Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

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Conceptually, any form of insurance is a potentially polarising sales pitch. On one hand, there are those who’ve never had to use insurance, so it’s an extra cost without any perceived benefit. On the other, there are those who’ve been covered by insurance or who’ve suffered potentially massive financial payments when they didn’t have it.

Pet insurance is no different. While our beloved fur babies may be cheaper than actual babies, the costs can still add up, so the prospect of paying extra money without seeing the value isn’t exactly appealing. Not that you want to be in a position to have to see the value of pet insurance.

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What is pet insurance?

Like car insurance, pet insurance is ultimately paying for peace of mind that, in the event of an accident, you don’t have to pay hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars to cover medical expenses. Unlike car insurance, pet insurance isn’t mandatory in Australia. But considering almost two-thirds of Australian households owned at least one pet in 2019 (and closer to 70% as of 2022), pet insurance is well worth considering.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Owning a pet isn’t cheap, particularly not in the first year. According to Moneysmart, the cost of owning a cat or dog is between $3,000 and $6,000 in the first year. This first-year pet cost includes the initial adoption fee, which can range from $0 to $500 typically, or from $500 to thousands of dollars if you buy from a specialised pet breeder.

Here’s the full cost breakdown from Moneysmart:

Category
Cost
Adopting or buying$0 to thousands (first year)
Microchipping, vaccinations, de-sexing$0 to $1,000 (first year)
Vet expenses (ongoing)$450 per year
Pet insurance$240 to $720 per year
Pet essentials (bed, bowls, toys, etc.)$500 first year, $100 per year after
Flea, tick, worming medications$300 to $450 per year
Council registration$30 to $190 per year
Pet food (including treats)Up to $800 per year
Boarding catteries and kennels$25 to $50 per night
Other services (grooming, training, etc.)$0 to hundreds per year

As you can see from the table above, costs can add up, from between $1,500 in the first year (and closer to $1,000 thereafter) and up to $4,500+ in the first year (and around $2,700+ thereafter). Note that those cheaper estimates don’t include pet insurance but the more expensive ones do.

Outside of the ongoing costs, pet insurance premiums depend on several factors, including:

  • Animal type
  • Pet breed
  • Pet age
  • Pet gender
  • Whether your pet is desexed
  • Where you live

While comprehensive pet insurance offers a wide range of protection for your pet, other plans can be tailored to include fewer options, which means certain expenses may not be covered. The price you pay may also impact the excess you owe; lower monthly premiums, for instance, may attract a higher excess, and vice versa.

Pros and cons of pet insurance

Similar to investing in a pet camera, the main con of pet insurance is the cost. Like any insurance, pet insurance is an investment in a future event that may never happen. Unfortunately, unlike other forms of insurance where you may have some elements of control, it’s a lot harder to keep an eye on pets 24/7, particularly animals that are active when we sleep (or who have a penchant for nibbling on potentially dangerous houseplants).

Another pet insurance con is for older pets, which cost more the older they get, and may even be uninsurable if you’re trying to insure them after a certain age. That’s why we recommend buying pet insurance from an early age. If you do want to save money each month, consider opting for a higher excess.

The only other real con of pet insurance is ensuring you’re paying for the right coverage that ticks all the right boxes for potential pet expenses. Outside of these cons, almost everything else is a pro for pet insurance. Compared to other forms of insurance, it’s not as expensive, and being able to pay monthly certainly takes the sting out of things (unlike costly annual vehicle insurance).

Ultimately, pet insurance is an investment in peace of mind. You don’t pay for it because you want something to happen to your pets. But if there is an unforeseen medical cost that’s covered by pet insurance, you’ll be glad you had it. After all, pet insurance that covers the right mishaps means there doesn’t have to be the added stress of potentially paying thousands of dollars for your beloved fur baby.

Should I get pet insurance?

Ultimately the decision is yours, but for the peace of mind alone, we reckon pet insurance is absolutely worth it. The alternative is to put aside money for unforeseen potential pet medical expenses, but this alternative takes time to build up to a point that may cover thousands of dollars. Choosing a higher excess payment for pet insurance can help keep costs lower in the short term. Given how much unexpected pet medical costs can stack up, we strongly advise pet insurance.

The twisted tale of Pat the cat

Pat is a gorgeous Maine Coon cat. Catie, his adoptive mother, named Pat after her favourite basketball player, Patrick Ewing. When Pat sneezed in Catie’s face, it was love at first ‘slight’. Catie knew he was the cat for her. It. As a responsible cat owner, Catie was determined to have Pat live exclusively indoors when she adopted him.

In her mind, this would help save Pat from the threat of scrappy cats and feline-fighting dogs. Plus, Catie wouldn’t have to worry about Pat going missing or getting hurt at night. Surely this meant there was no need for pet insurance. But Catie wasn’t so certain. So she bought pet insurance for Pat because she liked the extra peace of mind.

Catie was comfortable with the idea that what amounted to the cost of a few cups of coffee per week gave her peace of mind if something expensive happened. A year-and-a-half later, something expensive did happen. Late one long weekend, Pat was very distressed and started projectile vomiting. Catie quickly found a 24-hour vet and rushed Pat in for help.

As you might expect from a projectile-vomiting cat, the vet quickly determined something was wrong. X-rays showed that Pat had something lodged in his stomach. After emergency surgery, the item turned out to be a 20-cent plastic plug that Pat had chewed and swallowed from the bottom of a $20 guitar stand. Because this vet visit was after hours on a long weekend with x-rays and emergency surgery, the costs stacked up to $5,500.

But because Catie had pet insurance, her out-of-pocket premium was $600 with her insurer covering the rest. Premiums have gone up in the decade since Pat’s unfortunate snack, but while no other incidents have led to such expenses, Catie still pays for Pat’s pet insurance for that added peace of mind.

FAQ

There are many pet insurers in Australia, so it’s best to use a comparison website like Compare The Market or iSelect to find the best plan for your needs. These sites won’t necessarily cover all pet insurers, but they will give you an idea of costs and specific features for your pet. Our Editor, Georgia, swears by Bow Wow Meow pet insurance.

The average monthly cost of pet insurance depends on a variety of factors, including the age of your pet and policy inclusions. Moneysmart estimates that pet insurance costs between $20 to $60 each month.

Unlike mandatory third-party vehicle insurance, pet insurance isn’t compulsory in Australia. Still, we think it’s well worth considering for the extra peace of mind.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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