I’ve been hearing a lot about medical insurance for cats and dogs lately. Is it actually available? Would you recommend spending money every month on an insurance plan for my pet?

— Confused in Camarillo

I would recommend some kind of contingency plan. Even though we hate to consider it, pet ailments can be intense and costly. (My owners have dealt with numerous pricey procedures related to scrapes from cat fights, feline diabetes, feline leukemia and my own odd tendency to snort foxtails up my nose.)

According to Jack Stephens on a forum hosted by the Morris Animal Foundation, coverage for a pet ranges from $10 to $35 a month, and can range from what we would consider catastrophic coverage to coverage for vaccines and teeth cleanings.

The Miami Herald recently argued for an alternative, however: placing the premium amount in a savings account. Noting that healthcare costs for an animal can be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, columnist Howard Cohen pointed out that insurance over the life of an animal could run $2,000 to $6,000. The implication there is that if Rover or Fluffy stays relatively healthy and dies a peaceful death in old age, you can then cash out and grieve in Hawaii.

And, as veterinarian James Cook points out to Cohen, a well-managed cookie jar full of cash could prevent your having to dispute claims with an insurance company. I’m sure my human cousins can appreciate that advantage.

A comparison of some pet insurance quotes is available at www.petsbest.com. For myself, a female, spayed Belgian Shepherd born in 1998 (who doesn’t smoke, although they didn’t ask), coverage for a basic plan with a per-incident deductible of $100, a per-incident limit of $2,500, no annual limit and a lifetime limit of $42,500 would cost me (or, rather, my family) $27.46 a month. A plan with the highest possible limits (a lifetime limit of $100,000, and a per-incident limit of $14,000) would run $70.95 per month.

For my roommate, a 15-year-old spitfire American shorthair cat (by my estimation; she’s been a bit vague about her ethnicity), basic coverage with a lifetime limit of $42,500 and a per-incident deductible of $100, is $21.23 per month. The plan with the highest limits is $55.52 per month. (I suppose the difference is size makes healthcare cheaper? I do have about 60 pounds on her.)