How to Spend Money Wisely » Insurance

Is pet insurance worth it?

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 behaviors 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 are 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 come 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?


  1. Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner

    Great post, as the owners of three dogs we’ve wrestled with this over the years and ultimately decided not to spend the money on the insurance.

  2. Laurie

    I put money into a separate bank account every month to help cover any seen and unforeseen vet bills. For me, the cost of pet insurance vs what it would cover was not worth it. Putting money aside every month does ensure that if/when it is needed there will be at least some money to cover any vet expenses. Even small monthly amounts accumulate over time.

  3. Nicole

    I have lost 2 cat’s 1 year apart from each other due to accidents. One because she had a bone infection/possible cancer in her jaw, was told a lumpectomy would cost $800 but I was on EI at the time and couldnt afford it, so we did antibiotic, which worked! But 1 day a few months later she jumped from the top of the fridge (her normal practice) and her jaw fractured at 2am. So she was bleeding out, rushed her to emergency vet who told me $3000 or put her down ($400). Had I just done the lumpectomy I would have saved my cat and my money 🙁
    Second cat had a bowel obstruction from eating (I think) a lid of some sort and he was 10 years old with a heart murmur. My vet told me the operation was $1200 but his chance of survival was low, so I decided to put him down.
    I decided to get another cat and now have vet insurance with trupanion. If I had $4000 set aside for an emergency I would skip it, but going through so much heart ache over not having the funds truly broke my heart.

  4. Steven

    Great post. My wife and I also wrestle with this one a lot. Especially because our 4 or 5 (we’re not sure) year old bassethound is a rescue (more pre-existings we may not even be aware of). I agree that foresight to do your homework and save a bit every month – either general emergency fund or dedicated – should cover your bases if anything ever happened….

    If you could share, which sources did you find most helpful when looking into what your cat might suffer from? Different species, I know, however I’m always in the lookout for better sources on Sally’s quirks!


    • B

      Call up your vet – they are your best source of information and would be happy to discuss lifestage and breed specific risks!

  5. Lance @ Money Life and More

    I don’t and won’t ever get pet insurance. There are too many exclusions and I would probably save money over the long run assuming nothing catastrophic happens (but even if it did… would it be covered?)

  6. CF

    We have a neutered male cat who is somewhat obese and eats mostly dry food… now you got me wondering! But I would not be likely to get pet insurance. There’s just too many other places where that money is better used at the moment. Hopefully our regular emergency fund would be enough to cover any cat emergencies!

    I would also suggest that if your pet requires medical attention that you cannot afford, to contact the animal care center at your local university or veterinary training school. They may be able to fix your pet up as a study case for students. My friend did this for his cat and it worked out beautifully.

  7. Nathalie

    Devil’s advocate:

    NO pet should be subjected to being put down because their owner took his or her chances, couldn’t be bothered, or simply weren’t in a position to provide proper, complete care.

    If you haven’t a specific account set aside for emergency and unforeseen expenses (either in a dedicated savings fund OR insurance policy AND aside from a traditional emergency fund), you aren’t in a position to own a pet. Period.

    • Marry Ann

      I totally agree with Nathalie. Would you take the same risk for your children? Having a pet animal is not a hobby, it is a responsibility. If you are too stingy to provide for the pet, you shouldn’t have one.
      P.S. I have been taking care of a sick cat for over a year and if it means I get to eat out less, or shop less, or economize on anything I can, I am OK with it.

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