Life After Death: Caring for the Cat of a Deceased Owner

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As our society continues to age, cat ownership must evolve.

Because cats have the ability to provide loving companionship with minimal care requirements, they represent ideal pets for senior citizens. But as the elderly continue to age and, inevitably, pass away, feline deaths may not keep pace. In fact, many cats – with average lifespans of 15 years or more – will outlive their elderly owners.

The fates of hundreds of thousands of pets face uncertainty each year after their owners pass away. Moreover, many elderly individuals will need to relinquish their feline friends sooner rather than later as they transition into assisted living and nursing home arrangements.

But what, then, can be done to care for these displaced cats? How can we ensure they find longterm homes rather than contribute to the stray cat population or, worse yet, meet a fate of euthanasia?

Thankfully, several strong options exist for caring for a cat who’s elderly owner is deceased or no longer able to provide adequate daily care.

Preparation is Key

When possible, prepare in advance for a cat’s eventual life without their original owner. While this may be a difficult subject to broach with an elderly cat owner, it will eliminate various headaches down the road.

Assign a trustee through a living will to be in charge of finding an good home for a feline once a senior citizen owner is no longer able to provide care. It’s imperative that the trustee can assume responsibility for determining the pet’s future when the right time comes.

If possible, take your preparation a step further. Establish a trust to set aside money for funding that cat’s future needs, and document the cat’s medical history and owner’s veterinarian of choice. And if a future caretaker is already known, get that commitment in writing.

Adoption by a Family Member

Generally-speaking, the best outcome for a displaced cat involves adoption by one of the former owner’s family members or friends. This solution provides several key advantages.

First, the family member may already have a degree of familiarity with the cat, and vice-versa. This can prove beneficial, as a period marked by major changes can be taxing on a feline. Additionally, a lost loved one’s cat can serve as a pleasant, nostalgic reminder of that individual, helping family members cope while grieving.

Even if the adopting family already has a pet, this will not necessarily impede the addition of a late relative’s cat. Most cats are capable of successful integration into a pet household, and can rely on their ability to find safe hiding places if necessary.

Have a Backup Plan

Even if you’ve found a caretaker committed to serving as a permanent owner for the displaced cat, it doesn’t hurt to have an understudy waiting in the wings.

The family member who assumes responsibility may have the cat thrust into his or her life unexpectedly as a result of sudden incapacitation or death. Furthermore, that family member may find integration of the displaced cat more challenging than expected, especially if other pets already exist in the new household.

Consequently, it’s worthwhile to have a backup plan in place to support the formal arrangement for future feline care you’ve established.

Aid from Rescue Organizations or Cat Shelters

In some cases, particularly with small families, a replacement cat caretaker in the form of a family member or friend may simply not exist. In this instance, you can consider contacting a rescue organization.

Rescue organizations and cat shelters perform an invaluable service for our society, saving countless displaced animals from homelessness or death. Often run by volunteers and funded by donations, rescue organizations take in pets that have been abused, abandoned, or displaced. These organizations seek foster care until a suitable permanent home can be located.

Shelters are usually run and funded by local governments, operating as a facility that houses homeless pets. Many shelters rely on assistance from rescue groups in attempting to find new owners for displaced pets.

Assistance from Pet Stores and Breeders

Some pet stores and breeders offer a service by which they’ll house a displaced animal until a new owner can be found. These stores and breeders generously assume the costs for caring for this animal and typically offer the pet to a prospective new owner at little or no cost. This scenario is most suitable for younger cats who originated from that pet store or breeder in the first place.

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