Michelle Schenker, COO and founder of Canine Journal, recalls the terrifying moment when a Copperhead snake bit her new pup.
An incident with a backyard snake forced Michelle to choose between losing Lily and paying for an antivenom treatment that cost $1,700.
“For most, this financial decision, especially on a dog who was new to our family, would have seemed insane but lucky for us we had signed Lily up for pet insurance with Petplan the week we adopted her because we have seen minor benefits of hedging your risks with our other dogs….I am thankful everyday we had the ability to make that choice so quickly to treat her because now we cannot imagine our family without her in it.”
In an article published on the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association site, Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM describes economic euthanasia as a “disease in need of prevention”.
From dental cleaning to antivenom treatments to stem cell therapy, today’s veterinary treatments run the gamut from seemingly mundane to cutting-edge. And they’re never cheap.
Treating a cat who swallowed a string could cost $2,910. A broken leg could cost $3,267 dollars. Urinary tract disease could cost $1,239. Devastating illnesses like cancer could bring home bills as high as $40,000.
In a world where veterinary medical treatments can rack up bills in the tens of thousands, economic euthanasia is a reality.
Choosing to save money – or dodge bankruptcy – rather than save your pet’s life is a decision that involves anguish, guilt, shame, and regret for both pet guardian and their veterinarian.
Choosing a good pet insurance can give you peace of mind when catastrophe arrives. As Ms. Schenker said, it gives you the ability to make the life-saving choice without worrying that it will leave you penniless.
Pet insurance can provide peace of mind, but it’s not always a good investment.
There’s no such thing as a standardized pet insurance policy. Many will slam you with exclusions when you need coverage most.
Dealing with a pet insurance provider can feel like walking through a minefield of exclusions. Remember that while they can afford to cover some – or most – of those costs that you can’t, an insurance provider is like a casino. The house always wins.
Broadly defining and excluding pre-existing conditions helps to ensure that the insurance company stays ahead rather than going broke to the policyholders most likely to take out frequent large claims.
While no pet insurance provider will cover pre-existing conditions, providers’ definitions vary from provider to provider and on a case-by-case basis.
It’s not unlikely that you’ll make a claim on what you thought was a new condition, only for the insurance provider to tell you that it was linked to a condition treated years ago. Claims are frequently denied under the pretense of a pre-existing condition exclusion.
In some cases, creating a dedicated savings account is the practical choice.
A dedicated savings account is the practical choice when paying for wellness visits. Because regular checkups seldom cost over $250 each year, you’re better off putting money aside than paying for coverage you don’t need.
When we start discussing huge bills, however, pet insurance gives you an advantage.
Pet insurance allows you to use other people’s money to pay bills your savings account can’t touch.
As soon as you start using pet insurance, you have access to 100% of the benefits offered by your pet insurance provider.
This means that if your cat develops a urethral blockage one week after your coverage begins, the insurance company will cover their percentage of the bill.
If you opt for a savings account and start putting 10% of your income away today, it could take months or years to grow a fund capable of paying for urinalysis, catheterization, and hospital stays.
It’s a poor choice for uninsured cats who suffer from preexisting conditions.
If your cat has already been through the medical wringer with surgeries, serious illnesses, and other health issues, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get much value out of pet insurance.
Jennifer Brown, pet owner and former pet insurance policyholder, liked the idea of insuring her dogs.
After adopting her first pup in 2006, Jennifer discussed her options with her veterinarian, who discouraged the choice to get pet insurance. According to the vet, the dog’s few existing issues would lead to a slew of denied claims and a policy that wasn’t worth the monthly premium.
When a new employee benefit package brought pet insurance to the Brown household, the vet’s suggestion was proven right. Declined claims were a constant theme for both of Jennifer’s dogs.
“I just save money or use a credit card when necessary,” she concluded, because “pet insurance is simply not worth it.”
If you’ve determined that pet insurance is right for you and your cat, how do you choose the best pet insurance provider?
Choose a plan that provides quality coverage at a price you can afford.
