Is Pet Insurance Worth It For Indoor Cat

Depending on who you ask and their experience with raising cats, the response to whether pet insurance is worth it for an indoor cat will vary. This makes it incredibly difficult to make a decision that you feel good about.

The short answer is, yes, pet insurance is worth it for an indoor cat but only if you get it when your cat is healthy between the age of 5 and 8. This is because a cat is prone to developing a serious illness when they are around 8 or 9.

The average cost of a medical bill for a serious illness is $5,000 whereas common treatable conditions is $500 – $900. But common treatable conditions likely won’t benefit from the pet insurance because of an annual deductible.

If you get pet insurance with a plan of $5,000 maximum annual coverage which has an annual deductible of $500, you will pay about $25/month.

If you opt for this plan when your cat is 5 until she’s 20, you will have paid a total premium of $4,500 over the life of your cat which is the average cost of treating a serious illness.

Let me walk you through the rationale of how I came up with this conclusion.

Why I Initially Said No to Pet Insurance

I initially went into this with a bias against pet insurance.

When I adopted Nala and Charlie from the shelter, I was working at a job that included as part of the benefits a subsidy on pet insurance. So I contacted  them to sign up for pet insurance and lo-and-behold, even with the subsidy, the insurance was going to be $35/month per cat.

Unable to get over the sticker shock, I justified that they didn’t need it because they were indoor cats.

Fast forward a number of years. This past week, I had a scare in which I brought Nala to the vet to get a lump on her lower lip checked out. I googled possible causes of a lump in a cat’s lower lip and the word ‘cancer’ screamed at me from the screen.

I immediately called my vet and scheduled an appointment for an hour later. The doctor told me the lump was quite small at this time so it would be an overreaction to put her on antibiotics or order a biopsy. So she sent us home with instructions to me to carefully monitor it over the next few days.

If it grows and a lesion forms, then bring her back in. If it doesn’t get any worse, it will probably go away on its own.

The visit to the vet got me thinking about pet insurance. What I once dismissed so quickly due to the cost I am now wondering if I had made a mistake. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m sure Nala is going to be fine and the lump is not going to be a big deal.

But looking ahead, I thought now is as good a time as any to revisit if pet insurance is worth it for an indoor cat.

After researching for facts and figures, I’ve concluded that pet insurance is indeed worth it. Let me take you through how my research changed my mind about pet insurance.

Average Medical Bills for Cat Illnesses

Other than for regular routine visits which aren’t covered by pet insurance anyway, there are 3 categories as to why your cat may need to visit the Vet:

  1. Accidents & Emergency Injury
  2. Common Treatable Condition
  3. Chronic Illness

Accidents & emergency injuries include bloody face with cuts from getting scratched by another cat, broken legs from accidentally falling off a 4th story building, ingesting pesticide that your neighbor sprayed on their lawn.

An example of a common easily treatable condition is dental surgery involving tooth extraction, hyperthyroidism or an upset stomach.

Chronic illnesses are the worst of these, which mainly is some kind of cancer or lymphoma.

Below is a collection of average costs of various treatments at the veterinary clinic from various sources (cited below the table).

1. Accidents & Emergency injury
Would repair (single to multiple wounds) $125 – $325
Ligament repair $995
Exploratory surgery $855
Foreign body removal $855 – $1,300
2. Common Treatable Condition
Lower urinary tract disease $425
Dental/gum disease $327
Tooth extraction $924
Bladder stones $985
Gall bladder removal $855
Upper respiratory infection $189
Skin abscess, inflammation, or pressure ulcer $458
Stomach upset, bloat or stomach torsion $328 – $995
Intestinal upset $185
Hyperthyroidism $396
Opening nasal passages to aid breathing $255
Inflammatory bowel disease or acquired lymphangiectasia $365
Benign skin mass $291
3. Chronic Illness
Diabetes (one time visit to long-term treatment) $779 – $10,496
Chronic kidney disease $633
Lymphosarcoma/lymphoma $1,959
Cancer of the abdominal wall $813
Cancer of the skin (malignant skin mass) $1508
Cancer of the liver $779
Cancer of the mouth $1102
Cancer of the nasal cavity $927
Hip dysplasia $7815
Acute liver failure (cost of long-term treatment) $5453
Seizures $1984
Glaucoma (long-term treatment) $800 – $5,805

Sources: Petmd/Veterinary Pet Insurance, trupanion, Helping Hands, Wagwalking

Accidents and injuries can cost anywhere from ~$100 to ~$1,300 for minor to severe conditions, with the average being ~$1,300. An indoor cat will be less prone to accidents and injuries so these costs will be far and few between.

