Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

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Is pet insurance worth the cost? Get some answers in this week's post.

Pet insurance has the potential to save lives.

Thomas, Bella and Tara have agreed to yield the podium to me so I can speak about something really important: pet insurance.

A Facebook group I’m involved in recently had a long discussion about the merits of pet insurance, so I figure they’re not the only ones with questions. Maybe you have questions, too, so I’m going to start the discussion here. My short answer: Pet insurance is definitely worth the cost, and here’s why.

A little history

If you were reading Paws and Effect five years ago, you’ll remember the story of my Dahlia, who became critically ill with cancer. She was only six years old, so it was totally unexpected. I spent several thousand dollars on her care–a combination of Care Credit, other credit cards, and donations from friends of Paws and Effect. I swore I’d never again be in the position where I had to max out credit cards and beg for help just so my cats could get needed veterinary care. But I didn’t know how I’d do that, until my best friend told me about this thing called pet insurance.

I’d never heard of pet insurance, so I took the time to do some research. Unfortunately, I came out of that research even more confused than I was before.

After I moved to Seattle in 2013, I got a job at a pet insurance company. I’m not going to say which one, because that’s irrelevant. I worked there for two years and trust me when I say I learned a lot about the subject.

What does pet insurance do?

Quite simply, it protects you from risks, like any other insurance. You pay your premiums every month, and if you need to use it, you file a claim and hopefully get reimbursed.

What does pet insurance not do?

Very few pet insurance companies provide coverage for preventive or routine care. Routine care typically includes things like checkups, vaccinations, spay and neuter, and dental cleanings. But most insurance is like that. Your car insurance doesn’t cover oil changes and tire rotations, for example.

Pet insurance also does not cover pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is one that showed signs or symptoms (even in the absence of an official diagnosis) prior to the policy’s start date or during the waiting period. Again, this is like most other insurance: You can’t call Allstate and buy a homeowners’ insurance policy while your house is on fire and expect to be covered.

Why doesn’t pet insurance cover preventive care?

This goes back to the subject of protection from risks. You can budget for your cat’s routine care, but nobody anticipates big expenses like, say, cancer treatment. Some companies provide coverage for wellness care with a rider (additional coverage that comes at an extra cost), but I frankly don’t think the cost of a wellness care rider is worth it in the long run.

Why shouldn’t I just save money for vet care instead?

Good question, and one that a lot of people ask. If you start a savings account, you may have another emergency that requires the money you’ve saved for your cat’s care. And what happens if you start saving, say, $50 a month, and six months into your savings, you get hit with a $5,000 vet bill? Three hundred dollars isn’t going to go too far in that case.

Then there’s the fact that not a lot of people have extra money to put into a savings account.

I’m one of those people who just manages to make ends meet, and by the time I’ve paid for my basic living expenses, I don’t have a whole bunch of money to chuck into a savings account. For me, pet insurance is worth the cost because if I’m putting that $50 a month toward one cat’s insurance premiums, then I can rest assured in the knowledge that if that cat does require expensive care, I only need to provide a percentage of that cost.

Of course, you know your financial situation better than I do, so think about these points and see if they make sense for you.

Pet insurance: is it worth the cost? Yes it is. Find out why in this post.

Pet insurance prevents “financial euthanasia”

There’s nothing sadder than knowing you simply can’t afford the treatment that would save your cat’s life. It’ll leave you sick at heart if you ever find yourself in that position. Trust me, I was almost there with Dahlia, and the thought of having to euthanize her just because I didn’t have the money for further treatment filled me with gut-wrenching grief. (She ended up getting so sick that euthanasia was a humane option rather than one driven by finances, but nonetheless…)

When I worked at the pet insurance company, I saw the insurance saving lives every. Single. Day. Policyholders called my department when their dog or cat got really sick, asking for emergency pre-approvals for care. These people often said there was no way they could afford the treatment without the insurance. The vast majority of the time, we could say “yes.”

When should I insure my cat?

Your premiums will be lower in the long run if you insure your cat while she’s still young. You’re much less likely to run up against the pre-existing condition problem if you insure a young and healthy cat, too. That’s not to say it’s not worth it to insure older cats–I got Thomas’s policy when he was 12, and even though his monthly premium is twice that of Bella and Tara’s, it’s already paying for itself with the monitoring and treatment of his kidney disease.

