Just about a year ago my wife and I got a cat. We rescued him from the pound, and we learned all about the costs of pet ownership. Pets, it turns out, don't have to be terribly expensive to maintain. In my opinion, pets are definitely worth the cost, as the sheer joy that they provide is worth far more than the monetary monthly cost. One of the things that we thought about at that point was whether or not we should get pet insurance. I read up a little on it, and the general consensus seemed to be similar to that of an extended warranty. Handy if you need it, a complete waste if you don't. So take the money you would normally spend on the additional assurance, put it aside, so you have it if you need it.

So is pet insurance worth it? Well this last week, we would have liked to have it. Our cat was acting funny, and when we took him to the emergency vet we learned that our cat was exhibiting all the behaviours and has all the risk factors associated with a blocked urinary tract. Basically our cat couldn't pee. The initial estimate to “fix” that problem would be in the two to three thousand dollar range, as it would require surgery, monitoring, blood tests, etc. That's a difficult situation to be put in. You're basically put in a situation where you have to choose between keeping your cat alive and your financial well-being. That's not a fun place to be.
Thankfully, we caught it early enough that it was not completely blocked, so some medicine, some fluids, and a couple of tests later, we have a drugged up by alive and hopefully well cat. But, now we're looking a little more into pet insurance and whether we should start paying a monthly fee just in case it happens again. Here's a few things we will consider.

Risk Factors

In our case, our ignorance cost us a lot of money. Male cats, who have been neutered, who have a mostly dry food diet and who are overweight, are most likely to get the lower urinary disease that ours has. Less than 1% of cats will get it, but because ours hits all the risk factors, we should have been doing some preventative maintenance, in specific diet and home care remedies. So for your pet, do some research into common problems that your pet can have. Some pure breed dogs, for example, are very likely to have fragile bones, or digestive issues, or bladder issues. Find out ahead of time what your pet could potentially have to deal with. Knowing ahead of time can not only help you prevent those things from ever happening, but it can also let you know what type of costs you may have coming towards you throughout your animal's life.

Insurance Cost

With that in mind, start looking into how much it would cost to insure your pet. Try to find a few different providers, and look into the specific details of what they will and will not cover. Some insurances will not cover accidents, and others will provide less coverage for accidents. So if your pet is outside and gets bitten by a snake, for example, it may not be covered. Check also about whether they will pay for preventable diseases, how often they will pay, and what the method of payment will be. Ideally you can find a pet insurance that has a reasonable monthly rate that will cover 20-25 times the monthly rate in emergency event. Less than that, you would be better off just putting that money aside. More than that, and depending on the likelihood of an emergency, it is most likely worth it to purchase.

The Intangibles

I feel like I got a glimpse of the American health care system, where I was told that I could save something that I loved, but only if I had enough money to cover it. That's a horrible feeling. It's worse when you think to yourself, “Well, I can cover it, but then I would ruined financially for quite some time… but is that worth it?”. Having pet insurance, even if it doesn't cover the whole amount, would completely relieve you from having to make that decision. That power and feeling of being free to take care of your pets without financial stress, well, that I can completely understand.
Looking back at our situation, financially, I think that if everything continues to be okay, we will have been better off financially by not having pet insurance. Financially, however, is not the only thing that needs to be considered. It's the emotions, the mental stress and strain of trying to figure out what we can cut out financially to potentially pay for thousands of dollars of cat care, that is something that is difficult to put a dollar value on.
Do you have pet insurance? What kind? Why or why not?

About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.