Common treatable conditions range from ~$200 to $1,000. Many of these conditions show up when your cat is older. For example, dental treatment and hyperthyroidism is quite common in older cats.

Chronic illnesses can cost anywhere from $600 to over $10,000 if your cat requires long-term treatment and several surgeries. The average cost of cancer treatments above that are $1,000 or less are for one-time treatments but he/she will need ongoing treatment and regular visits to the doctor during remission to make sure the illness doesn’t come back.

In reading through countless anecdotes, the middle of the road medical bill is about $5,000 for a life-threatening serious illness with a minimum of $2,000 up to $10,000+ in some cases.

  • Bubbles developed a severe colon disease at the age of 7. Their owners spent $3,000 on medicine alone and another $4,000 on surgery for a total of $7,000 to save their cat baby.
  • Sammy required radiation to treat tumor which cost $2,000. Sammy lived for 2 more years after that.
  • This 10-year old cat diagnosed with liver cancer needed biopsy and surgery which cost $14,000.
  • The average bill to treat a diagnosis for your cat is $800 – $1,500 and every 6 seconds, a pet owner is handed a $3,000 bill.
  • The reality is the cancer treatment will cost about $10,000.
  • Peanut’s left patella was out of place. Surgery would cost $2,500.
  • An average cost of anesthesia and surgery is $3,000 – $4,000.

Probability of Your Cat Getting Sick

According to Animal Cancer Foundation, 1 in every 5 cats develop cancer in their lifetime. The types of cancer that ravage their poor little bodies include lymphoma, skin cancer, leukemia, skin cancer to name a few.

Diabetes occurs in 1 out of 230 cats.

Your cat will need a dental surgery most likely at least once in their lifetime.

Hyperthyroidism is the most common medical condition in cats. The median age of cats that get hyperthyroidism is 13 years old and only 5% of cats who get hyperthyroidism is younger than 10 years old.

To look at the value of pet insurance, I’ve simplified into categories the probability and the median cost of your cat developing above conditions as below. Note that the probabilities are not scientifically backed but my rational and logical way of summarizing based on my research.

For an Indoor Cat: Accidental Injury Common Condition Chronic Illness
Probability 10% 80% 20%
Average Cost $900 $400 $5,000

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

So now that we’ve summarized the average cost (or better known in the industry as “premium”) and probability of medical bills from the vet for a cat, now let’s look at the average cost of pet insurance.

First, you choose the type of coverage you want your pet insurance to cover, which affects the premium between:

  1. Accidents-only
  2. Accidents & illnesses

Accidents-only plan covers injuries such as cuts and wounds from a cat fight or a broken ligament from getting hit by a bicycle, for example. Accidents & illnesses cover not just accident-caused injuries but also chronic life-threatening illnesses.

Then, you can pick the maximum amount covered by insurance. For example, you can choose a plan with a lower premium which will only cover a maximum of $5,000 of medical bills or a plan with a higher premium which doesn’t have a maximum amount of coverage.

Other factors that affect pet insurance premiums are your cat’s breed, age of your cat, where you live, and if your cat has had previous medical conditions.

Although some pet insurance companies may accept your cat until age 14, most don’t accept if your cat is older than 8 or 9.

Affordable Plans

As reported by Valuepenguin, for a 4 year old (considered medium-risk) female cat with no preexisting conditions, a plan that provides a $500 deductible and an annual maximum amount coverage of $5,000 and 80% reimbursement level, the average monthly premium is $21, with the range as shown ranking from cheapest to the most expensive:

Insurer Monthly Premium
PetsBest $9.94
Embrace $13.79
Figo ($10,000 annual max) $15.38
ASPCA $16.77
PetFirst $16.95
Nationwide ($250 deductible, unlimited max) $17.03
Petplan $19.66
Healthy Paws (No annual max) $24.75
AKC/PetPartners ($3k incident max) $27.83
Trupanion (No annual max, 90% reimbursement) $28.14
24PetWatch ($100 deductible) $40.69
Average $20.99

The above is for the lowest maximum amount covered per year of $5,000. So for plans that cover more per year and have a lower deductible (which is how much you have to pay for every claim) will result in a much higher premium.

