Does my Exotic Pet need Specialist Pet Insurance?

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When it comes to deciding what pet to have, it seems that an increasing number of people are choosing animals that are somewhat more unusual than your average cat or dog. It is estimated that there are now over 1 million so-called exotic pets owned in the UK and this has not only resulted in veterinary practices now offering more specialist care and treatment, but also the need for specific exotic pet insurance policies.

But, what exactly is an exotic pet?

An exotic pet is considered, in the traditional sense, to be any animal that is not indigenous to the country it is being kept as a pet. However, there are some surprising exceptions to this including mice, which were originally introduced by the Romans, and rabbits, which until the 12th century were non-domesticated. Most standard pet insurance providers will offer policies for dogs, cats, some small animals and certain breeds of bird, but it can be much harder to find insurance for anything other than this.

The following list of animals are all considered ‘exotic’ and therefore require a more detailed insurance policy:

  • Tortoises
  • Terrapins
  • TurtlesTortoises are considered exotic pets
  • Lizards, including geckos, iguanas etc.
  • Snakes
  • Parrots
  • Rabbits
  • Guineapigs
  • Birds of prey
  • Small exotic birds, for example: lovebirds, cockatiels etc.
  • Small mammals, for example: hedgehogs, chinchillas etc.
  • Medium mammals, for example: micro-pigs, pygmy goats etc.
  • Arachnids

You may be wondering what is so different to keeping an exotic pet than a standard one? Surely, they need all the same fundamental care and should therefore need no more than the cover provided by any standard pet insurance policy?

What does exotic pet insurance cover against that a standard pet insurance policy wouldn’t?

One of the main reasons for taking out pet insurance is in order for it to help cover the cost of veterinary treatment should your pet become ill or is involved in an accident. For common animals, such as cats and dogs, finding a qualified veterinary surgeon to treat them is by no means difficult. As sick as a parrot!Finding one who has the knowledge and expertise to treat an exotic animal, on the other hand, is a much harder task and even if you are lucky enough to have one in close proximity to where you live, you can’t always guarantee that they will be able to provide care for your particular species of pet. What this means is that you will probably have to travel further afield and any treatment or medication costs are likely to be higher. One thing that insurance providers don’t like is risk and if they feel that a particular species of animal is too much of a gamble, they simply won’t insure it.

We all know how important it is to take out pet insurance, (if you don’t, then have a read of our article ‘How much do you REALLY love your pet?‘ and you’ll soon understand why!), but there are three extra factors that need to be taken into consideration when you own an exotic pet:

1. Replacement or recovery

If your pet escapes, gets lost or is stolen it is never nice, but think about it from a more practical point of view and it’s clear that the loss of a rare snake compared to a run of the mill moggy is going to cost you a whole lot more financially. An exotic pet insurance plan will cover the extra costs involved in replacing your pet or any costs involved in trying to get your pet back. Exotic pets are much more desirable to thieves, because of their increased worth and as such it is worth taking out a fully comprehensive insurance plan to cover for this, albeit unlikely, eventuality.

2. Death

In the same sense as replacing, the death of a rare species will cost a lot more than a common one. How will the body be disposed of? etc.

3. Third party liability claims

Certain exotic animals are considered more dangerous than others and may even be venomous. This means there is a greater risk of damage to other people if they come into contact with your pet or in fact damage to their property should your pet escape.

How do I know what type of policy to get?

As with most insurance products, there can often be lots of unfamiliar jargon and small clauses written into policies that makes it incredibly confusing to the average person wanting to simply make sure their pet is insured in the best possible way. We’ve put together a basic description of the main types of policy you’ll come across when researching insurance for your exotic pet, which will hopefully make the whole business of insuring your pet a lot simpler!

Collective Policy

Finding the right pet insurance can be a prickly business!A collective policy is basically a policy that covers more than one animal of the same species. Owners of exotic animals often keep more than one, either because as a species it is advisable to do so, or purely to form part of their collection. To insure each and every individual pet would obviously cost a fortune, so taking out a collective policy is the best option in terms of cost. Remember to check the policy small print for any restrictions on the number of pets the policy will insure against, the type of pet it covers and any other limitations.

Lifetime Policy

As the name would suggest, a lifetime policy covers your exotic pet for their entire lifetime. This is the most comprehensive of all pet insurance policies, but is consequently the most expensive. In general this type of policy will cover against, amongst other things, illness, long-term conditions, medication and vet care and treatment for as long as your pet needs it and as long as you pay the premium. It sounds all good to be true, right? Well, if you’re after extensive cover this is the insurance plan for you, but be aware that there are likely to restrictions on the total amount the policy will pay out over the course of a year and you will need to weigh up whether it is worth it based on the overall cost of the policy.

