Should you buy pet insurance for your cat?

You love your cat, and as hard as they may try to deny it, they love you, too. But whether your cat sleeps in a windowsill or roams around your farm all day, they can get very expensive, very fast. 

When it comes to finding the best litter, the tallest scratching posts, and toys they’ll actually use, the costs for a happy cat can quickly add up. According to the ASPCA, it typically costs around $800 a year to own a cat—that doesn’t include the cost of potential emergency medical care.

Cats are known for being independent, but sometimes that confidence can cause unexpected accidents or illnesses. The thought of facing down $11,000 in vet bills after your confident cat decides to jump out a third-story window can seem impossible to fathom. Because cats have a reputation for “taking care of themselves,” their owners might not be prepared for these potential financial threats. 

Unfortunately, these financial burdens can put unprepared pet parents in impossible situations, which can lead to improper medical care. In drastic cases, some pet parents may have to opt to put their beloved cat to sleep because of economic euthanasia, when they can no longer afford treatments. 

While common ailments like urinary tract infections can cost upwards of $300, debilitating illnesses like cancer treatments or hip dysplasia can cost over $10,000 without pet insurance. Some pet parents may be unable to afford that.

That’s why so many pet parents turn to pet insurance policies for that extra peace of mind when it comes to their favorite kitties. Although cats may think that they’re smarter than us, cat parents know that it’s impossible to predict when emergencies might happen. Having an insurance policy can be that extra lifeline in your corner when you need it the most. 

By finding the right pet insurance plan, you could pay for as little as 10 percent of your vet bill. Some pet insurance companies even offer a 100 percent reimbursement – meaning you wouldn’t pay anything for covered conditions.

And for pet parents with healthy cats that just seem to lay around the house all day, some insurance providers offer coverage options for routine and preventive care. This means that your policy will help cover annual wellness visits, vaccines, parasite prevention, grooming, and routine testing.

How much does cat insurance cost?

Pet insurance can seem super confusing, but it’s actually pretty similar to human health insurance. Understanding the basics of your insurance policy will help set expectations and find the best coverage for your cat. 

The cost of pet insurance typically depends on factors like breed, age, size, and location. Mixed-breed cats typically have lower monthly premiums because they aren’t as susceptible to breed-related diseases. The average monthly premium for a mixed-breed cat is $27 per month, and the average monthly cost for a purebred cat is $40. Younger cats, cats that aren’t brachycephalic, and cats that live in states with cheaper veterinary care also usually have a cheaper premium.

These factors are usually out of your control, but most pet insurance providers allow policyholders to customize coverage elements that affect the monthly premium. Factors like the individual plan, reimbursement level, deductible, and annual payout limit can often be adjusted to fit your budget. 

Reimbursement level

Most pet insurance companies use a reimbursement system, which means that pet owners pay for veterinary treatments out-of-pocket and are reimbursed by their insurance after filing a claim. 

If you were to choose a 70 percent reimbursement, you would still pay 30 percent of the veterinary invoice after receiving repayment from your insurance provider. The lower you set your reimbursement level, the less you pay each month in your premium.

The reimbursement level is typically between 40 percent and 90 percent of the entire vet invoice, but some companies like Figo offer to reimburse up to 100 percent of the bill. While it might seem like the most cost-effective reimbursement option, choosing a 100 percent reimbursement usually has to be paired with the providers’ highest deductible and is limited to younger, healthier cats. 

Deductible

The annual deductible is the amount policyholders have to spend out-of-pocket each year on covered veterinary treatments before any reimbursements can be made. Typically, the higher you set your deductible, the less you pay in your premium each month. That means if you were to choose a higher deductible, like $1,000, you would have to spend $1,000 out-of-pocket before being able to use your insurance policy. 

Most insurance companies let you customize the deductible in amounts between $100 and $1,000. 

Annual payout limit

The annual payout limit is the maximum amount that your insurance company will pay towards your veterinary bills every year. This is an important factor to consider when creating your insurance policy because it determines how much you’ll actually be able to receive throughout the year. The lower the annual payout, the less you would pay each month. But if you were to choose a $5,000 payout and your cat needed multiple surgeries that exceeded $10,000, you would have to pay $5,000 out-of-pocket. 

Fortunately, some companies like Trupanion and Healthy Paws offer an unlimited annual payout regardless of the plan, while others allow you to customize the amount. But don’t forget that Trupanion has a per-incident deductible, which might be more expensive in the long run.

Buying the Best Cat Insurance for Your Cat

Although pet health insurance might be very beneficial when it comes to saving money, it isn’t perfect. There are a number of things cat parents should understand about what’s not typically covered in order to level expectations. 

