Almost every day I see cats surrendered to shelters because their owner died or had to go into long-term care, and nobody knew what to do with the cat. But illness and death don’t just happen to old people: No matter how young and healthy you are, you need to have a plan to make sure your cat will be taken care of in case you become unable to do so.
Cassady Toles wrote a post about including your cat’s care in your estate planning. I’d encourage you to read it and follow his advice. However, if you don’t have a will, at the very least please make a care arrangement with a trusted friend or relative. Your planning should include the following:
1. Make sure your friend knows your cat’s routine
Your friend should know your feeding schedule so she can continue it as closely as possible. If you feed raw, you need to be sure she is comfortable doing that in your absence (not everybody is). She should also know who your cat’s vet is, where his medical records are, and about any medications your cat is taking or other special needs he may have.
2. Give her a spare set of keys
It would be awful if your friend knew she had to feed and love your cat but she couldn’t get into your house. Be sure your friend has a set of keys to your home.
3. Notify your landlord, building manager or neighbor
If your friend needs access to your home but for some reason she doesn’t have the keys, she may have trouble convincing people in charge that she should be allowed into your place unless you specify that this is the case and perhaps provide a photo so they can recognize her.
4. Have some money available for her
Even a small stash of cash under the mattress could help. Your friend needs to be able to afford to feed your cat and have the gas or bus money needed to get to and from your home. If you have a credit card you use for your cat’s care, consider authorizing your friend to use that card if your cats need to go to the vet.
5. Discuss the shelter option
If your friend adopts your cat and the cat is unable to get along with her feline residents, she’ll be in a bind: She knows you’ve entrusted her with your cat’s care, but now the cat is miserable. What does she do? If the situation is temporary, she’ll probably be able to deal with it, but if it isn’t, allow her the choice to rehome your cat and give him a better life without feeling guilty about it. Research the shelters in your area and let your friend know your preferred options.
If you don’t have a friend or relative you trust enough to take care of your cats and have access to your home, it would be a good idea to cultivate relationships that will allow that level of trust. Your cats depend on you, and you need to be prepared in case something happens to you and you’re no longer able to care for them.
I’ve included my wishes for my cats’ care in my will, and I’ve made a mutual care arrangement with a trusted friend in the event that I get sick. What have you done to make sure your cats will be okay if you’re not? Please share your ideas in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.