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What happens to your cat if something happens to you?

Don't worry, you have a home with us.
Don't worry, you have a home with us.
Photo by Wendy Warwick White

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good your health is sometimes fate strikes and kitty is suddenly left alone in the world. If something happens to you have you made arrangements for your fur-friend’s future? Don’t simply depend on the kindness of others and presume someone will take kitty into their family. Accidents happen, people are suddenly taken ill or die, or get arrested or placed into care. Many of the resulting left-alone-animals are euthanized. Some cats are simply discarded and thrown out onto the street to fend for themselves. Do you want that for your furry companion? No? What can you do? Be prepared.

Shelters are regularly presented with cats brought in by family, friends, neighbors or emergency responders after the cat-caretaker suddenly died or became too incapacitated to take care of kitty. For situations when you are no longer able to make decisions for kitty the Human Society has an excellent resource: Providing for Your Pet's Future Without You. Among their suggestions are:

Carry a card listing all animals in your home and the names and contact information for at least two prearranged emergency cat-caregivers. Have this information visible inside your front and back doors too.

Ensure there are at least two responsible and trusted people, preferably who know your cats and live locally, that will agree to act as temporary emergency caregivers. They will need keys to your home.

Maintain an easily accessible file containing feeding and care instructions, veterinarian records, the name of your veterinarian and information about the provisions you have made for your cat. You may want to put a $20 bill in the file to help pay for emergency food and cat litter until the care-giver arrives to take over.

Let neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many animals are in your home, how many, and give contact information for emergency caregivers.

The Humane Society’s kit answers questions most people wouldn’t think to ask. It includes easily understood example forms and suggests how to word estate plans and wills correctly to provide financially for your cat. It also outlines various possibilities for future long-term care for kitty.

In the event of a short-term separation, when Kitty’s future is still in your control, you should have an emergency temporary cat-care plan set up. These situations could be a sudden family or medical emergency, or the temporarily lose of cat-friendly accommodation.

The book; PerPETual Care: Who Will Look after Your Pets If You're Not Around? by Lisa Rogak is another good resource. Rogak covers much of the information the Humane Society does but goes into more detail on how to furnish a plan acceptable to all involved. Pet trusts are not legal in all states and her extensive appendix lists the states where they are. She also lists (current at time of publication) pet-friendly lawyers, pet retirement homes and sanctuaries. Among other topics she covers the dangers of probate to your cat and even how to fund a pet trust when you have no funds of your own.

However you elect to have kitty cared for in your absence make sure to review the details periodically and make any necessary updates. In these confusing times a beloved kitty can be overlooked and sometimes is found alone at home only days later.

There is something else to bear in mind. Some cats will not settle into another environment. They are so attached to their home and person they cannot cope with the loss. Some will mourn to the extent that they will simply shut down and die. However good the intentions of care-givers, kitty will not divert from this suicidal course. Others may panic on losing everything familiar and revert to an almost feral state. Sometimes they will calm down and return to their old self, but not always. This is also holds true for cats given up for any reason. If there is a possibility your kitty will react in either of these ways should they lose you and their home, you may want to consider the very hard but kind decision to request kitty is euthanized if anything happens to you. Hopefully it won’t come to that and kitty will live out the rest of its life with you rather than your carefully selected caregiver.

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