Last Updated on: October 8, 2021 by Ingrid King
Nobody wants to think about becoming ill, incapacitated, or dying, but as responsible cat parents, we owe it to our cats to think ahead and make arrangements for their care when we can’t be there to take care of them anymore. There are a number things you can do to ensure peace of mind not just for yourself, but for family and friends who may not know what to do in the event of your death or any other emergency.
Designate a caretaker
Find one or two responsible friends or relatives who will agree to take care of your cat if something unexpected happens to you. 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. Another option for this may be your trusted cat sitter, but be sure to make arrangements for their fees to get paid out of your estate.
Discuss your expectations
When choosing a caregiver for your cat, thoroughly discuss your expectations with that person. Do you expect them to give your cat a permanent home, or do you want their help to care for your cat temporarily while they find a new home for her? 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 stay in touch with both the primary and alternate caregiver periodically to ensure that the arrangements you made are still valid. Peoples’ lives change, and while someone may have been the ideal caregiver at one point, circumstances may prohibit them from being available if and when the time comes.
Consider a humane organization
If you can’t find an individual to help, you can consider a humane organization, but be aware that most organizations do not have the room or the funds to care for your cat, and they certainly can’t guarantee that your pet will find a new home. There are a few organizations that specialize in caring for pets of deceased owners, but it’s probably never an ideal situation. Your cat was used to living in a home, with all the love and attention that comes with that, and ending up even with the best of these types of organizations will most likely be extremely stressful for most cats.
Legalize the arrangement
Once you have found one or two potential caregivers, legalize the arrangement. There are a number of options, 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 permanent basis or until a new home is found for him. The arrangements should include authorizing sufficient funds from your estate to care for your cat temporarily, as well as cover costs to look for a new home. Keep in mind that it can take weeks or even months to find an appropriate new home for cats, especially if they are older or have special needs, so be sure to allocate sufficient funds.
Your best bet is to consult with an attorney about the legal aspects of the arrangement. There are also numerous online services available that provide low-cost help to set up standard legal documents. I used LegalZoom for a number of documents such as my will, power-of-attorney, medical directive, and more, and I’ve been pleased with their services.
If you already have legal documents in place to care for your cat, remember to review them periodically to ensure that they will still meet your cat’s needs.
There are a few other things you can do to ensure continued care for your cats in the event that something happens to you:
- Carry a wallet alert card with contact information for your emergency care givers.
- Make sure that 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 cat’s temperament, he may be scared when a stranger enters your house.
This is the kind of thing that none of us want to deal with, but 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.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.