“ Address: 5th Floor, Connect Centre, Kingston Crescent, Portsmouth, UK PO2 8DE / Type: Pet insurance „
I warn you now, this could be a very lengthy story...
Two years ago, in the middle of the night, I heard a crash. My cat Snoopy had knocked over a framed picture which was sitting against the wall. It had shattered into very sharp shards, but fortunately Snoopy was absolutely fine. However, this made me decide to get insurance for him - I had had it in the past but had let it lapse. I knew that if he was hurt or ill I would find a way to pay the bill, but insurance would make things easier.
At the time I was living in the Pitshanger area of Ealing, and using the vet on Pitshanger Lane, the Village Vet. They offered insurance which had the benefit of direct settlement with the Village Vet, and a lower excess on treatment received there (the insurance was valid when used at any vet, but with a higher excess). I did some research on other policies, and came to the conclusion that the Village Vet insurance was the one for us, both in terms of price and cover.
The Village Vet Total Care Pet Insurance is provided by Ultimate Insurance Solutions Ltd. There is a choice of three levels of cover - Bronze, Silver and Gold. For financial reasons I chose the Bronze cover for Snoopy. This offers £2000 per year for the treatment of each unrelated condition, and the important thing is that this is lifelong cover - as long as you renew the policy each year, the benefits are reinstated. For example - if your pet develops a lifelong condition, Village Vet Insurance will cover up to £2000 of bills per year for life.
I took out the policy in August 2009, and found it very easy to do so. I applied online, which took just a few minutes, and all the documents were emailed to me very quickly. Over the next two years I continued to pay monthly by direct debit (£15.13 a month, obviously cost is dependent on various factors such as the cats age), I renewed the policy in August 2010 and carried on happily.
At the end of February 2011 I moved away from the Pitshanger area of Ealing. As August, and the renewal date for Snoopy's Village Vet Insurance approached, I began to consider other options. Snoopy now has two female housemates, and I decided to change his insurer to the same as one of them to make things a little more straightforward. It was only a small saving, but as he was no longer a patient at the Pitshanger Village Vet, the main benefit of lower excess and direct settlement wasn't a consideration. So I took a new policy with another insurer to start on 17th August 2011, and advised Village Vet Insurance that I would not be renewing the policy which was due to expire on 16th August - this was done with a quick and easy phone call: although they asked why I was not renewing, there was no hassle or pressure to stay.
Come 17th August, and Snoopy was ill. I took him to the vet first thing in the morning and discovered he had a potentially life threatening condition - a blocked bladder caused by crystals in his urine, not uncommon in male neutered cats. He had to have an immediate procedure to unblock it. After much crying, panic and general upset, the vet called me to let me know the procedure had gone well and he was in recovery. I can't describe the feeling of relief this gave me. At this point my thoughts turned to the insurance, and I realised that all this was happening on the changeover day.
After a few calls to the new insurer, it became clear that there was no way they would cover the cost of the treatment - the policy had a 30 day exclusion period from the start date, which meant Snoopy was not covered for any new illness during this time (injury was covered), and that any illness which started during this time would be classed as pre-existing and would never be covered. My partner was determined that we should argue it as Snoopy had had continuous insurance, but it seemed there was nothing we could do.
I called Village Vet Insurance to ask if they would cover the condition in future if I reinstated the policy, with no expectations of them covering the treatment Snoopy was currently having. The very helpful lady on the phone (who seemed to understand that I was a bit fraught and could have done without insurance worries) told me that if I reinstated the policy there and then, the day after it had ended, there would be no break in cover and so any conditions could potentially be covered. She was of course careful about what she said - an insurer will never say "yes we will cover that" until a claim is submitted and accepted, but she was saying was that the treatment that week may well be covered. So we reinstated the policy, under the thought that "might" cover it is better than "won't" cover it - my main aim at that time was to have a chance at future treatment being paid for. I then cancelled the policy with the new insurer.
With the insurance sorted out, and the knowledge that I could submit a claim to Village Vet Insurance and hope for the best, all that was left was Snoopy's recovery. He stayed at the vet for two days while he had a catheter and IV in, and then my little boy got to come home. He was wobbly at first and had to wear a lampshade collar while unsupervised for a week, but he is now back to his normal self. He has to have regular urine tests and will be on a special diet for life to prevent this happening again, but he is fine and I am over the moon.
As for the insurance claim - I downloaded and printed a form from the Village Vet Insurance and completed the relevant sections. It took all of five minutes. I then gave it to the vet so they could complete their sections, and they faxed it directly to Village Vet Insurance.
Ten days after the claim was submitted, I received a plain white envelope in the post. Expecting some junk, you can imagine how delighted I was when I opened it and a letter and cheque from Village Vet Insurance fell out - a cheque for the full cost of Snoopy's treatment, minus the £99 excess. I hadn't realised they paid claims by cheque, I thought it would be by bank transfer, but honestly I don't care. After all the hassle I was so happy they had paid - and not only that, but paying this treatment is a good indicator that they will cover any future treatment Snoopy needs.
So all in all, a happy ending. The main thing is that Snoopy is fine - the insurance payout was just icing on the cake.
I have made a second claim just this week for follow up tests which Snoopy has had. Having paid the excess on the previous claim, it won't apply to this one as it is one excess payment per condition per year. I haven't yet heard back on that one, so fingers crossed. The follow up urine and blood tests all came back looking fine though, so Snoopy is doing well.
Village Vet Insurance is not likely to be well known outside the chain of Village Vet practices, but it is one I would recommend looking at if you are comparing insurances. Dealing with them has always been quick and easy, and the lady I spoke to on the day Snoopy went to the vets was so nice.
You can find more information at www.villagevetinsurance.co.uk.
And one final note - if your cat is growling at its rear end, trying to pee and not managing, or has blood in its urine, take it to the vet without delay.