Saturday 10 June 2023

Do cats need health insurance?

Do cats need health insurance?
Image: MikeB

It's a big question. Apparently, in the UK, 39% of cats and 61% of dogs are insured according to the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, a charity. So, most people don't think that they should insure their cat. I don't. I don't believe in it as the insurance companies are greedy and their business model is tantamount to printing money. They just put-up premiums if they want to make more money. And almost invariably the monthly payments increase every year. 

And if a customer is taking more out of their policy than they are putting in the monthly payments will go up. Definitely. They want to make a profit from each customer.

However, there are givers and takers...

Givers and takers. Swings and roundabouts. Snakes and ladders

I'm going to go back to basics and say the following. Pet health insurance is a gamble. There are swings and roundabouts. The major point is this: at the end of the day the pet health insurance companies make a profit.

If every cat owner made a "profit" out of cat health insurance by which I mean they took more out of it then they put into it, every pet health insurance company would go out of business. They wouldn't exist.

So overall, taking all the pet owners together, pet health insurance isn't worth it for customers as there will be more losers than winners. But there are, as mentioned, swings and roundabouts. There are healthy cats and there are unhealthy cats. There are random bred cats and there are purebred cat with inherited diseases.

If you adopt a healthy random bred cat and they are almost never ill but you pay your monthly pet health insurance premiums diligently for 10 years, you are giving all that money to the pet health insurance company. It's one way traffic. You are the kind of customer they want. You support in your payments those cat owners who have an unhealthy cat.

The unhealthy cat owners pay their premiums but they get more back from the insurance company. They are in 'net profit' to put it another way. They are takers. They are leaning on the money provided by the healthy cat owners.

Healthy versus unhealthy cats

So, the answer to the question really is this: you should adopt a healthy cat. You can't be sure that your cat is going to be health but you can make a wise decision in not adopting a purebred cat because nearly all purebred cats are relatively speaking unhealthy compared to non-purebred cats.

This is because moggies are created through natural selection (think: genetic diversity) rather than artificial selection (lack of healthy genetic diversity) which automatically means inbreeding which in turn means not only fixing the appearance of the cat but also fixing into the breeding lines genetic mutations which cause genetic inherited health problems such as, for the Maine Coon, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and so on.

These diseases are going to be expensive. Another expensive disease would be hip dysplasia, also commonly suffered by the Maine Coon kept which is been well discussed on the Internet including on my website. Many cat breeds have many inherited health issues of various kinds and of varying severity.

It will cost thousands of pounds to operate on a defective hip. It might cost £20,000 in the UK. The Maine Coon owner should take out pet health insurance. You see, it depends upon the cat you adopt as to whether you are a giver or a taker. The former receives no real benefit from pet health insurance but the latter almost always does.


What kind of health insurance is available? It goes up in stages. There is 'accident only' pet insurance which gives you a fixed sum to cover a new accidental injury that happened during a single event. There may be a time limit on treatment. And there is 'time-limited cover' which gives you a fixed sum to cover each illness or injury over a set period of time normally 12 months from the start of the illness. Then there is 'maximum-benefit', which ensures your cat or dog for a set amount for each illness or injury. Treatment will be available for as long as the money lasts with no time limit. Once the veterinary fee limit is reached the condition cannot be covered again.

Then there is 'lifetime insurance' cover which is the premium form of pet health insurance. It covers your companion dog or cat for new illnesses and injuries to a set amount annually which renews annually also as long as you keep your monthly payments. You can claim for the same condition every year if your cat or dog has a chronic condition. There will be a monetary limit and you will not be covered for any further treatment that year.

No benefit here

You might be paying £40-£100 monthly. Veterinarians appear to be charging more than ever for major operations. For example, one dog owner was hit with a £12,000 veterinary bill because her dog had a twisted stomach requiring an emergency operation. That person had paid more than £10,000 into health cover over many years but she had to pay the cost of a £12,000 veterinary bill except for £2000 which was paid by the insurance company. She saw no real benefit from pet health insurance.

Peace of mind? Self-insurance

It is said that pet health insurance brings peace of mind. It doesn't really. That's a false sentiment. The best course of action is this: adopt a healthy random bred cat or dog. Make sure that they are as healthy as possible and keep them that way through excellent caregiving and then you save hundred pounds a month for three years which should accrue enough money in a savings account if it is ring fenced and never spent on other things to pay for any medical emergencies that your cat or dog requires.

If the emergency occurs while you are saving you will have to dig into earlier savings but the basic M.O. is to create your own health insurance policy in my view. This avoids paying for the profits made by the health insurance company and paying administrative charges. It is a far more efficient health insurance policy which you manage and control yourself.

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