Pre-existing conditions

When searching for the perfect insurance policy for your cat, it’s important to understand that no pet insurance on the market will cover pre-existing conditions. This means that any medical diagnoses in your cat’s medical history before starting your plan won’t be covered by the policy. This includes recurring illnesses, chronic conditions, hereditary conditions, injuries, and sometimes symptoms without a formal medical diagnosis depending on the company. 

This means that some insurance companies will even exclude coverage for undiagnosed symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting. This would allow these providers to deny claims for instances of gastrointestinal disorders because it could be linked back to these symptoms.

But some insurance companies like Pets Best, Embrace, and ASPCA will reinstate coverage for pre-existing conditions that are deemed “cured.” This usually refers to any diagnoses that don’t have recurring symptoms or require treatment for a year. 

Pre-existing conditions also occur during your policy’s waiting period. This might be confusing to some pet parents that assume coverage would start on the day it’s purchased. Most providers use waiting periods, which are specific amounts of time between the finalization of your plan and the start of your coverage. The waiting period depends on the company, but most plans start around 15 days for accident and illness coverage. Usually, it takes six months for any knee or hip problems. But some companies like Figo make customers wait a year before getting coverage for hip dysplasia, cardiovascular defects, and cruciate ligament injuries. 

Routine and preventative care

Pet parents also might not realize that most pet insurance companies don’t provide wellness coverage in their policies. But many companies offer wellness plan add-ons, which would add another cost to the monthly premium. 

Pet insurance is supposed to work for potential future problems, rather than expected annual fees. But some pet parents, especially new kitten owners, would benefit from buying a wellness plan. Wellness plans from companies like Embrace, ASPCA, or Pets Best would reimburse the cost of routine vet visits, vaccinations, and spay/neuter surgery. 

Dental disease 

When cat parents buy insurance plans that claim to offer accident and illness coverage, they usually don’t expect exceptions on the type of illness. But many companies don’t include dental diseases. Companies like Healthy Paws, AKC, and Figo only cover tooth extractions after accidents. So even though periodontal disease and gingivitis are diseases, they won’t be covered by these companies. Most providers that offer the coverage will clearly mention it.

Best Companies for Cat Insurance

We at Insurify know that you would do anything for your cat, and that includes finding the best pet insurance options out there. So we’ve compiled a list of the best pet insurance companies for every new kitten owner or seasoned cat veteran.

RankCompanyExtra CoverageWellness OptionSpecial OffersPotential Drawback
#1Figo-Prescription drug coverage
-Dental disease coverage
X-100 percent reimbursement option
-Figo pet cloud app
-No upper age limit
-Multiple pet discount
-Won't cover problems with coprophagia
(Eating poop)
#2Petplan-Boarding kennel fees
-Monetary loss due to theft
-Vacation cancellation due to pet illness or injury
-Reinstated coverage for "cured" pre-existing conditions
-Prescription drug coverage
-Dental disease coverage
X-Special programs for breeders
-Option for per condition deductibles
-Discount for veterans, AARP members, and registered service animals
-Won't cover treatments for weight loss
-Won't cover behavioral conditions
-More expensive per month than competitors 
#3Embrace-Accident-only option
-Reinstate "cured" pre-existing conditions
-Dental disease coverage
-Prescription drug coverage
-Vanishing deductible
-Vet direct instant pay
-Waiting period reduction option
-Multiple pet discount
-Upper age limit on the comprehensive plan
#4Pets Best-Prescription drug coverage

-Dental disease coverage

-Reinstate "cured" pre-existing conditions

-Accident-only coverage
-No upper age limit
-24/7 pet helpline
-Vet direct instant pay
-Multiple pet discount
-Only two options for annual payout: $5,000 or unlimited
-Won't cover holistic, herbal, or experimental treatments
#5ASPCA-Prescription drug coverage
-Accident-only coverage
-Reinstate "cured" pre-existing conditions
-Dental disease coverage
-Multiple pet discount
-No upper age limit
-Base reimbursements off the geographic average instead of the actual invoice

And for those of you that want a more in-depth review for why these companies made this list, look no further: 

#1 Figo

Figo is a great company for cat owners because of its expansive coverage and extra benefits. Cat parents choose between three comprehensive plans that vary in annual and maximum lifetime benefits and acupuncture and chiropractic care. Figo is one of the cheapest pet insurance companies with an average cost of $29 per month, and the company offers multi-pet discounts.

Although Figo doesn’t have a wellness care add-on, it is one of the few companies to offer a 100 percent reimbursement option. This could potentially save pet parents with sick cats a lot of money down the road. Another great benefit Figo offers is the Figo pet cloud, which is an app that can be used to manage all of your cat’s veterinary and non-veterinary activities. It functions as a portal for your insurance policy and provides an easy way to upload any documents, submit claims, and access Figo’s 24/7 veterinary service. The Figo pet cloud stands out because it functions as a way to access policy information, but also as a social media platform for pet parents. 

