Pet insurers processed a record 1.03 million claims last year, according to industry figures.
The total included 764,000 claims for dogs and 225,000 claims for cats.
The increase reflects veterinary practices being able to open their doors to non-emergencies again following pandemic shutdowns, as well as people getting new pets during the lockdowns, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.
Some £872 million-worth of claims were dealt with in 2021, jumping by 9.2% compared with the previous year, according to the ABI.
The previous record for pet insurance claims was in 2017, when 1.02 million claims were made.
The average value of a claim last year was £848, up from £817 in 2020.
The ABI said some recent examples include £726 for treating a cat’s respiratory condition, while treating a digestive disorder in a tortoise can cost more than £560.
Surgery for a cat’s broken tibia cost nearly £2,000, while treating a dog diagnosed with epilepsy can lead to a bill of more than £3,300, and treating a dog with diabetes can cost over £1,200.
The ABI’s data also revealed that in 2021 the number of people purchasing pet insurance increased by 4.5% to 3.7 million, the highest number since 2017.
Jonathan Purvis, policy adviser, general insurance at the ABI, said: “Whether they’re curious cats, playful puppies or even a timid tortoise, our pets are members of the family.
“They might offer us a great deal of happiness, but there’s no doubt they can keep us on our toes with their adventurous ways.
“With no NHS for pets, insurers are there to protect you and your furry friend when they get into mishaps or fall ill.
“As the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite, insurance can give you the peace of mind that, should your pet need medical care, the costs won’t leave you feeling sick as a parrot.”