Don’t be afraid to toggle deductibles, maximums, and reimbursement percentages to get the premium that works for your budget.
Another benefit of flexible rates is that you can adjust them over time. As your cat ages and the premiums increase, you can offset those age adjustments by changing your deductible and reimbursement rate.
Don’t underestimate the importance of good customer service.
A sick cat is stressful enough and, supposedly, your insurance provider exists to give you peace of mind. Believe it or not, a phone call with your insurance provider shouldn’t leave you pathologically ripping up loose papers on your desk or muttering expletives to the tune of never-ending hold music.
Test a prospective provider’s customer service by giving them a test run – ask questions through the website’s chat feature, call their customer support line, and check for 24/7 support. Remember that most customers won’t hesitate to let the world know about their experience, so read customer reviews to learn how the company treats policyholders.
If you spot numerous reviews complaining about a disappointing customer support team, vague policy information, unreliable reimbursement, and soaring premiums, you can assume this pet insurance provider will cause more headaches than it solves.
Choose a provider that offer extensive coverage and check customer reviews to ensure that you’re getting the coverage you expect.
At this point, you won’t find a pet insurance provider who covers pre-existing conditions. That’s a fact of buying pet insurance.
Another fact of pet insurance is the reality that your provider’s definition of pre-existing conditions isn’t always spelled out in their policy and these definitions aren’t uniform across all providers.
Some providers don’t cover hereditary conditions or have limitations on them.
Read each provider’s website to see which conditions are covered under each plans.
Select a plan that reimburses a percentage of the actual vet’s bill, not a standard charge.
Some insurance providers base their reimbursements on “usual and customary” charges. Insurance providers calculate these rates based on national surveys, internal data, and knowledge of your area.
These usual and customary charges are not appropriate for a real-world billing scenario. Choose a reimbursement plan based on the care your cat receives in reality.
Choose a policy with a reimbursement maximum that works for you.
Choosing a maximum is a matter of understanding what you’re willing to pay and what your cat needs.
Like everything else in a flexible policy, it’s a good idea to toggle your maximum payout to determine how the changes will affect your premiums. A higher maximum will lead to higher premiums, but the impact might be less than you expect.
Remember that lower annual maximums will lead to higher out-of-pocket expenses in a catastrophe, so shop around and find a balance that works for you in both the short-term and the long-term.
Top 7 Pet Insurance Providers Reviewed
In order to evaluate each of these pet insurance providers, I’ve combed the providers’ sites, evaluated their policies, and read customer reviews on Yelp and Consumer Affairs, along with reviews on sites like Reviews.com, PetInsuranceU, Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, and Canine Journal.
To compare costs, I requested quotes from each company using the same fictional cat profile: a neutered 3-year old domestic shorthair living in Beverly Hills, California. His name is Prince Myshkin and he’ll be helping you to compare the rates offered by the 7 insurance providers on this list.
How affordable is Healthy Paws pet insurance for cats?
Healthy Paws offers flexible plans with an annual deductible and unlimited payouts.
An annual deductible means that you’ll only have to pay a single deductible each year – there’s no need to pay multiple deductibles for separate conditions. Their reimbursement options are also flexible, ranging from 70-90% of the actual vet bill.
Healthy Paws offers a single policy with unlimited lifetime coverage. This means that the company will reimburse you for any claim amount for the rest of your cat’s life – no payout maximums whatsoever.
Unlike most pet insurance providers, which will only reimburse you after you’ve already paid your veterinarian, Healthy Paws offers direct payment. There’s no need for your veterinarian to opt into a network. Healthy Paws direct payment is available for any veterinarian in the United States.
Vital Cost Statistics
- Choice of deductible of $100 to $500
- Choice of reimbursement percentage – 70%, 80%, and 90%
- Unlimited lifetime payout
How extensive is Healthy Paws pet insurance coverage?
Healthy Paws’ single policy is a comprehensive plan covering all accidents and illnesses, regardless of hereditary conditions. The plan includes non-traditional fees, including those for hospital stays, diagnoses, alternative treatments and therapies, and surgery.
