When You Die and Leave Your Cat Behind
Written by Ray Anderson
As cat owners we’re constantly fussing over our cat’s welfare. We buy special food, we take our annual trips to the vet and we provide a safe and comfortable home for our companion.
We also worry about how we’ll cope when our cat dies. How will we explain this to the other members of our family? If you’ve been a cat owner for a considerable amount of time the odds are that you’ve learned how to manage the loss of your cat. It’s inevitable, primarily because of the length-of-life discrepancy between us and cats.
One problem that very few of us have ever seriously considered, however, is what will happen to our cat if we die first? Who will take care of our pet?
There is the common misconception that cats are aloof, standoffish and thus able to fend for themselves at any time. In fact, loved cats are very loyal, full of character and very dependent on us, especially when they’re older. Our untimely death will cause massive chaos to them.
Animal shelter volunteers will tell you that old cats brought to the shelter by family or friends of the deceased, are in such turmoil because of the passing of their owners, that many of them will not eat or sleep, and that their health will suffer tremendously. They loved their owners as much as their owners loved them, and they grew dependent on them, not only for their food and shelter, but also for the love that the owners gave them. They miss their owners terribly and many, unfortunately, will die from grief.
It’s heartbreaking to think of your cat in such a difficult time. There really is only one sensible way to prepare for the possibility of your passing before your cat’s, and that is that you’ll have to make the arrangements to find another loving owner ahead of time.
Talk to your friends and family members who may already know your cat. Pay attention to how they interact with your cat and how your cat interacts with them. Is there someone who is especially close to your cat who might take it when it’s time?
It’s never good to assume that anyone will automatically take care of your cat if something happens to you. Taking in a pet, especially an older cat is not an easy matter and arrangements such as these should be discussed in great detail with the potential new owner. Finally, a letter of understanding written by you, explaining in detail the arrangements that have been agreed to should be sent. Although not a formal contract, it is psychologically more binding than a handshake.
Along with that letter include written instructions that will be helpful in assisting your cat adjust to its new owner. What is your cat’s favorite food? What are its habits, good and bad? What are some of the special things that you did with your cat that the new owner could do? Anything that will help your cat adjust to its new and initially frightening environment can be written down.
We love our cats and they love us, and we don’t want to think about what happens when either one of us dies. And yet, we have to be responsible and plan for the care of our cats much as we do for our loved human family members.
It’s the responsible thing to do!