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A Message from APA President Vicki Clark

If anything happened to you, what would happen to your cats?

You love your cats, right? You’d do anything for them. You feed them good food, give them a good warm place to live, shower them with love and provide vet care when they are sick. But, have you thought about what happens to your beloved cat if you suddenly became ill or passed away?

Most of the time, family members bring them to a shelter. If they’re young, they can usually adjust, but if they are senior cats, most just curl up in a ball and quit eating. Remember, they have been adored by you. They’ve sat in your lap and slept with you. Can you imagine losing the one person you loved and being removed from that home, then thrust into a shelter with many other animals? It is devastating for them. In many instances, the cat becomes sick and ultimately dies.

You may say, I’ve never thought about that or I’ll outlive my cat, or, I’ve thought about that but didn’t know what to do. That lack of knowledge sends an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 pets to shelters each year after their owners die or become incapacitated. In communities with high populations of senior citizens, pets outliving their owners can make up half a shelter’s intakes.

A little planning can provide some peace of mind—knowing that whatever happens to you, your pets will be just fine. Here are steps from the Humane Society of the United States that you can take to protect your beloved pet from being a shelter statistic.

Appoint a caregiver. Identifying a committed and loving caregiver is the most important step in planning for your cat’s future. Talk with everyone from your veterinarian to family members and pet-sitters about becoming your pet’s designated caregiver. Be sure that person really wants your pet. Don’t assume. Also, appoint a back-up in the event your designated caregiver has life occurrences that doesn’t permit them to care for your pet. Let the caregiver know what is expected of them. Create an information packet that details your pet’s medical history and daily care needs, including the type of food and treats your cat likes. Make sure the information is easily accessible and specifies the standard of living you want for your cat, including medical care and end-of-life decisions.

If you can, set aside a fund to cover your pet’s future expenses. For example, you can designate the trustee of your pet trust as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a bank account that’s payable upon your death. This ensures the trustee has immediate cash to devote to your pet’s care. It is best to have a well-crafted legal arrangement. It is much better to deal with a simple will or trust, than word of mouth expectations. This will ensure that your intentions are carried out. It’s preferable to leave both your pet and money to a caregiver, with the clear understanding that the money should go toward your animal’s care.

Another option is a trust – Trusts can be expensive to administer and maintain, they add a layer of oversight: The trustee pays the money to your appointed caregiver and may regularly inspect your pet’s health and living conditions. Having the person with the money be someone different from the person with custody of your animal creates a system of checks and balances.

Please, whatever you do, make a plan NOW for your beloved cat. Don’t wait because it may be too late.

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