While Healthy Paws offers extensive coverage, it won’t pay for wellness checks or exam fees.
What do customers think of Healthy Paws pet insurance?
On Yelp, Healthy Paws has an unprecedented 4 out of 5 star rating based on 374 reviews. Most negative reviews bemoan annual increases in premiums, while some others say that claims processing was slow.
The Bottom Line: Is Healthy Paws pet insurance a good choice for cats?
Pet Insurance U names Healthy Paws the number one best pet insurance provider of the year, a distinction it’s held since 2013. Pet Insurance U explains that its unlimited lifetime benefits, high payouts, and the absence of claim limits set Healthy Paws apart from the pack.
We agree that it belongs at the top of the pet insurance list. Like any insurance company, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than most.
- Unlimited lifetime coverage is an unusual perk
- Affordable premiums
- Comes with a direct payment option – no more waiting for reimbursement
- Offers discounts for select groups and club members
- Cats older than 14 years can’t start a new policy
This new entrant to the pet insurance industry is fully tech-integrated for the 21st century, but is it a strong choice for your cat?
How affordable is Figo pet insurance for cats?
Figo’s policies are some of the most flexible ones you’ll find. You can choose reimbursement rates of 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, or 100%. Figo’s annual deductibles range from $50 to $500. Their three payout levels offer $10,000, $14,000, and unlimited reimbursement annually.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Offers annual coverage limits of $10,000, $14,000, and unlimited
- Choose an annual deductible of between $50 and $500
- Choose a reimbursement level of 60%, 70%, 80%, or 90%
How extensive is Figo pet insurance coverage?
Figo covers veterinary fees, emergency care, hereditary conditions, surgery, prescription medications, chronic conditions, specialty care, and other treatments common to most accident and illness coverage. Members of the Ultimate plan gain access to additional coverage, including a mortality benefit and vacation cancellation.
Figo insurance doesn’t have any age cutoffs, allowing you to insure cats aged 23 years and over. Their premiums for older cats are considerably lower than those offered by other providers.
What do customers think of Figo Pet Insurance?
On Yelp, Figo Pet Insurance has a 3.5 out of 5 star rating based on 65 customer reviews. On Trustpilot, the company has a 9.1 out of 10 star rating. This Chicago-based company receives strong reviews overall, but it’s not all smiley customer service, short waiting periods, and responsive apps. Figo started in 2015 and things are changing rapidly. Most negative reviews talk about increased premiums and a changing structure that some customers view as a bait-and-switch scheme.
Lexi N. of Encinitas, California, said that: “The platform is easy to use and the customer service is good, no doubt, but unfortunately I cannot continue to be part of a service that raises premiums 50%-100% every year.”
The Bottom Line: Is Figo pet insurance a good choice for cats?
In Reviews.com’s list of the best pet insurance providers, Figo was ranked as the number one best provider on the market. The reviewer pointed to the company’s range of unexpected perks and great customer service as outstanding factors.
Indeed, Figo does offer a few features that don’t come standard among pet insurance providers. For example, coverage comes with the Pet Cloud, a cloud-based medical history and planning application that allows you to manage your cat’s insurance claims and medical life from your smartphone.
In addition to medical management, the Pet Cloud is a full-spectrum pet management app with interesting features like pet geolocation and pet-specific landmark discovery.
Figo is currently one of the best providers out there, but it’s not perfect. When we’re looking at a company that issued its first policy three years ago and which has since sent premiums continuously higher, it’s hard to predict where the customer experience will go from here.
- Offers a great customer support experience
- The PetCloud makes it easy to organize your cat’s medical life
- Short reimbursement wait time
- Flexible policies make it possible to adapt the plan to suit your financial preferences
- Extensive coverage
- A newcomer to the pet insurance business – it’s unclear how drastically the provider will change or how premiums will increase as they become established in the industry
Petplan has been in existence for over 40 years and is backed by Allianz, a leading property and casualty insurance company.
How affordable is Petplan pet insurance for cats?