What questions should I ask?

I recommend that you ask about what the policy doesn’t cover, and make sure you understand that. Also, be sure you understand why and how often your premiums could change. (Spoiler: Premiums almost always go up each year, no matter which company you use, but that’s par for the course for every insurance company.) Each pet insurance company’s policy is different.

Many pet insurance companies offer the option of enrolling online, but I’d advise against it. Instead, I’d recommend that you call the company’s customer care department to get the answers to your questions, and keep asking until you understand the answers.

Understand, though, that no customer care agent is going to be able to definitively tell you, “yes, that’s covered.” They’re not legally allowed to guarantee coverage because a) they’re not claims adjustors and they don’t have the training to do so; and b) whether or not a condition is going to be covered is dependent on your cat’s medical history.

What company should I use for my cat’s insurance?

I’m not going to make specific recommendations because I couldn’t do so in an unbiased way. I really like my cats’ policies, and I understand them very well because they’re through the company I worked for.

However, there is a great resource available for people considering pet insurance, and that is Pet Insurance University. This website is operated by an independent veterinarian who has compiled information about every policy available in the U.S. and Canada. He describes the benefits and “gotchas” of every policy in a way that ordinary people can understand, and this site will go miles and miles toward helping you make an informed decision.

Do you have any other questions about pet insurance? Please ask them in the comments, and I’ll answer them as best I can. If you have pet insurance, please share your stories, whether they’re good or bad.

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World’s Best Cat Litter’s New Formula Is #alitterbitamazing

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Anybody who’s been reading this blog for any length of time knows that the Paws and Effect Gang and I are huge fans of World’s Best Cat Litter™. So when I heard they’d come out with a new and even better formula, I had to spread the word.

New World's Best Cat Litter Zero Mess formula is even better than their current varieties--and I've been using World's Best for decades, so I should know!

Thomas was so impressed that he decided to model with the new cat litter.

This post is sponsored by World’s Best Cat Litter™ and the BlogPaws® Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated to help share information about World’s Best Cat Litter’s brand new premium cat litter, Zero Mess™, but Paws and Effect only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. World’s Best Cat Litter™ is not responsible for the content of this article.

In order to accurately test how mess-free World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess is, I vacuumed the floor around my litter box and got rid of any litter that was caught in my litter mat.

As in my previous post about World’s Best Cat Litter, the cats loved it. I filled one of the three litter boxes in my home with the Zero Mess litter and let the cats use it. And wouldn’t you know, all three cats decided the Zero Mess box was their favorite.

Not that I blame them.

World's Best Cat Litter logoThe only trouble is that with three cats using one box–one of whom pees lakes because of kidney disease–I went through the six-pound bag of World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess in less than two weeks. (That’s par for the course with any litter, mind you, so I have no gripes about that.)

Zero Mess does live up to its claims of having twice the clumping power of regular World’s Best. Even with Thomas’s massive output, it was easy to get the clumps out of the litter box without scraping, chiseling and crumbling, and it didn’t escape the litter mat and get all over my carpet.

World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess also has twice the odor control of the company’s regular formulas. That I can definitely vouch for; odors were minimal until the box got so low on litter that there was just no way to control the smell. Again, that would be the case with any other litter, so no problems there. I just refilled the box and went on with my life.

How does Zero Mess do this? The new formula combines the power of corn with super-absorbent plant fibers that quickly trap liquids in tight clumps so you can scoop once and you’re done.

Bella thinks World's Best Cat Litter Zero Mess is awesome, too.

Bella thinks World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess is awesome, too.

What it all comes down to is, I’m a convert! From this point on, I’ll be using World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess in all three of the Paws and Effect Gang’s litter boxes. I already liked the fact that World’s Best Cat Litter is lightweight and that it has great odor control. I also like the fact that World’s Best is made with 100 percent natural and renewable ingredients. I’m going to try the pine-scented formula, too.

