This video is amazing!
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 14, 2014
What happens to my cat if I die? This is a question that we all ask ourselves every now and then. We may ponder this question for a moment, then put it out of our minds. It’s hard enough to face our own mortality let alone what happens to our cat or cats should something happen to us.
Statistics tell us that only less than 50% of the population have a will in place and that only less than 2% of those that do, have also made provision for their pet/s. However, if prompted by their attorney to add provisions for a pet, this percentage increases to 90%. This means that those who are not prompted or unable to afford legal assistance in preparing their will, may fail to provide for their pets future care.
Statistics also tell us that we are an ageing population and as such 6.500 people die daily. However, it’s not just death that is an issue, as an ageing population we are also prone to illness, disease and accidents. This means that we still need to make plans for the provision of our cats’ care in the event of not only death but also illness. In neglecting to provide for our cat’s future we risk the chance that they become one of the 1.5 millions animals who are euthanized each year.
It is important to be aware that, whether you can afford legal assistance or not there are ways to provide for your pet in case of death or illness. We discussed the importance of collecting documentation regarding your cat’s care in another article. It is vital to have all of your cat’s vaccination certificates and other documentation for the future carer of your cat. While you are at it, write down a care plan for your cat, including all the things that a carer would need to know in order to carry out the care, and meet the needs of your cat.
The care plan should be documented in a trust, or pet protection agreement, if you have one of these and also kept with a copy of the will. If you have a carer identified then give a copy to them also.
Here is a summary of documentation that you can prepare for your cat in the event of your death:
If you don’t have the financial means to get a will done by a lawyer at least get some advice before completing a last will and testament. Community centers sometimes provide free basic legal counselling which may assist. Inexpensive wills kits can be found, the internet is a great source of wills that can be saved, downloaded and printed out.
All that is required is a provision that leaves the cat or cats to a particular beneficiary. Money may be left for the care of the cat/s to the carer or another person who distributes it to a carer. There are a number of things to consider, firstly a will only protects the welfare of your cat if you die and not if you are hospitalized. Arrangements still need to be made in the interim as the estate may not be distributed for months after your death.
The money left to a person to care for your cat will also be paid out in a lump sum and there is no way of knowing if your wishes will be complied with, as you specified in the will. Once you create a last will and testament, ensure that you leave a copy with the executor/executrix as well as the documentation that they will need to pass on to your cat’s carer. If you have everything sorted and everyone in agreement and the chance of your will being contested is low, then this alternative may meet your needs.
A trust is a legal structure into which you transfer an asset or the ownership of something into. You can transfer the ownership of your cat to a trust and specify the care, duties and finances however, you have to appoint a carer and trustee. The trustee will oversee the care and finances as stipulated in the trust deed. The trust can be created separately from the will and thus can apply in the event of illness or hospitalization. There are two types of trusts, the traditional trust and statutory trust.
Traditional pet trusts are valid in all states of America and can be included in Estate Planning or can be done separately, however as it requires professional legal assistance, and costs associated with set up and funding, it can work out to be expensive. That said, it can confer peace of mind as the appointed carer and trustee are legally bound to carry out your intentions.
The trust can be acted on whilst you are still alive, especially in the event of sudden illness or an accident. You can also specify how long it last and nominate a back up trustee and carer in the case that the original ones appointed should predecease your cat. You can also specify that any monies remaining in the trust after the death of the pet may be donated to a particular person or organisation. If you have the money and have someone to nominate as the trustee and carer then this seems to be the most legally efficient way to ensure the ongoing care of your cat for the rest of its life.
Statutory pet trusts are only valid in 46 states, at the time of writing. They offer protection however it may not be as legally rigorous as a traditional trust in withstanding attempts to contest the trust. A statutory pet trust is basic and may consist of a basic provision in a will. In any event it could be as simple as “I leave $$ in trust for the care of my cat”.
Aside from the statutory and traditional trusts which can be created there is the possibility of creating those trusts to take effect in the event of illness before death or after death. Both types are different in the way which they take effect, are funded and the speed with which your cat’s care can be assumed.
A trust can be set up to take effect once you die. This means that it is less expensive as it is funded essentially by your estate or benefits paid at your death to the estate, as provided for in your will. Because it doesn’t take effect until probate you have to consider the cat’s care in the interim.
A trust can be set up which takes effect in the event that you die or become incapacitated. This enables the elected trustee to control the situation, get the carer and administer funds as required. As mentioned above this is the more costly structure, as the trust needs to have funds allocated when it is created, there are also start up costs and ongoing administrative costs as well.
Legal assistance is required to set up either of the above trust structures. An attorney experienced in the area of pet trusts will be able to advise on all areas and suggest amounts for funding the trust and how to fund the trust. They should be able to approximate the set up and ongoing administrative costs and refer you to an accountant for taxation advice.
A Pet Protection Agreement is available for purchase through the legalzoom.com website. This type of agreement is quite simple to complete, available online and relatively cheap starting at $39.00 for a basic set up. The agreement enables you to specify a carer, leave money for care and can be utilized in cases of illness or hospitalization. The agreement does not require any funding on set up and therefore is slightly different to the traditional trust in that respect.