Petplan offers customizable plans with flexible annual limits varying from $2,500 to unlimited and flexible deductibles that are either paid annually or on a per-condition basis. Your reimbursements range from 70% to 90% and are based on your veterinarian’s bills.
If you choose the condition-based deductible model, be certain that you classify continuing treatments as such when you file a claim.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Choice of annual coverage amount – $2500 to unlimited
- Choice of annual deductible amount – $250 to $1,000
- You can choose your reimbursement percentage – 70%, 80%, or 90%
How extensive is Petplan pet insurance coverage?
The company offers extensive coverage with few exclusions, offering reimbursements for illness and injury without exclusions for hereditary conditions. Petplan’s comprehensive coverage includes dental care, dermatology, neurology, alternative therapies, and rehabilitation.
Unlike most other pet insurance providers, Petplan has no upper age limit, making it worth considering if you’d like to insure an older cat.
Petplan insurance is available under three standardized coverage plans. If you’d prefer a customized plan, you can adjust different aspects of the flexible policy to get the rates you want.
Policyholders with annual reimbursement of $15,000 or more are eligible for additional benefits, including coverage for ads and rewards if your cat is lost, behavioral therapy, and kennel fees. This insurance provider doesn’t offer wellness coverage, which isn’t a bad thing – wellness coverage tends to bump up premiums without offering anything you couldn’t cover with an ordinary savings account.
What do customers think of Petplan pet insurance?
Petplan is a generally well-regarded pet insurance company, but it’s not universally loved. On Yelp, customer sentiments are divided, giving it a 3 out of 5 star rating based on 376 reviews. When the reviews are negative, they talk about premium hikes and broadly defined pre-existing conditions.
The Bottom Line: Is Petplan pet insurance a good choice for cats?
After over 40 years in the industry, Petplan has earned a strong reputation and is one of the leading insurance providers for pets. With adjustable premiums, diverse coverage, and 24/7 customer support, Petplan does everything a pet insurance provider needs to do.
- Unlike many other providers, Petplan has no upper age limit for signing up
- Offers discounts to veterinary professionals
- All plans cover injuries and illnesses, including those due to hereditary conditions
- Offers highly comprehensive coverage
- Flexible pricing and payout
- Costs tend to increase dramatically over time
- Charges a $3 transaction fee – higher than average
How affordable is Embrace pet insurance for cats?
Embrace pet insurance plans are highly adjustable, allowing you to carve out the premium and coverage combination that works for you. The company offers 60%, 80%, and 90% reimbursements based on your veterinary bills. Your choice of deductible ranges from $200 to $1,000 and you have an annual maximum of $5,000 to $15,000.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Flexible deductible between $200 and $1000.
- Annual payout maximum between $5,000 and $15,000.
- Choose a reimbursement percentage of 65%, 80%, or 90%.
How extensive is Embrace pet insurance coverage?
This pet insurance provider offers flexible plans covering “all of your pet’s unexpected accidents & illnesses”.
Although the primary plans cover strictly accidents and illness, Embrace offers an additional Wellness Rewards plan, which works as a flexible savings account covering you for up to $650 in routine care expenses.
For a small added premium, you can add prescription drug coverage to your Embrace policy.
What do customers think of Embrace pet insurance?
On Yelp, 134 reviewers give Embrace a 3 out of 5 star rating. Considering the fact that insurance provider reviews have a negativity bias, this isn’t terrible – it’s also not great.
Negative reviews revolve around the provider’s apparent tendency to link unrelated conditions and call them pre-existing, using this as a way to deny claims. Other reviewers describe Embrace as a compassionate, affordable choice.
The Bottom Line: Is Embrace pet insurance a good choice for cats?
Embrace offers some of the most extensive coverage on the market at a reasonable price. Although customer experiences aren’t universally perfect, Embrace has a generally good reputation for processing and accepting claims, providing good customer service, and leaving policyholders satisfied.