If you want to try it yourself, Zero Mess is available in 6-, 12- and 24-pound bags and available in two formulas: regular and pine-scented. It can be found in pet-specialty stores and select online retailers. Find a store that sells World’s Best Cat Litter Zero Mess near you.

You can also follow World’s Best Cat Litter on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of World’s Best Cat Litter™. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

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Does My Cat Have PTSD?

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Erica's cat has been abandoned by two other owners, and now the cat is scratching and biting at her. Does her cat have PTSD? Get our answer, and what to do about it, in this post.

Tara’s come a long way, but sometimes her post-traumatic stress still gets to her.

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat. Peaches, is around 6 or 7. I am her third owner. She was abandoned by her second owner at my sister’s vet clinic for a year. In that year she was very loving to everyone and would not bite or scratch them (only a little playful bite when she wanted to be petted). After the year, the doctor asked if I would like to take her because she warmed up to me very well. I have had her for about 2 months now and she is very sweet, BUT once I lie down under or over the covers to go to bed, she goes crazy. The first night I had her, I had my hands above the blanket and she latched onto my arm with her teeth. This has been a recurring thing every night when we go to bed. Even if I don’t sleep with a cover, she still does this. Last night out of nowhere, she clawed onto my face and wouldn’t let go. I don’t know what to do with her. I’m thinking she might have some type of PTSD from being abandoned and maybe abused by her first two owners. If you have any suggestions about what I should do, please let me know.

~ Erica

Tara: Let me start here, because I know a little bit about post-traumatic stress in cats. As you can see above, I still sometimes get stressed and have to go hide in the closet to calm down.

Bella: But you’ve gotten so brave over the past year! For the first six months you were here, you hid under the couch, and now you come out and sit on the desk, and on Mama, and even on the top of the cat tree!

Tara: Thank you, Bella. And thank you for being nice and not chasing me when I’m feeling really scared.

Thomas: I love you too, Tara. And I appreciate that you’re letting me touch noses with you sometimes.

Tara: Oh, purrrrrr.

Thomas: Anyhow, Erica, you’re correct that cats can manifest symptoms that look a lot like PTSD, especially if they’ve been through a lot of change and possible trauma. We’ve even talked about it before!

Bella: It doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat’s previous owners abused her. The abandonment would be hard enough for any people-bonded cat. But any kind of trauma can trigger PTSD in a cat.

Tara: Some of the symptoms you’ll see in a cat with PTSD include uncharacteristic aggressiveness, agitation, hypervigilance, sudden changes in behavior, and hiding without any apparent reason.

Thomas: So, what do you do about it? Well, Mama tried a lot of things with Tara: herbal calming collars, pheromone diffusers, Bach Rescue Remedy for when she was really scared…but the thing that finally worked was medication.

Bella: Our vet put Tara on alprazolam (brand name Xanax), and Mama gives her a quarter of a tiny tablet with her breakfast and dinner.

Tara: Oh, is THAT what’s in those kitty treats Mama gives me with my meals? Maybe I should stop eating them!

Thomas: Oh no, Tara, don’t do that. You know how you get if you don’t have your medicine. The reason you were hiding in the closet today is because Mama forgot to give you your special treat last night.

Tara: I suppose you’re right, Thomas. I do like being out in the living room with everyone else.

Bella: So, Erica, we’d recommend a three-prong approach to Peaches’ issues. First, talk to your vet about her symptoms and see what he or she has to say. A prescription of anti-anxiety medication could really help if she’s suffering from PTSD (or any other form of anxiety, for that matter).

Thomas: Second, we want you to play with Peaches using an interactive toy. By playing with her, you’ll build her confidence, which should help her deal with anxiety.

Bella: We recommend a good 15-minute play session twice a day–once in the morning and once just before bedtime. Get her panting and worn out, then give her a small treat. That will activate a cat’s natural “hunt, kill, eat, sleep” cycle.

Tara: The other thing that play will do, if you get Peaches really tired, is that she may be more inclined to sleep through the night.

Thomas: Finally, we suggest that you buy some plug-in pheromone diffusers. Use one in your bedroom and the other in a room where Peaches spends most of her time. These are marketed as tools to stop inappropriate urination, but they stop the urination by helping cats feel less stressed.