Limited Policy

Exotic pet insuranceAt the other end of the scale is a limited policy, which is the cheapest option. This type of policy is usually taken out for a year, before having the option to renew, and your pet is covered against illness during the duration of the policy. Think of it as a pay as you go option, which can be convenient for people who need to reassess their finances each year before committing to anything more fixed. But, be warned; if your pet develops a condition during the term of insurance, but you don’t renew it when it reaches its end, the condition will be labelled as pre-existing. This means should you choose to take out pet insurance again in future, regardless of whether you use the same provider, it will make getting cover more difficult and a lot more expensive.

Capped Cover Policy

This type of policy can also be renewed on a yearly basis, but differs from a limited policy in that you can cap the level of cover at a certain amount. Cover is usually given a set amount per condition and once the amount has been paid out the insurance provider will no longer pay out for that particular condition, which means you will have to fund the remaining costs yourself.

Maximum amount

Similar in principle to a capped cover policy, a maximum cover policy sets a maximum total amount that the insurer will pay out over the course of the year. This annual limit can go towards paying for vet bills, treatment and often the cost of replacing or recovering your pet should it die, become lost or is stolen. This is a great option for exotic pet insurers as these types of animals are often more expensive to replace.

Third Party Liability Cover

Although technically not an insurance policy in it’s own right, third party liability cover can often be taken out in addition to one of the policy types listed above. If you own, what is considered to be, a dangerous exotic pet that carries the risk of potential harm to others, then it is strongly advisable that you swallow the extra cost of third party liability cover.

Image courtesy of itv

Image courtesy of itv

Examples of the types of animals that would benefit from this additional cover include:

  • Venomous spiders
  • Venomous snakes
  • Constricting snakes
  • Birds of prey

If you have struggled to find an insurer who is will to insure your exotic pet it is still worth enquiring as to whether they could offer you third party liability cover, because any cover is better than none

Will Exotic Pet Insurance cost more?

The costs of keeping an exotic pet are usually higher than those of a common pet and when people first buy one it is understood that their choice in pet is in some sense considered a luxury. Exotic pet insurance can be expensiveIn brief, you must only buy an exotic pet if you can truly afford to keep one and by that we don’t just mean the living and running costs, but also veterinary and insurance costs. The type of pet you have and how many you have is the fundamental basis on how your policy is calculated, but factors such as where you live, the age of your pet, the health of your pet; including any previous conditions where relevant, and even how you keep your animal may all be taken into consideration.

One other factor that will have an impact on the cost of your exotic pet insurance premium is the excess. All insurance policies have an excess, but the figure at which this excess is set at can vary dramatically. The excess is the amount you must first ay before the insurer will contribute. In general, the higher the excess the higher the premium, but it may well be worth paying the cost for a bigger excess on an exotic pet insurance policy as vets bills and treatment will be that much more expensive.

Which insurance companies provide Exotic Pet Insurance?

Unsurprisingly, there aren’t that many insurance providers who offer cover for exotic pets; during our research we came across three specialist insurance companies, which we have listed below:

ExoticDirect

ExoticDirect is the main specialist insurance provider for this sector and has been providing insurance cover for exotic animals for over 20 years. They offer a range of different policies which are tailored according to the likely needs of your pet type.

ExoticDirect offers cover for:

  • Veterinary feesMicro pig
  • Theft
  • Mortality
  • Weather perils

They also offer liability insurance for:

  • Animal shows, displays and events
  • Bird of Prey experiences
  • Dangerous Wild Animals

On their website they claim to “speak your kind of language and know about the common pitfalls, problems and difficulties involved in keeping these demanding yet rewarding pets”.

Cliverton Insurance

At first glance, Cliverton Insurance appears to primarily offer insurance to people who work with animals, for example bird of prey centres, pet sitters and dog groomers etc., however, they too take a very flexible approach and they are definitely worth contacting to see if they can fulfil your requirements. Cliverton Insurance claim to “constantly monitor our competitors to make certain that our products are not only up to date and competitively priced, but also the ones for others to try to beat”.

E&L Bird Insurance

Whether you own an exotic bird or a bird of prey, E&L Bird Insurance can provide comprehensive cover for your feathered friend. They offer:

  • A 10% discount for multiple birds
  • Cover for up to £3,500 worth of vet’s fees
  • Theft, personal accident and public liability cover
  • Cover for aviaries, bird-rooms and all equipment

For more advice on ways in which you can save money on your pet insurance premium, read our article ‘10 ways to Save money on your Pet Insurance‘.

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Head writer and researcher extraordinaire, I'm here to answer all your insurance questions and hopefully save you a bit of money in the process!

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