Most people will experience the loss of a beloved pet during their lifetime. Most animals that we keep as pets have shorter lifespans than we have as humans.
It’s understandable, then, that you’re likely more prepared to lose your pet or pets before they lose you. But what would happen if you get sick or die before your pet?
If you’re a pet parent or want to help a pet parent protect their pet’s well-being when they’re gone, this guide will help.
1. Choose a permanent home.
Do you have a friend or family member who you trust completely with the care of your pet or pets? If so, you’re in luck. That person might be the perfect permanent caregiver for your pet. who takes care of your pet immediately after your death.
When you’re deciding who would permanently adopt your pet if you become ill or pass away, consider these factors:
- How the person has gotten along with your pet or pets in the past
- How the pet would fit into the person’s home
- How the pet would fit in with other pets in the home
- How your pet would fit in with family members in the home, including children
- Whether or not their opinions on pet care and euthanasia align with your own
2. Designate an emergency caregiver.
If the permanent home you choose is far away, or the person might not be able to take in your pet right away for any reason, it’s a good idea to choose an emergency caregiver.
This is a person who is closer by, who can come pick up or care for your pet right away in an emergency. It’s also a good idea to choose two or three emergency caregivers, just in case your first choice is unavailable for any reason.
3. Team up with friends and family.
Even the most difficult tasks are easier if you tackle them as part of a team. If you have friends or family members who also have pets, you could get them together to create a pet care pact.
Decide who amongst the group will act as each pet’s emergency caregiver, and put these plans in writing. The document should also include everyone’s veterinary information and any important information about each pet, including what food they eat and medication details.
4. Have a heart-to-heart with your chosen caregivers.
You don’t want to designate a caregiver for your pet only for that person to refuse the responsibility. That’s why it’s important to have a serious conversation with both your chosen emergency caregiver and permanent caregiver to make sure they’re comfortable with the role.
Make sure that they know everything that taking care of your pet, in the short term or the long term, would entail, and that they would be able to provide a loving and caring environment for your pet.
5. Write down your plans and preferences.
Plans are only useful if someone can find them and follow them. Make sure you put all of your plans and preferences for your pets’ care down in writing, including:
- Your emergency and permanent caregivers
- Your pet’s veterinary clinic or provider and their phone number
- Your pet’s usual food
- Any allergies or medical issues your pet has
- Anything else a caregiver should know about your pet
6. Create rehoming instructions.
If you can’t find a friend or family member who would be willing and able to take in your pet, that’s OK. There are plenty of loving potential homes out there that would love to incorporate your pet into the family.
If you don’t have a permanent caregiver in place, create rehoming instructions, instead. You can designate your emergency caregiver as the person to rehome your pet, or choose someone else to fulfill that role. That way, your pet doesn’t have to go through an animal shelter to find a new home.
In your rehoming instructions, you can describe the type of home you would prefer your pet to go to. Be as specific as you can, but list your preferences in order or priorities. Chances are, not everything on the list would be able to be fulfilled, so list the most important things first.
7. Put away some savings for your pet.
Every pet owner knows that pets aren’t inexpensive. You want to make the burden of taking on your pets after you’re gone as minimal as possible, so putting away some savings for your pets is a great option.
If you fully trust the person you’ve designated as your pet’s guardian, you can simply stash some money in an envelope and specify that it’s for your pet’s care. However, you can make the fund more official by creating a trust for your pet’s care or adding your pet to your will.
Providing for Your Pets, Even After You’re Gone
No pet parent likes to think about leaving their pets behind. But taking steps to ensure your pets are loved and cared for even after you’re gone is one of the most selfless acts you can take as a pet owner.
Sarah is a writer at JoinCake.com, an end-of-life planning website with free resources and information on how to estate plan and honor loved ones’ final wishes.