Planning for Your Pet's Care After You're Gone – The Basics

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Nearly every pet owner will endure a pet’s passing. For many families and children, the passing a beloved animal is a rite of passage — though knowing that doesn’t lessen the hurt. But what if a pet owner dies, becomes incapacitated, or in some other way is no longer able to care for their pet? Someone needs to provide food, shelter, and love if you cannot, so let’s talk about what to do when it’s time to ask another to care for your pet.

The Basics
In the whirlwind of sorrow and mourning, it can be easy to overlook a pet’s care when dealing with the loss of a human family member. Remember that pets need love and attention just as much as any human would, especially if they’ve just lost their long-time owner.

Start by asking two trusted neighbors or friends/family to act as caregivers, if only for a short amount of time. Be sure to set expectations upfront — one week may be too much for some, one month may be too little for others.

Set aside and write down the following information:

  • Feeding and care instructions
  • Veterinary phone numbers
  • Short-term pet-sitting options
  • Any permanent care requests
  • Access to your home and pet’s area

Next, let your neighborhood know:

  • Names of emergency caregivers
  • How many pets you have, their names and descriptions
  • Instructions if a “lost” pet is found

Now that you’ve made plans to notify those closest to you, be sure to keep copies if the above information in easily accessible places, like your wallet or glove box, in case of sudden injury or death.

Next, post removable notices on doors and windows to notify emergency personnel of both how many and what kind of pets live inside. While stickers may seem the best option, they tend to be overlooked by firefighters and police, as they too often wear and/or blend in. Make removable, laminated, and suction-cupped or hooked signs with only the most necessary information in easy-to-read language. Affix them near doors and street-level windows. Be sure to keep them updated, as hard-to-read or incorrect information could cause rescuers to take needless risks or not be able to help your vulnerable pet during an emergency.

But those emergency notices are only for, well, emergencies. Be sure to create a separate, removable (non-sticker) document detailing long-term care needs for your pet(s), and attach that near any entrances/exits. While it may seem like overkill, these informal notices will make sure your pets aren’t left for days while those caring for you work through a backlog of instructions.

Now that immediate needs are taken care of, let’s talk about what you need in place to ensure long-term care for your pet(s). In the next post, we’ll talk about how to choose caregivers and what kind of arrangements work best.

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