Sadly, many cats and dogs end up in shelters, abandoned, lost or forgotten when their guardians pass away unexpectedly. Always make sure you have a plan in place to protect your pets after you are gone (see tips below).
Rehoming A Cat Whose Owner Has Passed Away
Faith’s final wish was to find “a retirement of gentleness” and a new home for Mango, her sole companion of many years. Friendship, loyalty, determination, and some synchronicity helped this wish come true.
Faith was a well-respected child welfare attorney and many believed she would become a judge. But in her mid-forties, just after opening her own practice, Faith was struck by a massive stroke that left her paralyzed, unable to speak or move anything but her left arm. Because her insurance had not yet transferred from her former position to her new practice, she lost everything: her home, all her possessions, her financial independence and even her much loved pets.
For the first eight years after the stroke, Faith lived in a nursing home. Fortunately, she was eventually able to move to a nearby assisted living facility. With no family and only a few close friends, she lived a primarily solitary and often lonely life. She longed for companionship and missed sharing her life with a cat. After much discussion and planning, a friend agreed to help her adopt a cat. Mango was nine years old when she was adopted. Prior to living with Faith, Mango had also been abandoned by her family – they were a perfect pair.
Mango was the love of Faith’s life. Together they lived a quiet existence and were each other’s only companions. Faith was able to type with her left hand and penned several articles for animal friendly publications about the importance of pets in the lives of the severely disabled. Although Mango was sometimes shy, she trusted Faith and spent much of her day curled up at her side. Faith’s friends say that Mango gave her life joy and meaning when she had little left to believe in or love.
When Faith passed away in July 2014, her three close friends were determined to find a safe place for Mango. But Mango was 14, shy, obese and not exactly adoptable. Between the three of them they contacted over 50 shelters in the Chicago area. Many shelters did not respond, and those that did said no.
At that time, I was transitioning off the board of Red Door Animal Shelter. Although I wasn’t as actively involved, I was still copied on all incoming emails. I didn’t respond or even open very many, but for whatever reason, I opened the one about Mango. By the time the story reached me, there were only three days left before Faith’s room was to be cleared and Mango out. I didn’t think there was much hope, but I put a call out on Facebook as well as through some other rescue networks. Although the story was shared widely, only one person stepped forward to take Mango. Amy already had two other cats and wasn’t looking for a third. But she was touched by the story and after volunteering in many shelters, she knew Mango’s chances were slim to none.
A year and a half later, Mango has slimmed down and just had a great report from the vet. Aside from being on a restricted diet, she is very healthy for a 15 year old cat. And while Mango has never warmed up to Amy’s other two cats, she seems content, peaceful, and relaxed in her new home. She has many comfy beds, lots of bright windows, and most importantly, “a retirement of gentleness” as Faith had wanted.
I hope Faith is at peace and knows that the gentle soul who stayed by her side is w safe and loved by another gentle soul and that the cycle of kindness and compassion continues.
Tips For Providing for Pets After You’re Gone
- Identify two responsible friends or relatives to serve as emergency or long-term caregivers for your pet in the event something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys, feeding and medication instructions, and the name and number of your veterinarian. Emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other.
- Carry a wallet alert card that lists the names and contact information of your emergency caregivers and the name(s) and species of your pets.
- Make sure your neighbors know how many pets you have and the names and numbers of your emergency caregivers.
- Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. List the names and numbers of your emergency caregivers on your refrigerator or in another highly visible location.
- Select a permanent caregiver for your pets as well as few back up alternatives. Stay in touch with the caregivers as priorities and life circumstances change over time and adjust your plan as necessary.
- Leave instructions for your executor as to the long-term care of your pet and authorize them to expend funds from your estate for the temporary care and/or transport of your pet to their new home.
- Establish a trust for the care of your pet. Unlike a will, which may take months to years to settle, funds from a trust will be available immediately. You can find more information for setting up a trust here and here.
Mango is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here.