The app maps out pet-friendly locations that are certified by other Figo customers. It also allows pet parents to connect and provide reviews for various animal services around you. Your cat might not be interested in visiting a local dog park or pet-friendly cafe, but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your fellow Figo members approve of certain groomers or pet-sitters. 

#2 Petplan

Petplan is another great option for cat parents because it combines accident and illness coverage with unexpected non-veterinary coverage. The company only offers one plan option but allows pet parents to customize the annual payout, deductible, and reimbursement level.

It’s annual payouts range from $2,500 to an unlimited amount. The deductible options range from $250 to $1,000 in $50 increments, and the reimbursement levels range from 70 percent to 90 percent. Unfortunately, Petplan is one of the more expensive pet insurance agencies with an average of $39 per month. 

Petplan stands out from competitors because of its unique coverage options. It offers to reinstate coverage for “cured” pre-existing conditions, which means Petplan will cover any medical problem that hasn’t returned after 365 days. But what makes Petplan special is the coverage for non-veterinary fees like boarding kennel costs. Petplan will even reimburse people on vacations that have to be canceled if your cat gets sick or injured. 

#3 Embrace

Embrace is a popular option when it comes to cat health insurance because of its complete coverage and flexibility. Embrace lets pet owners pick between accident and illness coverage or accident-only coverage. They are also given the option to add a wellness plan for routine care, like spay/ neutering, annual check-ups, and routine blood tests. Important coverages include prescriptions, behavioral therapy, and dental diseases. Compared to other insurance providers, Embrace has mid-tier pricing at an average of $33 per month and offers a multi-pet discount.

Although it isn’t the cheapest, Embrace offers a variety of benefits to justify the cost. It enrolls all customers into the healthy pet deductible. The healthy pet deductible is a program that lowers your deductible by $50 every year that you don’t file a claim. This means that if you had chosen a $300 annual deductible and don’t file any claims for the next six years, you would have a $0 deductible for your seventh year. This is a great option for owners with healthy pets that want the peace of mind that comes with an insurance policy.

Embrace is also another company that reinstates coverage for “cured” pre-existing conditions on a case-by-case basis. Embrace’s website specifically cites illnesses like respiratory infections and urinary tract and bladder diseases as qualified to be reinstated.

Unfortunately, Embrace does have an upper age limit on its accident and illness plan. This means that any cat over the age of 14 can only qualify for accident coverage. All cats are eligible for Embrace’s wellness plan regardless of age.

#4 Pets Best

Pets Best is another insurance company that might cost a little more but offers a wide range of coverage. Averaging at $38 per month, Pets Best offers three plans and a wellness care add-on. Pets Best also offers an accident-only plan that only costs $6 per month for cats and a multi-pet discount.

All of Pets Best’s plans offer accident and illness coverage, which includes explicit coverage for congenital, hereditary, and chronic conditions. Pet’s Best also includes coverage for prescriptions and dental diseases, which other companies may not. The more expensive plans add coverage for non-routine exam fees and alternative therapies. 

Pets Best’s wellness plans can be added on for an additional $15 to $30 per month. Wellness plans can help keep costs down on routine treatment costs that might add up over time, like vaccinations and routine testing. Other benefits Pets Best offers are reinstating coverage for “cured” pre-existing conditions and a 24/7 veterinary hotline. The Pets Best hotline is a great tool for pet parents to determine whether they need emergency care by speaking to professionals before going to a clinic.

Unfortunately, Pets Best only offers two options for the annual payout: $5,000 or an unlimited amount. Cat parents looking to lower their monthly premium might put themselves in a difficult situation by limiting the annual payout to $5,000. 

#5 ASPCA

The ASPCA is known for its work in animal welfare, and it’s obvious it cares about providing great coverage in its insurance. It offers accident and illness coverage or accident-only coverage. Plans from ASPCA cost an average of $30 per month, which is lower than most competitors. It also offers a multi-pet discount and wellness plan add-on.

ASPCA offers a variety of benefits for policyholders. It offers to reinstate coverage for “cured” pre-existing conditions. It also provides prescription and dental disease coverage.

However, ASPCA doesn’t base reimbursement on patient invoices. Instead, all reimbursements are based on the average price of medical treatment in your area. This means that if you were billed $450 for a neutering and the average cost for the procedure in your city was $200, you would only be reimbursed $180 with a 90 percent reimbursement plan.

Updated June 5, 2020

Samantha Vargas is a freelance writer for Insurify. She has a background in comparative English literature and film and has produced a variety of journalistic content for the University at Buffalo's independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. She currently works in Buffalo, NY while finishing her master's degree. She spends her free time baking and working with animal welfare groups.