- Covers hereditary conditions
- Embrace is one of the companies most willing to cover older cats – cats up to 20 years of age are eligible for Embrace coverage
- Covers a wide range of conditions and treatments
- Reimbursements are based on actual medical costs
- Gives you a $50 “Healthy Pet Deductible” benefit every year that you don’t make a claim
- According to customer reviews, Embrace is inclined to deny claims on the pretense that unrelated conditions are linked and thus pre-existing
Based in Boise, Idaho and founded by veterinarian Dr. Jack Stephens, this pet insurance company claims to be on a mission to “end economic euthanasia of pets”.
How affordable is Pets Best pet insurance for cats?
When you analyze Pets Best plans, one of the first things that stands out is the fact that you can’t choose unlimited reimbursement. Their base plans offer the choice of a $5,000 and a $10,000 annual maximum.
Reimbursements and deductibles are flexible – ranging from $0 to $1,000 on the deductible end and 70%, 80%, 90%, and 100% reimbursement rates.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Offers annual coverage limits of $5000 and $10,000
- Choose a deductible of between $0 and $1,000
- Choose a reimbursement level of 70%, 80%, 90%, or $100
How extensive is Pets Best pet insurance coverage?
Pets Best offers flexible pricing plans and a wide variety of coverage options. Unlike most pet insurance providers, who limit their coverage to cats under 14 years of age, Pets Best has no upper age limit.
The company offers three coverage levels, all of which cover a wide range of medical treatments and conditions. The two higher-tier plans include examinations, rehabilitation, prosthetics, chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, and other additional therapeutic treatments. All of their plans cover prescription medications.
Although their three primary plans don’t cover wellness visits, Pets Best offers a two-tier wellness package that you may add on to your primary policy.
What do customers think of Pets Best pet insurance?
Although Pets Best has moderate prices and broad coverage, customer reviews paint a picture of frustration and annoyance. 144 Yelp reviewers give it a 2 out of 5 star rating, while the BBB and Pet Insurance U both give it 3.7 out of 5 stars.
The Bottom Line: Is Pets Best pet insurance a good choice for cats?
Pets Best isn’t the worst pet insurance on the market, but it’s not the best, either. Its premiums are middle-of-the road, the coverage is good, the policies are flexible, and payouts usually arrive before customers have a chance to worry about them. But the relatively low and inflexible annual maximums could make this a frustrating choice when those big bills arrive.
- No upper age limit for signing up
- Highly flexible pricing
- Multiple annual coverage options
- 24/7 customer service line
- Fast reimbursements
- The company’s definition of pre-existing conditions tends to be unusually broad. Customers complain that they’ve been refused coverage for a condition that Pet’s Best unexpectedly deemed to be connected to a previous issue
- Low annual maximums
How affordable is Trupanion pet insurance for cats?
Trupanion reimburses up to 90% and comes with no payout limits. All claims are based on actual veterinary costs, not averages and customary charges.
Trupanion’s deductibles work on a per-condition basis, rather than annually. This deductible system is good for younger cats with a future of chronic illness, but could cost you if your cat suffers from a series of disparate conditions.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Offers annual coverage limits of $5,000, $10,000, and unlimited
- Choose a deductible of between $50 and $1,000
- Choose a reimbursement level of 70%, 80%, or 90%
How extensive is Trupanion pet insurance coverage?
Instead of offering three or more policies of differing levels, Trupanion offers a single flexible comprehensive policy that covers surgery, diagnostics, medications, and other treatments for illnesses and accidents.
For customers looking to beef up their policy, Trupanion offers two optional additional coverage packages. One is a recovery and complementary care package, which covers various therapies not typically included within traditional policies, including rehabilitative care, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and homeopathy.
The second additional package is a pet owner assistance package, which covers expenses outside of the vet’s office, including ads and rewards for lost pets, emergency boarding, liability coverage for property damage caused by your pet, and cremation and burial in the case of your pet’s accidental death.
Note that the company doesn’t offer wellness coverage. The Trupanion site doesn’t shy away from addressing this fact, explaining that “Trupanion was founded to help pets get the emergency care they need, not to help pet owners with routine payments.”
What do customers think about Trupanion Pet Insurance?
