disinterest to food. If your cat has contracted kidney disease, the vet bills for this particular illness could be upwards of $649 a year.

Some cat illnesses have enormous financial outlays – For example it costs $6,643 to treat and remove a tumour. A pet insurance policy provides a benefit limit of thousands of dollars each year meaning that families don’t have to agonise and stress over the cost and burden of an emergency treatment of a beloved pet.

What is cat insurance?

Cat insurance is a type of pet insurance policy that helps to cover expenses related to the health and well-being of a cat. Pet insurance policies may contribute to the vet costs and expenses relating to accidents, illnesses and or routine care.

Is cat insurance worth it?

Veterinary fees and bills can quickly add up over the years of owning a cat. If you’re unsure on whether or not pet insurance is worth it for you, consider how you would deal with and manage an unexpected veterinary bill as well as the general costs in having and care maintenance costs of your cat. The average cat costs a household $1,029 per year and they have a minimum expected lifespan of 15 years although many cats have been known to live past 20 years.

In an average four-week period, 14% of Aussies pay for some type of pet care service. Regular checkups at the vet are essential for a healthy cat. As your cat gets older, he or she might need more frequent checkups or possibly surgery and other medical treatment.
A standard cat’s first year’s vet expenses may be around $1,004 and this amount covers things such as microchipping, vaccination, de-sexing, and vet checkups. After the first year, ongoing annual costs for checkups and vaccination may range from $450-$800 a year.

What does it cost to have a cat?

Cats are a popular pet in Australia, with three out of ten households having a cat family member. Having a feline companion at home can add companionship, affection, and humour to your life, but we don’t always think about how much it costs.

Before you adopt or buy your cat, doing a budgeting exercise can give you a good idea of how much you should be prepared to pay for your cat over the years. Cats can live for 15 years or more, so welcoming your new companion to your household is a long-term emotional and financial commitment.

One-time / upfront cat expenses

Carry cage and bed $50-$100
Collar and bell $15-$50Council registration: $23-$201
(de-sexed or un-desexed)
De-sexing $115-$300 (male or female)
Flea and worming treatments $100
Food and bowls $370 upwards, depending on quality
Grooming $50 upwards, depending on breed and frequency
Kitten vaccinations $170-$200
Microchipping $60
Name tag $6-20
Purchase of cat $0-$2,000
Cat registration $30-90
Scratching post $20-$300
Toys and treats $30 upwards
Tray and litter $130-$180

Total for first year: $1,180-$3,660

*Please note, all figures above are approximate and are purely a guide to what it may cost for cat ownership.

Annual pet expenses

Annual vaccinations and veterinary check From $80
Flea and worming treatments $100-$150
Food: Approximately $370 upwards
Grooming $50
Litter $120 upwards
Toys and treats $30 upwards

Total for consecutive year: $880 minimum

What does cat insurance include?

Many pet insurance policies help to provide thousands of dollars’ worth of cover. Cat insurance can cover your cat for up to 80% of costs at any licensed veterinarian throughout Australia. If you choose to add on routine care to your pet insurance policy, your cat can also be covered for vaccinations, de-sexing, microchipping plus many other day to day health care options.

How much does it cost to insure my cat and what factors impact the premiums?

The cost for cat insurance is dependent on multiple factors such as the age, species, gender, desexed/spayed status, health condition, breed, activity levels and lifestyle of your cat as well as the level of cover you select and the insurer you choose to go with.

Petsy offers covers 3 levels of cover for accidents, illness as well as optional routine care. They also offer a cover option for indoor cars which includes home vet visits for cats that don’t usually leave the house.
In addition to this, each type of policy (e.g. accident only, accident & illness, or comprehensive cover) is a priced differently. This is because each one covers more than the last, with comprehensive being the most expensive, but also the most exhaustive in what you can claim on (including great benefits like subsidised checkups, vaccinations, and more).
Another thing that affects your premium is your excess. If you elect to pay a more expensive excess in the event of a claim, you’ll pay less each month in insurance premiums – and vice versa.
Last of all, each insurer prices their products differently, which means no two policies are likely to cost the same.

