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Finding the right insurance

When adding up the cost of taking on a cat or kitten, pet insurance can seem like an expensive extra. However, when faced with an expensive bill for treatment after an accident or for an illness, it could be a very wise decision. Compare a relatively small monthly premium to a huge vet bill and it's plain to see that pet insurance makes sound financial sense.

Cats haven't earned the 'nine lives' label for nothing - they do have accidents and they can become ill, and diagnosis as well as treatment can be expensive. Insurance gives peace of mind and means that an owner will not have to make a choice between the cat and the bank balance. It should provide an ongoing plan and a financial lifeline to avoid such a terrible dilemma.

Some people opt to open a savings account to cover their cat's future - a good idea in principle, but bear in mind that vet bills for a single condition or injury can rapidly increase and could cost thousands.

Also, be warned that taking a gamble and waiting until your pet becomes ill before thinking about insurance cover is not an option - any ailment arising before a policy is in place will be excluded from cover.

It's not just about price

It is vital to check out the quality of any insurance policy you are considering, rather than concentrating on price alone.If a policy does not provide the appropriate level of cover, it could prove very costly if something happened that wasn't adequately covered or not covered at all.

Types of insurance

  • LIFETIME COVER - this means any claims will be paid up to the limit provided by the policy and this amount will be reset as the policy is renewed each year.
  • PER CONDITION - policies will pay up to the limit set by the policy, but once this limit has been reached, no further payments will be made and you will then be responsible for any veterinary fees that arise.
  • ANNUAL POLICY - this will pay a fixed amount per condition and a 12-month time limit will be applicable.

Factors affecting your premium

  • Pedigree status - some breeds are genetically more prone to certain health conditions than others.
  • Postcode - premiums can vary depending on where you live because vets' costs are higher in some areas than others.
  • Pet's age - most insurers will not take on cats younger than eight weeks of age or more than seven or eight years old. Those that do accept older pets (as new clients) may charge a higher premium and excess rate. Some companies operate a co-insured excess where the owner pays a percentage of any claim.
  • Care - cats that are neutered and microchipped often have a lower premium because a microchipped pet is more likely to be returned if he gets lost and insurers regard this as a sign of a caring owner.

Tips for choosing an insurer

  • When searching for insurance on the Internet, don't just look at price comparison sites as not all pet insurance companies are registered with these.
  • Compare benefit levels and excesses as well as price. Try to find out if the excess or premium will increase each time you make a claim.
  • Confirm exactly what the policy covers and check it is relevant.
  • Choose a reputable insurer and check the policy carefully so that you can aim to insure your pet throughout his life. This is because if a pet is treated under one policy and then, when it expires a new one is taken out with a different company, the new insurer generally will not cover any pre-existing conditions. You will then need to pay for the treatment of these yourself.