Pets Letter of Wishes
This is a letter that you write to state your wishes for the care of your animal in the event of your death. The letter can be done separately to the last will and testament and if one already exists it can just be attached to it with the instructions of care and necessary documentation. These letters can be bought from the internet and this site has a basic legal pack for an individual starting at $60.00.
A power of attorney authorizes a person or people nominated to act on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions independently. It can cover the areas of financial, medical and guardianship. You can specify who is to perform those tasks and therefore insert instructions regarding your cat’s care. The documentation can usually be found on the internet at no cost and can be signed with witnesses.
Although a legal document, again it does not guarantee that your cat will be cared for in the manner that you wish. It is advisable to seek a potential carer and a secondary carer and give them a copy of the power of attorney and the relevant documentation pertaining to your cat’s care or at least the location of such. If you wish to contribute to the funding of care this will need to be arranged also.
Always ask those that you wish to care for your cat, if they are willing to do so. Sometimes the people you think would be ideal may have other plans in life, always check first before nominating anyone. Consider also, the person you nominate to care for your cat, may also pass away before your cat. What is the planned alternative should this occur? The best outcome for your cat would be to find a carer who is familiar with your cat, loves cats and is willing to take in your cat no matter what its age.
If you do manage to find someone who is willing to take on this role, then put it in writing, giving them a care plan, the location of the documentation and a house key, should anything happen. It is important to clarify whether they are available not just in the event of your death but illness or hospitalization. If they are unable to do short term emergency care then you will have to find someone like a neighbor who can step in and assume care or at least organize for the cattery to collect kitty. All of this means that you avoid the possibility that your cat ends up in a shelter.
If you live alone and have no person to whom you can entrust your cats’ care then a no kill shelter may be your only alternative. If you are hospitalized then a cattery may be your only choice in these circumstances, so ensure that you have selected one that suits you, should this happen. Find out what is available to you in your area, shelters usually take animals under circumstances such as death and only for re-housing not permanent care. However, they may not take kitty if you are in hospital. Therefore, you will have to make different arrangements to cover for both scenarios. A cat guardian service exists in the U.K. and services all of the U.K. and the service is free, although they do accept donations.
This type of shelter requires registration and provides a kit so you can let others know of your wishes, they can also collect your cat and guarantee to re house your cat. They require a codicil in your will to enable them to carry out your wishes, however this seems like a worthwhile alternative. If you can find a cat shelter in your area, it is worth asking if they offer a similar type of service, even if they don’t advertise that they do.
Some shelters may not be able to guarantee that they will hold your cat indefinitely until it is housed, and that it may be put down. Also, are there any cat retirement facilities or sanctuaries who will take your cat for the rest of it’s life? Would you prefer your cat to be rehoused in a loving home, spend its life in a sanctuary or retirement facility, these are the alternatives from which you will have to decide.
If you have a terminal illness there maybe organisations specifically appropriated to meet your needs. One such organisation that I have found is able to rehouse pets, however you will have to research your own state to see if such an organisation exists.
Once you have made arrangements keep a note inside your wallet or purse letting people know what action to take. You could also leave a note inside your house, in a prominent position (inside your front door), with phone numbers, to enable a person to call the organisation or person to collect your cat/s. If your cat is going to go to an shelter or cattery ensure that all of the documentation that needs to go is also readily available. This also applies to any neighbor or carer that you have nominated either informally in a trust or other agreement.
Remember that any wishes specified in your last will and testament cannot be enacted on until probate is completed, so ensure that you have an agreement in place either informally or via a separate trust to ensure that your cat is able to be cared for immediately in the case of either hospitalization or death.
There are many resources available on the internet to assist you in deciding how best to protect the welfare of your cat in the event of illness or death. It is advisable to read all you can and follow up as soon as possible. Often, we don’t know where life is going to take us, but at least you would have the comfort of knowing that if anything should happen to you, at least the needs of your cat are provided for and that he or she will suffer less in your absence.
No softie…A terrified family locked themselves in a bedroom and called the police after their pet cat Lux, above, went on the attack. Picture:AP Source: AP
TERRIFIED family locked themselves in the bathroom and called 911 after their fat cat Lux went on a violent rampage and attacked their baby.
Portland police had to be called to subdue the 10-kilogram Himalayan cat that trapped its owners inside their bedroom after attacking their baby.
Owner Lee Palmer told 911 dispatchers that his pet cat had scratched his seven-month-old baby son’s forehead and had “a history of violence.”
“I kicked the cat in the rear, and it has gone over the edge,” he told dispatchers.
“He’s trying to attack us- he’s very, very, very, very hostile.
“He’s at our door, he’s charging us.”
Mr Palmer and his wife Teresa Barker grabbed their baby and dog and fled to their bedroom, barricading themselves inside to escape Lux.
Family lock themselves in bedroom and call 911 after pet cat Lux attacks baby and goes on rampage
“I swear I have never seen anything like it, Mr Palmer told The Oregonian.
