Pet Insurance for Cats: How Does It Work?

Find the Cheapest Pet Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Pet insurance can be a good way to save money if your cat needs treatment after an expensive accident or serious illness.

For around $19 a month, you can get a full or partial refund for many medical procedures.

It's typically best to get insurance for your cat when they're young and healthy. Older cats won't get some of the benefits of insurance if they have health issues. That's because preexisting conditions are usually excluded from insurance coverage.

How does cat insurance work?

With a pet health insurance plan, you'll pay your cat's vet bill up front. Then, you'll file a claim and get a refund from the insurance company.

You'll usually need to pay a deductible and a percentage of the bill. Your insurance company might also set an annual or lifetime limit on the amount it will pay out.

Before buying a policy, it helps to understand the terms used by insurance companies.

  • Monthly premium: The amount you have to pay to your insurance company each month for coverage.
  • Annual or incident deductible: The amount you have to pay per year or per incident before your insurance company will send you a refund. Deductible options range from as low as $0 to as high as $1,000. Lower deductibles usually mean higher monthly rates.
  • Reimbursement level: The percentage of a medical bill that an insurance company will cover after you pay your deductible.
  • Annual maximum: The maximum amount your insurance company will pay toward medical bills each year. This amount usually ranges from $5,000 to $15,000. Plans without incident and lifetime maximums are available but typically very expensive.

It's important to think about the total cost of insurance when choosing your coverage amount.

A plan with a high deductible, low reimbursement level and low annual max will give you the cheapest coverage for your cat. But you'll also have to pay more for covered vet visits and treatments.

On the other hand, the most comprehensive plans will reimburse the majority of your cat's treatments. However, the high cost may not be worth the benefit.

Annual max
Monthly rate
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Find the Cheapest Pet Insurance Quotes in Your Area

When choosing your coverage level, consider two main factors:

  1. How much can you pay each month?
  2. How much can you afford to pay in an emergency?

The main purpose of buying insurance for your cat is to reduce the cost of expensive procedures and treatments.

In almost all cases, you'll end up paying something toward your pet's medical bill. That's why it's important to pick coverage limits based on the amount you're comfortable spending on vet bills in an emergency.

How much does cat insurance cost?

The cost of cat insurance typically ranges from $9 to $36 per month.

The cheapest cat insurance plans only cover injuries and are known as "accident-only plans." These usually cost between $10 and $20 per month. Accident-only plans are good for owners with healthy cats that are more likely to be hurt, like those who spend a lot of time outside.

The most comprehensive plans, which cover both accidents and illnesses, usually cost between $20 and $40 per month. These plans cover everything from cancer to infections to injuries from a fight with another animal. But if your cat has a history of getting sick, it's possible that new illnesses won't be covered if they're related to a previous problem.

Costs by age

Pet owners usually pay more to protect older cats. That's because cats tend to develop more health problems and are more likely to get hurt as they get older. Your insurance rates will typically go up as your cat ages.

The cost of insurance for a 14-year-old cat is three times more expensive than coverage for a kitten that's 1 year old.

Monthly pet insurance rates for a cat based on age

What does cat insurance cover?

Most injuries and illnesses are covered under a cat insurance policy, as long they're not related to preexisting or genetic conditions.

What does pet insurance cover for cats?

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Injuries
  • Grooming
  • Genetic conditions
  • Preexisting conditions
  • Preventive care
  • Routine checkups

Pet insurance companies typically don't cover preexisting conditions.

For example, some companies won't cover any kidney, heart or high blood pressure issues if your cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism before you bought a policy. And if your cat was diagnosed with any type of mass, then some companies won't cover them for cancer.

This is why it's important to read the details of your policy, know what conditions your cat has had in the past and learn what future conditions or follow-up treatment will be excluded.

Routine checkups, grooming and dental health expenses are also not covered by basic cat insurance plans.

Some companies allow you to pay extra for wellness and dental expense coverage, but getting these add-ons usually isn't worth the cost.

Costs of owning a cat by breed and age

The cost to adopt a cat will vary based on where you get your cat, its age and its breed.

Adoption fees typically range from $50 to $200. It usually costs more to adopt a kitten compared to an older cat.

If you decide to get a cat from a breeder, costs range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. This depends on the pedigree and coloring, with the highest-priced kittens being "show quality" purebreds. A purebred ragdoll, one of the most popular cats, can easily cost more than $1,000.

Insurance rates by breed

Insurance costs between cat breeds can vary by around $14 per month. The most expensive breeds to insure are usually purebreds, active cats and those with a higher risk of genetic conditions.

Monthly rate
American shorthair$35
Domestic longhair$22
Domestic shorthair$22
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Kitten insurance vs. insurance for older cats

If you're a new pet owner and considering getting an insurance plan, it's best to sign your kitten up as soon as possible. Your kitten usually won't have preexisting conditions, so you'll be covered for future illnesses. Most insurance companies start covering kittens when they turn 8 months old, so you'll have to pay for all medical bills before that age.

If you have an older cat, you may not be able to get pet insurance. The requirements vary by insurance company, but most companies will stop covering cats when they reach a certain age. This is because older cats can have lots of medical bills.

Depending on your situation, you might be better off without insurance for your older cat. Especially if they have a history of illnesses.

Considerations for adopting a cat or kitten

When adopting a cat, you're taking responsibility for its health and wellness. So it's important to consider health care costs and insurance before bringing one home.

  • Ask for their medical history before committing to an adoption. This includes the cat's age and breed, whether it was spayed or neutered, and any preexisting conditions. All of this info is necessary to get insurance and to plan for care costs. Because the shelter wants to avoid a situation in which the cat has to be returned, it will work with you to make sure you understand the risks.
  • Consider their food and care. Special food or supplements may not be covered by insurance. You'll have to pay for them out of pocket.
  • Make a vet appointment to get the cat checked out as soon as you bring it home. Bring any medical records from the shelter, and schedule regular health checkups.
  • Compare cat insurance quotes from multiple companies.
  • Get your home ready for your new pet. Cats typically scratch and chew, so tuck away loose cords and put away food and small items.

Pet insurance for cats: Is it worth it?

The best time to buy cat insurance is when your pet is young.

The cost of insuring your kitten will be much lower if you buy a plan early. But rates will go up as your pet gets older.

For older cats, pet insurance might not be worth it. Insurance companies don't usually cover preexisting and genetic conditions. This can apply to many of the treatments your cat will need, and you could end up paying hundreds per year for limited coverage.

No matter the age of your cat, buying an insurance plan is meant to give you peace of mind. An insurance plan could help you afford life saving treatment if your cat gets very sick or is hurt in an accident.

If you're struggling to decide whether pet insurance is worth it, keep in mind that you'll have to pay for medical costs up front either way. That's why it's always a good idea to have a savings account for emergency pet expenses.


The average cost of cat insurance is based on quotes from 11 top pet insurance companies for a 4-year-old male cat. Rates are for a plan with a $500 deductible, a $5,000 annual max and an 80% reimbursement level.

To compare different levels of coverage and the effect of age and breed on cat insurance rates, we collected quotes from a leading insurance company. The quotes are for a 4-year-old male domestic shorthair cat. Rates are for a plan with a $250 deductible, an 80% reimbursement level and a $5,000 annual maximum.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author's opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.