Bella: You see, these diffusers issue a synthetic “happy cat” pheromone.

Tara: One more thing we want you to do, separate from our three-prong approach, is to see if your cat could be getting freaked out by other cats or wild animals coming into your yard. If you’re living in a house, that could very well be an issue. We recommend using ultrasonic or water-based wildlife repellents.

Thomas: Please keep in mind that the products linked above are just examples of what we mean. We haven’t used these products and can’t say for sure how well they work. We do know that celebrity cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy has recommended these types of products as stray cat repellents.

Bella: They’re non-toxic and they don’t cause any extra problems for you, your cat, or your neighbors.

Tara: We hope these recommendations help you and Peaches. Please let us know how things turn out!

Thomas: What about you other readers? Have you had a cat with PTSD or who was aggressive seemingly without cause? What did you do to help your cat change his or her behavior? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments!

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My Kitten Hates Water. What Can I Do About That?

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Most cats don't like water, especially if they've endured a trauma related to water. What can our reader do to help her water-traumatized cat? Get our answers in this week's post.

Most cats don’t care for water, but when there’s trauma involved, that fear cat get really serious. Photo via Pixabay

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My kitten hates water. If I dip a finger in water and rub it in her fur, she’s all right, but I tried dipping her feet in room-temperature water without the tap running and she started freaking out like I was trying to drown her. I know for a fact I wasn’t hurting her in any way. It stems from a shower I gave her during her second week here; I wasn’t sure about the right protocol about introducing a kitten to water and she freaked out. I wanted to introduce her slowly but I got pressured by my roommates to just ‘toss her in’. Also, her first bath didn’t go so bad at all and it was done the same way. I Ieft the tap running, and by the time she had flown out panicking, she had dug her claws in my back and head trying to get out. She was already soaped up so I had to wash her, which didn’t help her mental state, I’m sure. Now, she won’t even drink from the water bowl I have by her wet food. I just need some kind of method to help her get past this. I cried for a solid hour after her bath because I felt so terrible.

~ Zermeena

Thomas: Well, you’re in a bit of a pickle there, Zermeena. But we think your kitten will be all right.

Bella: First of all, let’s talk about cats and their relationship with water. In the wild, most cats don’t bathe in water, and very rarely do domestic cats need a bath at all. In fact, the only time Mama’s ever bathed a cat was when he came in covered with oil and grease from walking around under cars.

Tara: And cats have a very low “thirst drive,” too. That’s because they’re designed to get the water they need from eating their prey. Since your kitten eats canned food, which has a high moisture content, it wouldn’t be surprising that she wouldn’t drink out of her bowl very much.

Thomas: That said, we wouldn’t worry too much if you don’t see your kitten drinking out of her bowl, as long as she’s eating a proper ration of canned food.

Bella: Also, you shouldn’t need to give your kitten baths unless she gets herself messy (if she’s a longhaired cat who gets poop on her back-end fur, for example) or gets out and comes back sprayed by a skunk or covered in grease.

Tara: It’s not surprising that your kitten was traumatized by being tossed in the water–and it’s too bad that your roommates pressured you into doing that.

Thomas: The best thing you can do is give her time. Don’t force her to get in the water. If you need to clean her off, we recommend using wipes designed to take care of surface dirt and dust.

Bella: When Siouxsie got old and creaky enough that she was having trouble cleaning herself, Mama used Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Grooming Wipes for cats.

Tara: If you’re concerned that your kitten is getting dehydrated, add a couple of teaspoons of water to her canned food to make a gravy. It’ll be flavorful enough that she’ll drink while she eats her meals.

Thomas: And most cats freak out about mass quantities of water. Our sweet Dahlia panicked when she was locked in the bathroom with Mama while she was taking a shower. And Mama didn’t even try to get her in the water, either!

Bella: It may take a very long time before your kitten wants to get near the bathtub again. Possibly even years.

Tara: But like we said, you can keep her clean and hydrated without giving her baths in water.

Thomas: Do you other readers ever bathe your cats? Do you have some tips for Zermeena if she wants to get her cat used to baths? Please share your advice in the comments!

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