Being a responsible pet parent will mean thinking about the future of their life - especially if your pet will outlive you. What would happen to your kitty, if something happened to you? If you were to become sick, require emergency hospitalisation or need to move into a nursing home. Do you have a plan in place for your furry friends?
For the most part, our beloved cats will come to the end of their lives whilst in our care, but we need to be prepared for all types of scenarios. It is important to have a plan in place, just in case you are suddenly no longer able to care for your cats.
According to Statista, at the end of 2022 there were 62% of households that have a pet. There are an estimated 12 million pet cats in the UK. Most of us view our kitties as members of the family, and are mindful of our responsibilities to them. All cat owners should put a basic plan in place which will pass on the caretaking responsibilities and ownership of their cat to another person, whether it’s a family member or a friend. If your cat has any special needs whether it’s dietary, medication or illness, then planning for uncertainty is all the more vital to ensure that they have uninterrupted care and comfort, no matter what happens.
How to start planning your cat's future
Have a second home lined up
You may assume that your cat would go to your family, but can you be absolutely certain? Start planning by initiating a conversation with the person (or people) that you had in mind. The only way that you can be sure, is to ask.
A few questions to guide the conversation
Are they willing and able to take on the extra responsibility?
Do they have the time/space/experience?
Are they financially able to take the cat on?
Are they aware of any specific or extra care needs that your cat requires?
How would they help the cat to adjust to life in their care?
How reliable are they?
Will they have the cat's best interests at heart?
This can be a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s the beginning of ensuring a safe future for your cat and it’s absolutely essential because whoever you pick to be given your cat, will be under no legal obligation to take them on - even if it’s in your will. Once you’re certain that the person, or people that you’d like to take on your cat in your absence are able to do so, you can begin to put an agreement into place. As the law views pets as property, we’d recommend getting this agreement in writing to ensure that they are legally able to take on the ownership of your beloved kitty.
Make sure you have a folder with all the cat’s information together. This should include;
Any medical requirements and medicines,
Be sure to let your family and friends know of this folder, and where they can find it.
Make sure you take a lifetime high cover (we recommend minimum £5K per year or minimum of £3k per condition) for your kitty and ensure that all the paperwork for the insurance is easily available so this can easily be transferred to the new owner. Although you might be able to cover their expenses, it is always best to have that option in case your kitty develops an illness in the future.
Please check out our blog to learn more about recommended insurance covers
A written statement is a good way to transfer ownership in the event that you become unable to care for your cat within your lifetime, however in the event of a sudden death it’s best to also have a will detailing who the owner wishes to take care of their cats.
Passing on your cat’s ownership through a will
Leaving a will which details your wishes for what is to happen to your cat, is the best way that you can determine what will happen to them, who they will live with and what their future will look like.
Even though a will is legally binding, provided that it has been signed and witnessed by two adults who are not beneficiaries, individuals set to inherit assets through a will do have the right to refuse an inheritance - so make sure that you and the person set to take on ownership are in 100% agreement. It may even be a good idea to have a ‘backup’ person just to be extra safe, in case the originally chosen person’s circumstances change within the future, and can no longer commit to the agreement.
Set up a ‘Pet Trust’
Inheriting a pet is a huge thing to take on, even if you’ve had previous discussions and had come to a unanimous agreement. As pets are viewed as an asset of your estate by the law, unfortunately you cannot leave money to a cat. Instead, any money that you save up for your cat's care, will go to the person that legally takes on caregiving duties and ownership. To do this, think about setting aside some money through a Pet Trust.
With a pet trust, you are in charge of designating funds, as well as identifying how the funds are to be used, and what standard of care is to be provided for your cats. There will be a trustee, as well as a beneficiary. The beneficiary will be the person/people that are to be named as your cat’s new caretaker and will take on ownership duties.
To start a trust in the UK, you first need to think about what type of trust would be suitable. There are seven main types of a trust. Leaving money for the care of your cats will generally fall under a ‘Bare Trust’. Any assets within the trust are held in the name of a trustee, but the named beneficiary will have the right to withdraw from it.
