Lately I have been hearing about the need to get health insurance for your non-human companion… especially if you are short on money. But is it really cost-effective? You are betting your cat will have health problems and the insurance company is betting it will not.

After having forked over $4,000 recently for two cats who were in need of serious medical attention, I can confirm that the idea of having help to defray veterinarian costs can be very appealing. So I looked into it further.

Level #1 maximum incident benefit is around $2,500, with a maximum yearly benefit around $8,000.

But nearly everything for your cat’s medical care involves treatment related to injuries and illnesses. This means the next level. Level #2 covers diagnostic, procedures, x-rays, surgeries, prescription medications, and hospitalization at around $14.50 per month per cat or $174 per year.

Level #2 maximum incident benefit is around $1,500 with a maximum yearly benefit around $8,000 with “Continuing Care Option.” From Level #2 to Level #4, you can add Continuing Care Option for long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, allergies, thyroid conditions, and osteoarthritis.

Level #3 covers not only accidents and illness but also general wellness and preventive measures, such as annual physical exam, various vaccines, tests, and spaying or neutering. That’s around $29.50 per cat per month or $354 per year.

The maximum incident benefit is $3,500 with a maximum yearly benefit of $11,000 with Continuing Care Option.

Then Level #4 covers nearly anything you can think of including preventive medication and dental cleaning. This is the most comprehensive protection which starts at around $58.50 per month per cat or $702 per year.

The maximum incident benefit is $5,000 with a maximum yearly benefit of $13,000 with Continuing Care Option.

Overall, you are reimbursed 80 percent of usual and customary charges when you use any licensed veterinarian in the U.S. or Canada and meet a $100 annual deductible per pet. You can save 10 percent with their multiple-pet discount but that does not apply to Level #1 or Continuing Care Options.

How cost-effective is pet health care insurance really? I have seen it touted for people who are having economic problems and, especially, for those who have more than one feline companion. (By the way, insurance for dogs is about a third again as much as for cats.)

For the kinds of everyday problems your cat companion will likely encounter, I would estimate that even an indoor cat would need at least Level #2 insurance for the basics. After that, you are playing the odds that your cat will not have any serious problems and that you can cover vaccines and such on your own.

As “Kitty Mom” to 20 senior, disabled, and special needs kitties, having comprehensive pet health care insurance would not, alas, be cost-effective. I’ve decided to take things as they come and bet that the cats will have no serious problems. Like everything in life, it is a risk. Health Care MOM

However, every human companion to a cat should at least learn about cat health care insurance. You need to consider your cat’s past health record and the likelihood of any future serious accident or illness. You need to consider if you want to hedge your bet that your cat will have a problem and that the insurance will positively defray its overall costs. You want to keep your furry loved one at the peak of health but will cat health insurance help you do it more economically? That’s your decision.