Sometimes pets are discovered in a person’s home days after a tragedy such as an illness or accident that sends the owner to the hospital, or after the person’s death, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Because cats have shorter lifespans than we do, we generally expect them to go first and don’t make arrangements for their well-being. But because we love our pets, we should plan for the unanticipated. Here’s how, according to the Humane Society.
Talk to at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with the keys to your home. Also make sure they have care and feeding instructions along with the name of your cat’s veterinarian and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet. In some cases, the emergency caregiver might also be the one who takes care of your cat over the long haul.
Make sure your neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many cats (and other pets) you have and the names and contact numbers of the people who have agreed to serve as emergency guardians. The emergency guardians should also know how to contact each other.
Carry an “alert card” in your wallet that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. Such notices will alert emergency-response personnel during a fire or other home emergency. (Don’t use stickers. Because they’re hard to remove, firefighters may assume a sticker is outdated, or worse, risk their lives trying to find a pet no longer in the home.) It also isn’t a bad idea to affix a removable notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers to the inside of your door.
Once the crisis has passed
Even though you may have a friend or relative who promises to take care of your cat permanently should something happen to you, the Humane Society recommends going one step further by drawing up a will, trust, or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your cat as well as the money necessary to feed him and tend to his medical needs.
Typically, a last will and testament is not probated and formally recognized for days or even weeks, if not longer. That’s why you want to have emergency plans in place. It’s also why you may want to set up a trust in addition to a will. A trust can provide for your pet immediately and can apply not only if you die but also if you lose your ability to look after your cat. It can even be structured to provide for your pet during a lengthy disability from which you are expected to recover. Talk to a lawyer about options.