When setting up a trust for your kitties, you will need to find a solicitor. A solicitor will help you through the allocation of;
Who the trustee and beneficiary are to be,
What the assets are,
When the trust is to become active.
If you decide to set up a Pet Trust, it’s important that you have a conversation with the trustee and beneficiary about what your expectations are. You should also write up a letter, detailing what your wishes are for how your cat is taken care of in your absence, and how the money should be used for their benefit. There is of course no right or wrong amount of money to leave in a trust, but consider the cat’s age and needs, and try to make sure that it’s an appropriate sum of money for pet care.
A trust is a good way to have some peace of mind that your beloved kitty will be well cared for, as it is a legal process that you will be putting in place which will help to safeguard your cat’s future, and ensure that your wishes and instructions are followed.
What if there’s nobody to take my cats?
If your trusted family or friends are unable to take on your cat in the event that you’re no longer able to be their caretaker, it’s important that you then communicate what your wishes are. Think about what other options you have and other routes you can pursue. There are many other ways that you can ensure that your kitties get the love and care that they deserve, so try not to feel disheartened if you need to rethink your plan.
Leaving your cats to a charity through a will
If you are in the position where there is nobody that would be able to look after your cats, there are charities that you can apply to leave them to;
Cats Protection have a service called ‘Cat Guardians’, where they will take in your cat when you pass, until a new home can be found.
Blue Cross offers a service called ‘Pet Peace of Mind’, where you can apply to leave your cats to them, in your will.
The RSPCA have a ‘Home For Life’ service, which sets out to be there for your pets, when you pass.
With all of these options you simply need to apply to register your cats. Once the registration has gone through, it's important that you make your trusted family, friends and the executor of your will aware of the plans you’ve put into place, and where they will find the relevant documents detailing this.
The charity will do everything they can to make sure that your kitties are safe, healthy and well looked after. They will also begin to look for a suitable new home for them, when they are ready.
* Please keep in mind that this will depend on the space they have at that moment. So, only consider these options when a trusted family or friend agreement is not possible.
Pre-registering with Rescues
If you find yourself in a position where you will soon be unable to look after your cat, we recommend that you start reaching out to your local cat rescues as soon as possible. We often see situations where people end up with a cat that had belonged to their parents, or a loved one and are unable to provide the care that cats need.
To avoid ending up in this situation, make sure you have a clear conversation with your loved ones that want to pass their cats onto you. If it is likely that you’ll be unable to care for them - you do not have to take them on, and can begin discussing and finding alternative options as soon as possible.
When contacting a rescue, make sure that you give plenty of information about the cat and the circumstances. Giving as many details as possible will ensure that a charity can prioritise and act accordingly.
Please keep in mind that cat rescues are very often at capacity, and will need to prioritise according to levels of urgency and whether or not they have space to act quickly. For this reason, you’re likely to be more successful when contacting multiple charities well in advance.
We recommend that you also have a backup plan, if possible.
To find cat rescues local to you, you can have a look on Cat Chat.
Contact several rescues at once to increase chances of finding a home,
Speak to trusted family members or friends about taking the cat on or fostering the cat until a home is found (in the event that rescues are at capacity),
Contact rescues as soon as possible and try and give them plenty of time to act,
Remember that a space for your cat in a recuse is unfortunately not guaranteed,
Try and have a backup plan (or a plan that can be put into place until space becomes available in a charity),
Be patient with charities. We know this is a stressful situation to be in, they will do their best to help when and where they can
Taking on a cat is a lifelong commitment and responsibility. We know that circumstances can change very quickly, and this may result in no longer being able to fulfil that commitment to your kitties and this is often unforeseeable - but if you have cats or are thinking of getting cats, please think about how you can safeguard their future.
How Can You Help Us?
L.I.C.K is a volunteer run charity, no one gets paid!
Every donation big or small allow us to do our work and care for all our cats and kittens.
All donations go towards medical costs.
Written by Sofi N