How pet insurance saved me more than £1,000

Unless you’re a pet owner or animal lover you may think I’m a bit mad, but my cat Queenie means the absolute world to me.

She might not be able to ‘talk’, but she does communicate, and we’ve been through a lot together. She makes me laugh; has caused me sleepless nights; she shouts at me if I’ve annoyed her; she even plays tennis (well, bats her toy mice down the stairs when I throw them to her). Yes I know, she’s only a cat, but she’s rather a special one.

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Clare Francis with her beloved Queenie

Last December I noticed a lump at the base of Queenie’s tail. The first vet I took her to thought it was probably a cyst but when it didn’t go I took her back and the second vet diagnosed a perineal hernia – apparently very rare in cats, and even rarer in female cats.

I could have left it – Queenie’s 16 so operating under general anaesthetic was quite a risk. However, the risk of doing nothing was that part of her bowel or bladder could become trapped, and then it would be an emergency operation or the unthinkable.

As far as I was concerned there was only one course of action and that was to get her operation done while she was still fit and healthy. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry too much about the cost because I have pet insurance.

Why pet insurance is worth it

Over the years I’ve definitely had my money’s worth from pet insurance. Queenie’s been in all sorts of scrapes and I also had another cat, White Tip, who was asthmatic, and insurance covered her treatment as well.

Of course, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything and there will always be an excess to pay – which is set at a level that tends to mean routine trips to the vets can’t be claimed for. But when something major happens its value is definitely borne out.

The cost of Queenie’s hernia operation and treatment came to around £1,500 and £1,200 of that was covered by insurance. Her policy was with More Than and it cost me £183. There was a £50 excess and I had to pay 20% of any veterinary costs.

What to look for when comparing pet insurance policies

Veterinary cover

Pet insurance covers more than just vet’s bills but medical treatment, whether it be the result of an accident or illness, is the most likely reason you will have to make a claim.

The key thing I always make sure I have with pet insurance is lifetime cover. Many policies only include vet’s fees per condition for a 12 month period up to a capped limit. That means if your animal requires ongoing treatment you’ll have to pay for it yourself after the first year. And you won’t be able to get cover from a different insurer because it will be a pre-existing condition.

A policy offering lifetime protection will cost a bit more, but if you can afford it, it is worth paying for as it will cover the cost of treatment up to certain amount each year. This means that if your pet does receive treatment you’ll need to stick with the same insurer to ensure cover for that conditioned is maintained, but this could be a small price to pay if you would otherwise be forking out hundreds of pounds a month for ongoing treatment.

So what’s the cost difference? Prices vary depending on the age and breed of your animal but as an example if you want lifetime cover, Argos’ Platinum policy would cost £8.53 a month for a three-year old moggy. This covers vet’s fees of up to £7,000 per year per condition. Alternatively, More Than’s Pet Saver product would cost £5.22 a month and this offers £3,000 of cover for veterinary bills up to a maximum of £3,000 per condition but only for 12 months.

It’ll cost more to insure a pedigree animal and insurance for dogs is more than for cats. Lifetime cover for a three-year old Labrador would cost £20.08 with Argos. If that’s a bit steep and you were happy to forego the lifetime element, More Than’s Pet Saver policy would cost £9.93 a month.

Excesses

As with car and home insurance, there will be an excess to pay if your make a pet insurance claim. The level of excess can vary significantly from about £40-50 to over £100 so make sure you check as this could influence your decision on which policy to go for.

As I did, you may also have to pay a percentage of any treatment costs and it could cost more for older animals. Nine is the age when the cost of pet insurance tends to jump up. The reason for that is the older the animal, the more likely you are to make a claim.

Levels of cover

Levels of cover also vary. In addition to the amount paid out for vet’s bills, other elements of cover include third party liability, death benefit, and cattery or kennel fees if you have to go into hospital. 

Written by , head of content at MoneySupermarket.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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