Why Pet Insurance Is Worth It

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Lots of people can't believe that I have pet insurance. In fact, lots of people don't even know it exists. But if you're a pet owner like me, who would sell practically everything I own for the health of my cat, you might want to look into it.

I decided to insure my two cats Bailey and Caesar (RIP) in 1998 after Bailey got a urinary blockage and landed in the emergency pet hospital with a catheter, overnight stay, and $1,000 vet bill. I was making around $30,000 a year at the time, so I begrudgingly paid the bill and wondered what I would do if the problems and bills kept coming. I decided right then that I never wanted to be faced with the question, At what point are my cats' lives too expensive?

I knew insurance would not pay all of the bills associated with animal wellness. But they would substantially offset costs, which was good since my pets always seem to get into the most expensive and rare health dilemmas, and I knew I'd do anything to help them so long as they had the potential for a good quality of life.

So, I turned to Veterinary Pet Insurance. The company has been ensuring my Siamese cats for nearly a decade. The price varies depending on type and age of your animal, the plan you choose, and the state you live in (because average healthcare costs vary somewhat from state to state). But average prices look something like this:

Canine
6 weeks - 11 months: $27.92 a month
1-4 years: $31.08 a month
5-7 years: $37.25 a month
8-9 years: $47.50 a month

Feline
6 weeks - 11 months: $21.75 a month
1-4 years: $23.92 a month
5-7 years: $28 a month
8-9 years: $34.92 a month

(Yes, they also insure chameleons, rats, hamsters, birds, snakes, potbellied pigs, mice, rabbits, hedgehogs, turtles, iguanas, frogs, lizards, sugar gliders, geckos, guinea pigs, tortoises, and gerbils!)

Sample annual benefits look like this:
Gastritis $357
Gastric Torsion $1,993
Intestinal Foreign Body (Surgical) $1,363
Liver Disease $409
Lacerations $501
Abscess $378
Pneumonia $588
Bladder Infection $270
FIV Virus Infection $519

If your pet never gets sick and lives a long, long time--as was the case with my 19-year-old cat Caesar for example--you will ultimately end up out of pocket—guaranteed. If you are VERY astute, you may be better off setting aside the funds you would pay in insurance into an emergency pet health savings account every single month of your pet's life--provided you never dip into it except to fund your pet's healthcare. But even that's a gamble since you can't predict whether your pet will regularly get seriously ill, encounter a chronic ailment, or continually be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Insurance is just that: insurance. The expense was worth it for me because it allowed me the comfort of knowing that if my pets were to get hit by a car, need surgery for any reason, begin to slowly deteriorate due to old age (as was the case with Caesar), or all of the above and more, I would not bear all of the financial burden.

In the last year of Caesar's life when he was suffering from kidney failure and anemia, his medical bills totaled over $4,000. I was reimbursed $1,840.00.

My reimbursements did not ultimately exceed the amount I paid for insurance over the course of his life. But I saw that as a blessing. It meant my cat lived a long, healthy life. Regardless, it was far less painful to part with a small monthly fee than foot all of the big bills when they came flooding in toward the end.

My 16-year-old cat Bailey is still sprightly, free of urinary tract infections, and bucking his geriatric status. But I know in the back of my mind that his most expensive days are ahead of him--and that when the times comes we'll both be covered.

--Erika Lenkert

[tags] pet insurance, medical bills, cat, dog, iguana, guinea pig, pig, pot belly, bird, save money, how to, tip, advice[/tags]