Can I insure my cat for life?

Once a cat has been accepted and as long as the policy is continually renewed, the cat will be covered for eligible vet expenses for life. Depending on the insurer, there can be varying age entry limits as well as age upper age limits when signing up to a new policy.

What kind of things aren’t covered with cat insurance?

Like any insurance policy, it doesn’t cover everything which means you should understand what it does and doesn’t cover before you sign up.
An exclusion is a treatment that is explicitly not covered by your pet insurance policy. Below are some of the more common exclusions you may find on a common policy.

  • Abuse: All insurers will not pay out claims when there’s evidence of a malicious act or negligence.
  • Ambulance costs: Many vets will do callouts and transportation for ill/injured animals. These costs may not be covered by your pet insurance policy, especially if it doesn’t turn out to be an emergency (a non-essential hospital admission).
  • Artificial limbs / other prosthetics: While you may find that your insurance covers a procedure to fit a prosthetic, the cost of the limb itself may not be.
  • Bilateral conditions: If a pre-existing condition affects a body part to which your pet has two of (e.g. eyes), then an injury or illness affecting the opposite body part is generally not covered by your insurance policy.
  • Dental issues: 85% of dogs four years and older suffer gum disease, according to VetWest. Because of this, many of us seek out pet insurance that covers dental treatment. Be careful, though, because many pet insurance policies will not cover some (or any) dental costs; like cleaning, orthodontics, oral disease, etc.
  • Diseases with a known vaccine: This exclusion is designed to stop people from neglecting important vaccinations and preventative treatments (e.g. parovirus, canine cough, Hepatitis, deworming tablets). However, you may not be able to claim even if your pet is properly vaccinated and contracts the disease anyway.
  • Elective procedures: This can include desexing, regular checkups, etc. If it’s not medically necessary treatment, you may not be able to claim for it. Comprehensive policies may cover routine care, while accident & illness policies exclude such cover.
  • Organ transplants: Organ transplants can be particularly risky operations, not to mention organs may not be the easiest to source for certain animals. As such, these procedures may not be covered under your policy.
  • Pregnancy/breeding: Treatments that are the result of pregnancy are usually not covered by your pet insurer. There are many reasons for this. For one, animals that aren’t desexed are at greater risk for developing certain healthcare conditions (e.g. urinary tract infections) and can be more aggressive towards other animals, which makes them higher claim risks.

The above doesn’t constitute an exhaustive list and it’s a good idea to refer to your product disclosure statement to learn the finer details of your policy.

Other pet insurance restrictions you may encounter

Your ability to claim on your pet insurance is limited by terms and conditions, or ‘rules’. Some of these rules dictate that you cannot claim instantly once your pet gets covered but there is a waiting period that applies before claiming.

  • Cruciate ligament conditions are fairly common and expensive to treat. Some pet policies will let you seek treatment after you sit through a waiting period when first signing up for insurance (e.g. six months).
  • Pre-existing conditions. Any conditions your pet had before you took out the policy will not be covered by your new insurance policy, unless otherwise stated by your insurer.

You are also unable to claim for treatments you’re currently sitting a waiting period for. Waiting periods can range from 30 days to six months.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

While you shop around for different pet insurance cover options, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each option however it is important to find an option that insures and protects your pet against as much as possible and as quickly as possible to make sure you’re protected against the unexpected.

References

  1. Pet ownership statistics – Australian Veterinary Association
  2. How long do cats live? Ageing and your feline – Vet West Animal Hospitals
  3. Adoption fees – RSPCA Victoria
  4. Getting a pet – ASIC’s MoneySmart
  5. Factory farms… for kittens – Animals Australia
  6. Doggone it: pet ownership in Australia – Roy Morgan
  7. How much do pets really cost? The answer may surprise you – Brad’s Deals
  8. Top Ten Tips on How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean – Pet MD

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