On Yelp, Trupanion has a 2.5 out of 5 star rating based on 441 reviews. Many customers say that the company wrongly denied their claims for various reasons. These reviews also indicate that Trupanion’s customer support skills are less than satisfactory, describing hours spent on the phone, either waiting on hold or struggling to get results out of uncooperative staff.
Despite these negative experiences, Trupanion doesn’t have a bad reputation with everyone. This popular insurance provider has a 9.6 out of 10 star rating on ConsumersAdvocate.org and an 8.9 out of 10 star rating on Trustpilot.
The Bottom Line: Is Trupanion Pet Insurance a good choice for cats?
In Reviews.com’s roundup of the best pet insurance providers, Trupanion placed as a runner-up, lagging behind Figo, which was named best pet insurance overall, and Healthy Paws, which the reviewer described as good for cats and small dogs.
- Offers comprehensive coverage
- A well-respected leader in the pet insurance space
- Reimbursements are based on vet bills
- High annual maximums
- Can be more expensive than other providers
This well-established company has been selling pet insurance under the VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) name since 1982. VPI sold its first policy to a famous dog of the screen – a collie best known for portraying “Lassie”.
In 2015, Nationwide discarded the VPI name and rebranded as simply Nationwide Pet Insurance.
How affordable is Nationwide Pet Insurance?
While Nationwide’s comprehensive Whole Pet with Wellness plan is one of the most expensive on the market, the plan is the company’s most popular offering.
It covers almost everything you would need a pet insurance provider to cover. Unlike the lower-value plans, the comprehensive plan reimburses a percentage of real vet bills. Whole Pet with Wellness reimburses a generous 90% of your invoice, while all other Nationwide plans reimburse on a benefit schedule and limit benefits per condition.
Nationwide’s fixed annual deductibles are both good and bad. A fixed low deductible is attractive for those dealing with multiple treatments throughout the year. But if you’re someone who would rather pay a high deductible when disaster strikes and a low premium every month, your hands are tied.
Vital Cost Statistics:
- Unlimited annual maximums, but a benefit schedule will limit your benefits per condition
- $100 or $250 annual deductible
- 90% reimbursement percentage on the comprehensive plan, benefit schedule on all others
How extensive is Nationwide Pet Insurance coverage?
Nationwide Pet Insurance offers three different plans: the comprehensive Whole Pet with Wellness, standard accident and illness with Major Medical, and a two-tiered wellness plan.
The Whole Pet with Wellness plan covers exams, lab tests, and x-rays, prescription medications, surgeries and hospitalization, chronic conditions, and wellness costs, along with other benefits.
The Major Medical plan offers almost the same accident and illness coverage offered by the Whole Pet with Wellness plan, but lacks a few benefits.
For instance, not all hereditary conditions are covered. If your cat has a hereditary condition that is covered by Major Medical, you’ll not be able to make a claim until after the waiting period is over.
What do customers think of Nationwide Pet Insurance?
Being a big fish in the pet insurance ocean doesn’t make Nationwide Pet Insurance any better than younger companies. In fact, it receives some of the worst reviews in the industry.
Nationwide earns a 1.4 out of 5 star rating on Pet Insurance U. Pet Insurance U gives this provider an unimpressive 1.4 out of 5 star rating. Why? The review says that taking out a policy from Nationwide means buying into premium hikes, denied claims, low payouts, limitations and exclusions, and sub-par customer service.
The Bottom Line: Is Nationwide Pet Insurance a good choice for cats?
Frankly, no. In most cases, Nationwide Pet Insurance isn’t a good choice. It’s been a pet insurance leader for a long time, but this company’s inflexible policies and history of poor customer service make it the least desirable provider on this list.
- The highest-level plan has exceptionally comprehensive coverage and unlimited benefits per condition and service
- No annual benefit caps
- Policyholders may take advantage of Nationwide’s Vet Helpline, which offers live veterinary advice online
- A well-established and very stable company
- Cats over the age of 10 are not eligible for a new policy
- Less flexible than some other options available
- A higher-priced insurance
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.