This article may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
What happens when you can no longer care for your cat?
Our beloved cats usually have shorter lifespans than us, so we prepare ourselves for losing them, but sadly there are certain situations where people can’t continue to look after the cats that have become a part of their family – what happens then?
Whether you are elderly and about to move into a nursing home, require emergency hospitalisation and medical treatment, or your life simply ends suddenly and sooner than you had planned there are a number of scenarios that result in our our cats simply outliving us.
[Tweet “Plan your cat’s future – be the difference between your #cat going to a shelter or a family home.”]
How to Plan for Your Cat’s Future
You might assume that friends or family will take over the care of your cat if the worst happens, but do you know that for certain?
If you’re confident that you have someone in your life who will care for your cat, whatever happens, then you can go ahead with an informal arrangement. It’s important that whatever you have in place, you have friends, relatives or neighbours with keys to your home and knowledge of your cat for any urgent temporary care that might be needed.
Even if you have a friend who’s agreed to take care of your cat if anything happens to you, people’s circumstances change, and things may not work out the way you thought they would. That’s why it’s important that your chosen caregiver fully understands the implications and responsibility they’ll have, and they know that if their situation changes they should let you know.
If you think a more formal arrangement will work better, you can go down the route of putting it in writing in a formal way.
[Tweet “Take care of your #cats by making provision for them in your will or drawing up a pet trust. “]
- Will. Leaving your cat and his care to someone in your will may seem like the obvious choice, but don’t forget that a will isn’t a legally binding agreement, so you could leave your cat to someone (again, check with them first!), and they could hand him over to a shelter the very same day with no come-back.
- Pet trust. A pet trust is a more specific deed, in which you leave money and instructions for the care of your cat, and a trustee is appointed to make sure it’s carried out and manage the money.
Don’t forget that it’s not simply the practicalities of who will care for your cat if you can’t, it’s always good to plan funding for their care.
Note: When legal agreements are involved, it’s always best to talk the options through with your solicitor before making a final decision.
What Other Preparation do You Need?
Whichever option you choose when you’re planning your cat’s future care, you’ll need to put together a dossier on each of your cats with information about their food, personality, behaviour, health conditions and any other special requirements.
If you live alone, consider carrying a note in your purse/wallet that states who is responsible for the care of your pets, as well as keeping a list with all of the necessary information somewhere central in your home.
Have you made arrangements for your cat’s future in the event that something happens to you, or you can no longer care for your cat?
This blog post is part of the quarterly campaign for Be the Change for Animals – advocating to make the world a better place for all animals.
Images: Mark Patterson II / Sylvar via Flickr
Sarah Lusby says
A sad and all too real topic I wish more people would pay attention to.
A cat is for life! It’s unfair to ‘own’ a cat just for pleasure.
Joey Constanza says
As an owner of a few cats, I know that at some time in the future I may not be able to take care of them. My financial situation is a bit shaky so I don’t know how I will be able to take care of them. I’ll have to see about taking them to the clinic nearby. They might be able to take them in.
Cathy Armato says
Great post! It’s so important to have a plan in place for your pets, just as you would a child, in the event that something happens to you – and your spouse/significant other – as you may be together if tragedy strikes. Both a will and verbal agreement are great, and a Pet Trust is a great idea. Allocating some funds from your estate, no matter how small, may help provide vet care, food, etc. if the person you designate can’t afford to.
Heather Lynn says
This was a greatly important and informative post. It is something that I have been lucky enough not to worry about, yet, but something the options of are something I should definitely begin to consider.
Thank you for sharing this! It is a great topic. Unfortunately none of us know when we will pass away, so we have to be prepared at any age. It’s a hard topic to think about. I still have to get out there and put together the legal paperwork to make sure that my kitties will be properly cared for.
Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats says
Just like you should have a will to care for your human family if you’re no longer around, you should do the same for your pet family. Great post.
I didn’t know there was a formal document for pet care. I have always made it clear to those around me what my wishes are, but it looks like we will have to formalize it!
Dolly the Doxie says
Thank you for sharing this important information on planning for our pets after we are gone. We have written about this before, and we know first hand as we adopted a cat in October from a friend of a friend who died, and then my grandma (mom’s mom) passed away in November and we have her dog Taffy. Once we are all gone she says no more pets unless fosters or older pets to make sure we don’t have to leave any behind. Love Dolly
A truly selfless and loving post – a great reminder to consider animals when planning for wills, trusts, all of those things humans do for future planning!