Everyday Comprehensive Plans

The average premium of $21/month reported above also doesn’t include routine care such as vaccinations and flea control.

Typically, cat owners end up opting for the “everyday” plan which is more comprehensive and includes hereditary illnesses. The average premium for that with a higher maximum coverage is $35/month, about $1 a day.

All inclusive and all comprehensive, no maximum plans can cost $100/month.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover

Again, the plan you choose differs in the coverage. Accidents-only will typically be $10/month but will only cover accidents such as a broken leg.

Comprehensive plans that cost about $35/month will include accidents and hereditary illnesses such as cancer.

The quote for the recommended plan for Nala is $37/month and seems to include a pretty comprehensive coverage as shown in the image below.

is pet insurance worth it for indoor cat

So, Is Pet Insurance Worth It for an Indoor Cat?

Let’s say I did opt for a plan that’s $23/month. For 10 years that’s $2,760.  

And since the deductible is $500, a common condition such as treating hyperthyroidism that has an average treatment cost of $400 wouldn’t be covered.

But serious conditions that may rack up the bill to $5,000 will certainly be worth it.

Considering the probability of a cat getting cancer is 1 in 5 cats, that’s a 20% chance of a $5,000 bill later on in your cat’s mature life.

A rational statistician would say that’s and expected cost of $1,000 and therefore an insurance premium over the next 10 years of $2,760 is not worth it.

But if it’s a matter of a one-time cost of $5,000 that can strike at any point vs not eating out one dinner a month, the latter is worth it.

Pet Insurance vs Emergency Fund

One thing I found many cat owners opting for is an emergency fund that they create on their own. An argument for an emergency fund is that routine vet care isn’t covered anyway and money you save in an emergency fund is more flexible.

I can see the rationale for an emergency fund. Had I paid for pet insurance for Nala from the time I adopted her, I would’ve already paid $1,500 in insurance premiums. Realistically, you have to accept the fact that you’re paying about $4,000 – $5,000 over the life of your cat.

So, an emergency fund or pet insurance is probably going to be about the same that you set aside. But with pet insurance, you also get peace of mind.

Best Pet Insurance for Cats

A report by Consumer Advocate that compared the best pet insurance for cats. They recommended the following top pet insurance companies.

For My American Friends:

  1. Healthypaws
  2. Petplan
  3. Embrace
  4. Nationwide
  5. FIGO
  6. PetFirst
  7. Pets Best

For My Canadian Friends:

  1. Petplan
  2. Trupanion
  3. Petsplus
  4. Petsecure
  5. PC Insurance

What To Look For

Consumer Advocate advises that to pick the best pet insurance, look for plans that include the following coverage:

  • Accidents & illnesses
  • Hereditary, congential & chronic conditions
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Emergency care
  • Hospitalization
  • Specialist care
  • Prescription medication
  • Surgery

They also recommend that when picking a pet insurance, make sure that they don’t drop coverage when your cat turns a certain age.

Plans can have deductibles (how much you have to pay every time you claim) that reset to 0 every year or a lifetime deductible. Opt for plans that have a lifetime deductible. This means if the deductible is $500, then you pay $500 once and in the future if your cat gets sick again, you don’t have to pay another $500 deductible. Although this is ideal, this will dramatically increase your plan premium, so it may not be worth it if you’re really scraping the dollars to pay for the premiums.

Reimbursements tend to be 70%-90% on average. Although a 100% reimbursement is ideal, it’s not as popular a plan because that increases the monthly premium by quite a bit and most pet insurance plans don’t even offer 100% reimbursement. But at least make sure that the plan’s policy says they will reimburse you based on the actual cost of the veterinary bill.

Summary

So, my cats are 4 and 5 years old now. When I first adopted them, I opted not to get pet insurance. I’m glad I didn’t get it at the time, because I would be out ~$3,000 by now on premiums alone for the two cats.

And if you get pet insurance for your indoor cat from when they are a kitten and let’s say they live to be 20, you will have paid total premium of about $8,000.

My research indicates that the value of pet insurance is really against life threatening illnesses that present in your cat’s life when they are mature or senior. Due to deductibles and only ~80% of deductible, you won’t be covered for common medical conditions that cost about $500.

So this is my conclusion. I’m glad I didn’t get pet insurance for my cats when they were kittens.

Since the probability of your cat getting an illness goes up as your cat gets older, it is rational to get pet insurance when your cat has reached the age of 5 onwards.

I hope this helps you in your decision to get pet insurance. Good luck.