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7 Big Mistakes People Make When Buying Pet Insurance

With the high cost of veterinary medicine, many people get health insurance for their cats. But do they know what they’re getting into?

 |  Jul 24th 2014  |   16 Contributions


For the past eight months or so, I’ve been working in customer service for a pet insurance company. In that time I’ve learned a lot about the industry and the experiences policyholders have had with a number of different companies. I’ve heard plenty of pet insurance horror stories and plenty of stories from deliriously happy customers.

Pet insurance can be a liefsaver if you're confronted with serious and/or chronic illnesses ... as long as you understand what you're buying. Photo CC-BY mcsquishee

Based on my experience, most of the horror stories result from these seven big mistakes.

1. Not asking enough questions

Many pet insurance companies offer you the opportunity to enroll online. The problem with doing this is that you may not have had the chance to find out about the fine points of the policy before you click the enroll button and enter your payment information. Even if an insurance company offers an online enrollment discount, you’re still better off talking to a human being and asking questions as they come up.

2. Not reading the policy

Every pet insurance company has a copy of its policy available on its website, although some are much harder to find than others. If you can’t find the policy document on the company’s website, talk to a customer service representative and ask them to email you a sample policy document. If you have any questions about what you read, ask questions. It’s your money, and you have a right to know what you’re buying!

Read and understand your pet insurance policy, then put it in your files for future reference. Photo CC-BY-ND Laura

3. Not understanding coverage options

Make sure you know what is and is not covered in the core policy. Many pet insurance companies offer riders (coverage that comes with an additional cost). These can cover anything from wellness care to holistic/complementary care to cancer, and even protection for you as the cat’s caretaker. Be sure you know about all of your options.

4. Not understanding why and when rates adjust

Rate increases are probably the biggest reason people are unhappy with their pet insurance carriers. Some companies increase premiums or limit coverage when your cat gets older or if you file a lot of claims. Some companies’ rates adjust annually due to broader factors such as the cost and usage of vet care in your area or actuarial data based on your cat’s breed. Be sure you understand why and when rate adjustments happen.

5. Viewing pet insurance as an investment

Pet insurance, like homeowners’ insurance and car insurance, is protection against unexpected losses, not an investment. You don’t want a return on investment with your car insurance because that means you got in an accident. Likewise, if you get a return on investment for your pet insurance, it means your cat got sick or injured, and nobody wants that.

You can't buy homeowners' insurance when your house is on fire, and you can't buy pet insurance when your cat is already sick. Photo CC-BY-ND Jon Haynes Photography

6. Trying to get insurance when a pet is already sick

I can’t tell you how many people have called me hoping to get insurance on their cat or dog because the pet is at the emergency clinic or the vet’s office. We can’t do that. No insurance company can. The whole point of buying insurance is to get it before you need it.

7. Not doing adequate research

You wouldn’t buy a car or a house, or even a purebred kitten, without doing research, would you? Then why not do your research about which pet insurance plan is best for you? Ask people who have pet insurance what their experience has been like in terms of filing claims, customer service, reimbursement, and so on. Check out the website petinsurancereview.com for unbiased information and reviews from actual customers.

Don't let your cat get in the way of your research. After all, it's her health you're looking after! Photo CC-BY Timor Kodal

If you avoid these mistakes, you’ll find yourself much happier with the coverage you choose, whether your cat stays healthy or gets sick. I hope I never need to use the policies I bought for my cats, but if I do, I know I’ll be glad I have it.

Do you have pet insurance? If so, what’s your experience been like? Would you recommend pet insurance to other cat parents? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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