It's Dog or Nothing says
This is such an important reminder. It’s hard to think about a time when we won’t be around to care for out pets, but it’s vital to make arrangements.
Jen Gabbard says
Such an excellent topic and wonderful suggestions. There are so many pets brought into shelters due to their owners illness or death and they always break my heart. I’m sure the last thing the owner wanted was for their beloved pet to end up alone in a shelter. Planning ahead is always a great idea.
Peggy Frezon says
Excellent reminders. This is something that is difficult to remember to do when we are all so busy with dealing with the here and now. But definitely important.
Susan Bewley says
As much as i hate to admit it, I’ve never considered it for our dog. I am going to have to talk to my husband about it. Not one of those things most of us want to think about. 🙁
Kim Clune says
Thank you for this tremendous reminder… something I myself still need to do for all of my pets. I got so wrapped up in rehoming rescue animals, that I never took he time to consider the unplanned fate of my own. I know full well what happens when people pass away. I’ve seen the guilt on the faces of those whose loved ones have passed, unable to take on the now homeless family pet yet wishing they could honor the wishes of the dead. All was assumed and never spoken or arranged for. And the bereavement of that animal, thrust into a kennel with nothing left but the bathrobe of the deceased to keep her company… It’s heart breaking.
Thank you for blogging the change and reminding me of what I must do,
As someone who advocates for shelter/ACC-incarcerated cats needing loving forever homes, I urge people NOT to rely on family members to care for their beloved cats in the event of your passing! Many cats betrayed and abandoned to these facilities are there because family members turned their backs on the cats, and their commitment to their relatives, as soon as the person passed. Friends would likewise not be a wise choice. Consult with a good attorney well versed in animal law and set up a trust for your beloved cats stipulating that they be cared for for life by someone willing and able, funded by the trust. Don’t EVER think that you may be an exception. Your feline family’s lives depend on YOU.
Planning for your pet’s future in case you can’t be there for them is so important, yet so few people consider it. Granted, it’s an unpleasant thought, but that planning can ensure your baby will be well-cared for and not end up in a shelter. Volunteering with cats in our local rescue, I met way too many cats left in just such a predicament. No one knew what their preferences or quirks were, favorite foods, treats, routines – anything about their former lives. And knowing all of that, plus some kind of arrangement for who would take care of them, would have made such a great difference for those kitties. Instead they were thrown into a world with complete strangers, frightened and grieving for their lost human.
Thank you for blogging the change for animals,
This is such an important reminder. We’ve seen more than a few cats come through PAWS whose owners have passed away. It’s heartbreaking.
Mark @ DBDT says
This is some great advice! There are so many cats (and dogs) that end up in the shelter because the plan was not clearly defined. I especially like your suggestion about a Pet Trust.
Very good reminder. No one lives for ever and we need to be on top of end of life events..
My human desperately needs to do this! She is not planning on dying anytime soon – but it’s always best to be prepared!
It's Dog or Nothing says
My husband and I recently filled out wills to state where our pups would go if something would ever happen to us. It’s something I never really thought about, but it’s so important to think about their future.
Beth | Daily Dog Tag says
This is such an important reminder for every pet parent! My sisters are all animal lovers so we know we can count on the others to take care of our pets if needed.
Thank you for this reminder. I have a pet trust for my cockatoo since he will almost definitely out live me but I have neglected formal arrangements for my dogs and cat. I do have several informal “back-up plans” in place but as you point out, those are no guarantee. I can’t imagine my poor Amelia having to deal with losing me AND the trauma of being back at the shelter.
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
Great info! It always breaks our hearts to hear about pets that have been surrendered to shelters when their owners pass away. Sharing this great post!
Ellen Pilch says
This is a subject that weighs heavy on my mind. My hubby and I really need to do some estate planning this year-it is one of my resolutions. Luckily, Massachusetts allows pet trusts. Thank you for reminding everyone of this necessity.
Fur Everywhere says
This is a good reminder. Some shelters offer programs where you pay a certain fee and they will care for your kitty for the rest of its life if something happens to you.
Traveling Cats says
It’s something we should all think about. Too many cats are being left behind. There’s a very good book on the subject: If I Should Die Before My Cat/Dog.
The Island Cats says
We’ve been seeing more and more of this topic being discussed. Which is a good thing. People have to think about their pets and what may happen to them if something unexpected happens.
Sometimes Cats Herd You says
This is such an important topic. There are so many cats who end up in dangerous situations through no fault of their own when something unexpected happens to their family. Planning ahead is key to keeping your family members who can’t speak for themselves safe.