Critter Talk Column
When I spoke to Carren Bowden, Executive Director of the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center (CTSAC), a few days ago, she told me they had just taken in 17 cats. Their owner had died and none of her family or friends were willing and able to take them in and care for them. Granted, 17 cats is a whole lot of cats, but the shelter sees this same situation regularly. In fact, one of my own cats came to be with me because her owner was a dedicated CTSAC volunteer, and after her death no one in her circle of family and friends wanted her pet cat. So, Missy Cat came to live at my house.
It’s definitely something to think about, and plan ahead for. You may think you have lots of time left and your pets will pass before you do, but unexpected things can happen. As responsible pet owners, we make sure our pets have food, water, veterinary care, shelter, and lots of love, but we also need to think ahead so that those well-cared-for pets will continue to be well-cared-for if they outlive us.
It’s important to make sure people know that you have pets in your home, so that in the case of an accident or sudden illness like a heart attack someone knows to check on your pets and make sure they are being cared for while you can’t. That’s easy...choose a couple of family members, close friends, or neighbors. Ask them to agree to be temporary caregivers in case this type of situation arises.
Particularly if you live alone, it’s a good idea to carry a card in your wallet with details on your pets and phone numbers for the people who have agreed to be temporary caregivers.
Ensuring long-term or permanent care for your pets if you become seriously ill or die is much more complicated. Verbally discussing this with your loved ones is important, but it isn’t necessarily enough. You might discuss this, but years later who knows whether the person your pet is counting on would even remember.
Ideally, when you write your will this is something that should be covered. You might consider a special trust for the person who has agreed to care for or find appropriate new families for your pets after you are gone.
Our shelter is often brought animals that had obviously been someone’s well-loved pets. Either no provisions were made for them, or sometimes the person who had agreed to care for the pets had a change of heart.
In case your beloved pets end up in an animal shelter, you want to be sure to have all the information you have about your pets available to go with them. Have a special (obvious) place to keep veterinary records, behavior notes, notes on special likes and dislikes, and anything else that might help someone want to adopt your now-homeless pets. You might keep these in a visible file on a desk or possibly filed with your will.
Most of the pets of recently deceased owners come to the shelter with absolutely no information. It would be good to know that the dog has been “fixed” and that they will probably stay healthy in the shelter because they have a vaccination history. It would be helpful to know that the dog is housetrained, loves to walk on a leash, and likes (or hates) baths. It is often hard to tell whether a cat is feral (wild) or whether his world was turned upside down and he is just terrified. The more information that comes with a pet to CTSAC or any shelter will mean a better chance of them finding a new home.
Corinne T. Smith Animal Center is open for adoptions and lost pet searches from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and open for animal intake from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call us at 325-646-0617.