I’ve written about emergency preparedness for cats and the importance of having a plan in the past, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be writing an article about how to prepare during a pandemic.
You should have a plan in place for someone to care for your cats when you can’t at any time, especially if you live alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has lent a new urgency to a topic that few of us like to think about, but as responsible cat parents, we owe it to our cats to think ahead and make arrangements for their care in the event of illness, death or any other emergency. Making arrangements before they’re needed means peace of mind not just for you, but for family and friends who may not know what to.
Cats do not appear to be easily infected with SARS-CoV-2
According to the American Veterinary Association (AVMA,) fewer than 20 pets have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 globally during the period of January 1 through June 8. This despite the fact that as of June 8, the number of people confirmed with COVID-19 exceeded 7 million globally and 1.9 million in the United States. There have been fewer than 25 reports from around the world of pets (dogs and cats) being infected with SARS-CoV-2; however, none of these reports suggest that pets are a source of infection for people. Like everything else with this virus, this is an evolving situation, but for now, we can all breathe a little easier.
If you are ill with COVID-19
If you are sick (either suspected or confirmed by a test,) the AVMA recommends that you restrict contact with your cats, just like you would with other people. If possible, have another member of your household care for your cats. Avoid close contact, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding. If you must care for your cats while you are sick, wear a face mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
Choose a caregiver
Find one or two responsible friends or relatives who will agree to take care of your cat if you have to be hospitalized. Ideally, these will be people who know your cat, and who your cat is familiar with. Provide them with keys to your home, and make sure they know your cat’s basic routine when it comes to feeding and care. Make sure they have your veterinarian’s contact information.
Discuss details with your caregivers
Once you have designated emergency care givers, thoroughly discuss your expectations with them. Remember that this person will have complete control over your cat’s care, including making decisions about veterinary care, so make sure that you choose someone you trust to make the same or similar decisions to what you would choose. Always have an alternate caregiver, and make sure that any emergency care givers know how to contact each other. Post emergency contact notices inside your front door. Include favorite hiding places for your cats on this listing – depending on your cats’ temperament, they may be scared when a stranger enters your house.
There are a number of options when it comes to legalizing care arrangements, including wills and trusts, and which is right for you will depend on your situation. Requirements will vary by state. Trusts are becoming more popular because they allow you more control over how your pet will be cared for. The goal is to end up with a legal document that provides for continued care for your cat either on a temporary or permanent basis or until a new home is found for him. Your best bet is to consult with an attorney about the legal aspects of the arrangement.
Even though nobody wants to think about the worst case scenario, once you’ve put these arrangements in place, you won’t have to worry about your cats ending up at a shelter, or worse, euthanized, because there were no other options.