Sgt. Pete Simpson said the operator could hear the cat screeching in the background as the couple waited for help to arrive.
When cops arrived, the kitty suspect ran into the kitchen “attempting to flee custody”, police said.
Officers used a dog snare to capture Lux from his perch on top of the fridge, and placed him in a crate.
“The cat remained behind bars in the custody of the family, and officers cleared the scene and continued to fight crime elsewhere in the city,” Portland Police said.
Sgt Simpson said the cat stayed with his owners and that the baby was not injured in the incident.
“It’s only funny when it’s not happening to you,” Ms Barker told KPTV.
“When this happens to you, I assure you, you will do the same thing.”
The Importance of Preventative Dental Care
A part of owning a cat means that you have responsibility to maintain your cats’ health. In particular, the dental care that you implement at home is a form of preventative care that, together with dental check-ups will ensure that your cat will live a long, healthy and pain free life. Ignoring your cats’ dental care can result in costly veterinarian bills and unfortunately may result in pain or a shorter life expectancy for your cat. Regular assessment and care should become a routine for you and Kitty.
Assessment Of Your Cats’ Dental Health
Generally your cats’ mouth and gums should be pink and smell slightly fishy. The teeth should be white and clean.
Smell your cats’ breath, if there are any strong abnormal odor then this may be indicative of underlying problems such as gingivitis, tooth decay or digestive abnormalities. Take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Check gums for signs of redness, swelling, bleeding, ulcers and a dark red line along the gums. Also check to see if the gums are receding away from teeth.
Look for signs of a tartar build up. This will present as brown stains on the teeth and where the tooth meets the gum line and at worst covering most of the affected tooth/teeth. Check for loose and broken teeth.
Observe for any signs of pain which may present, such as the cat retreating when you touch his or her mouth, clawing or rubbing their face, drooling, trouble eating or total loss of appetite.
Check the condition of your cats’ mouth in general including their tongue, and palate. If you find any of the following signs of redness, swelling, bleeding, drooling, ulcers, pus, signs of pain, loss of appetite or inability to eat please consult with your veterinarian immediately.
Regular Dental Care:
Assess your cats’ mouth on a regular basis and if you do notice anything unusual, take Kitty to the veterinarian and let them know.
Brush teeth and massage gums regularly using pet products only. If you are the owner of a kitten then get them used to this as soon as you bring them home using a cotton swab, gauze or your fingers. There is no need to brush their teeth yet, as they still have their milk teeth, however getting them used to someone rubbing their teeth and gums will help once their lose their milk teeth. Try rubbing some flavored toothpaste on their gums so they can taste it, then introduce a toothbrush designed for cats or a finger brush. If you have an older cat there is no harm in trying to form this new habit, however ensure that they have been checked by the vet first. If they become distressed with brushing, there are other methods. Brushing should ideally be done on a daily basis, otherwise several times per week will suffice.
Dental chews which may help in reducing tartar build-up may be of some help. Read instructions as some of these products are not for everyday use.
Diet / Bones:
Special diet formulas of cat food can be purchased which are supposed to assist with tartar control. A combination of canned, raw and dry foods is recommended. Raw animal bones have been recommended by some and not others, because of the tendency for bones to cause damage. Do not give your cat pork, chicken or fish bones as they are more likely to shatter and splinter.
Products specially formulated for tartar build-up are available from specialty pet stores online and offline, some are grit based and can be added to food and others are gels or liquids poured into Kittys’ drinking water or food. Plaque removal products are also available in liquid or gel formulas. Please read labels first and check for reviews on websites if available.
When you visit your veterinarian for the first time after getting your cat, ask them how often you should bring your cat in for a dental check-up. Put this in your diary or on the calendar and keep to these recommended visits.
Implementing a good preventative dental care regime is the best thing that you can do for your cat as well as a regular assessment. This should ensure that if issues arise they can be treated promptly and should not cause any long term health issues with your cat. Remember prevention is better than a cure and considerably cheaper too.
It is extremely important when looking after your cat on a hot day to provide adequate shelter and hydration. This ensures that your cat will be comfortable and will not suffer from the heat and its effects.
It may not be hot where you are right now, however hopefully you will remember these tips when it is and refer back to them. People sometimes forget that their animals have special needs during the extremes of our weather.
On hot days, always provide cool or cold water in and out of the house. Keep ice blocks handy in the freezer during Summer so that they can easily be popped in Kitty’s drinking water. If possible ensure that Kitty is inside and preferably near an airconditioner. Everyone knows that you can’t always tell a cat what to do, so if your cat prefers to stay outside, ensure that there is shade and water. If transporting your cat to an appointment on a hot day, always drop the cat off first, never leave the cat alone in the car, temperatures can rise quickly causing distress, permanent damage, and at worst death.
Be on the watch for signs of heat stroke, including fatigue, loss of appetite, excessive panting, diarrhoea or salivating. Heat stroke is an emergency situation, and if suspected your cat must be taken to the Vet immediately.