PET PLANNING

How Much Does a Cat MRI Cost?

Three Minutes
May 31, 2023

If your cat is injured or sick, getting a good picture of what’s happening on the inside can help vets develop a diagnosis and treatment plan. Diagnostic imaging can include MRIs, but they don’t come cheap. The average cost of an MRI for a cat can be between $1,500 and $1,9001 — a hefty price tag if you don’t have pet insurance.

Let’s walk through what you should expect if your cat needs an MRI, and how pet insurance may help cover the costs.

What Is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body's internal soft tissue structures, like the brain, spinal cord, and other organs.1 MRIs vary from other imaging tools as CT scans show internal organ injuries and X-rays show bone structures. In combination with other diagnostic tools, MRIs can help veterinarians make informed diagnoses on the soft tissue in your cat’s body.

What do MRIs help diagnose?

When it comes to diagnosing soft tissue injuries or illnesses, a higher resolution image can do wonders — especially if other diagnostic testing is inconclusive. A cat may need an MRI to help diagnose:1,2

  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle injuries
  • Cancer

The decision to perform an MRI will depend on your cat’s specific symptoms and medical history. Discuss your options with your vet and rely on their expertise before pursuing such an expensive procedure. 

Need an MRI To Help With Your Cat's Diagnosis? 

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How Much Do Cat MRIs Cost?

At almost $2,000 a pop, you may be wondering why a cat MRI is so expensive. The cost of an MRI can depend on where you live, the veterinary or specialist office you visit, and your cat’s medical condition. The biggest influence on the price you pay comes from the cost to purchase and maintain the MRI machine itself.

The cost of cat MRIs is also affected by labor costs. Veterinary radiologists are specialists with training to use the machine, analyze the images, and care for your cat throughout the process. The entire MRI process usually takes an hour or more, so the price can vary based on these experts’ care.1

What else am I being charged for?

While the cost of the machine and the specialists both contribute to the price tag for a cat MRI, there are other costs involved, too. You may incur additional fees to take your cat to a specialist that handles imaging tests like MRIs, since not all clinics have the technology available.

Once you find a specialist, they’ll prepare a quote based on your referral. Other things that may contribute to the overall cost of getting an MRI include IV fluids, anesthesia, and a potential hospital stay depending on the reason your cat needs an MRI 1,3

What to Expect When Your Cat Needs an MRI

In order for the vet to perform an MRI, your cat will need to be placed under general anesthesia. Since there are some risks associated with anesthesia, your cat will undergo preliminary bloodwork to ensure the anesthesia won’t pose a risk to them.1,3 Once your cat is sedated and their vitals look good, their care team will place them on a padded table that slides into the MRI machine.

The scan itself can take 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how much of their body needs to be examined. Once the scan is over, your cat will likely be placed in recovery for monitoring and remain on IV fluids while the anesthesia wears off.4 Your cat’s care team will give you instructions on how to care for them when you get home.

After the entire procedure is finished and your cat is ready to go home, you’ll likely schedule a follow-up appointment to review the results. Then, you can discuss the next steps for your cat’s care.

Pet Insurance Could Cover Cat MRI Costs

If you’re lucky, your cat will live all nine lives without needing an MRI. In the event that your cat does need an MRI, the good news is MetLife Pet’s cat insurance policies could help cover the cost of care for your kitty.4 Consider investing in your pet’s health, so you can get them the best care and worry less about the cost.

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1 “High-tech Medicine for Your Cat: MRI,” Conscious Cat

2 “MRI in Cats: What Is It and Why Might Your Cat Need It?,” Cathealth.com

3 “Cat Ultrasound, MRI, X-ray, and Radiology,” Animal Clinic of Billings

Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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