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The Specials: Rehoming A Cat Whose Owner Has Passed Away

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.

rehoming a cat whose owner has passed away and tips for providing for your cats after you're gone

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.

Rehoming a cat whose owner has died

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.

Find out how one senior cat was rehomed after her owner died

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Make sure your neighbors know how many pets you have and the names and numbers of your emergency caregivers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 

How to re-home a cat whose owner has passed away

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.



  1. Gattina
    February 1, 2016 / 8:20 am

    I wish them a lot of luck that they find a forever home quickly ! I don't know where you live but probably far away !

  2. Mitch and Molly
    February 1, 2016 / 10:17 am

    What a wonderful story. We are so happy that Mango has his new home. Bless Amy♥

  3. Mark Muller
    February 1, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    I hope that all this pets who lost their beloved humans find a new home with a lot of love. I remember that Dolly's mom adopted Rhette this way and later Taffy, the dog of her mum…. and I'm glad that Dolly's mom added them to her family :o)

  4. Sandra
    February 1, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    i do love a story with a happy ending. so happy she has a home and she is beautiful… life without a pet is not a life to me..

  5. Casey
    February 1, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    I'm so glad Mango found a loving home. Bless Amy for taking her in!! Momma always says it gives her peace of mind that LBR ALWAYS takes dogs back if they need it for any reason, so we'd have a loving new home if anything happened to her.

  6. Julie
    February 1, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    What a lovely story, so glad to hear Mango did get her peaceful retirementLoves and licky kissesPrincess Leah xxx

  7. The Menagerie Mom
    February 1, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    Another beautiful story in this wonderful series of yours. This is so touching. I'm so happy that Faith's final wish came true, and that beautiful Mango found the "retirement of gentleness" she so very much deserves.

  8. Sweet William The Scot
    February 1, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    I adore Mango's left paw for it is the color of mango like her nose. Healthy and fifteen truly a wonderful story. Companionship and love we must certainly all need those immaterial things the most valuable of all things.I truly love this series.Thanks for being a friendSweet William The Scot

  9. Random Felines
    February 1, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    we are so glad Mango got a second and a third chance at a wonderful and well loved life

  10. Photo Cache
    February 1, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    This is one aspect of pet ownership that is least focused on. I remember we were visiting a nearby beach town and posted in their local grocery store is a picture of a very cute kitteh asking for new home because its owner just passed on and the kitteh was currently in the care of a friend who couldn't keep it. Emma and Buster

  11. Marie Symeou
    February 1, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Such a lovely story and such a beautiful cat. I'm glad she has a new home.Purrs xxAthena and Marie

  12. Marie Symeou
    February 1, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Such a lovely story and such a beautiful cat. I'm glad she has a new home.Purrs xxAthena and Marie

  13. LP
    February 1, 2016 / 5:55 pm

    Thank you Amy. Mango will know continued love because of you as she lives out her later years.the critters in the cottage xo

  14. da tabbies o trout towne
    February 1, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    mango…..we R troo lee sorree yur mom left for heaven; but we are verree happee ya haz finded yur "retiremint" home…with Amy…blessings two ewe mango, & yur new mom as well, for stepping forward ♥♥♥♥…heerz two manee happee healthee yeerz a head ♥♥♥

  15. Two French Bulldogs
    February 1, 2016 / 6:33 pm

    Such a nice story. Hope every buddy finds there forever homesLily & Edward

  16. Sketching with Dogs
    February 1, 2016 / 6:38 pm

    I'm so happy Margo found such a wonderful home. Adopting a cat or dog who's owners have died is an especially nice thing to do, they must feel so sad and lost.Lynne x

  17. Frankie Furter and Ernie
    February 1, 2016 / 8:13 pm

    What a precious story.

  18. Brian
    February 1, 2016 / 8:48 pm

    That's so tough. We've been there, done that, got Sister Precious!

  19. Bella Roxy & Macdui
    February 1, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    There are some wonderful people out there, we'd love to adopt a senior, but three dogs is enough in our little house.

  20. stellaroselong
    February 1, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    Mango is very beautiful …we loved that this had the best of all endings.stella rose

  21. Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song
    February 1, 2016 / 10:17 pm

    Our greatest fear, as we age, is what will happen to our beloved pets if our time expires. It gives us great hope that there are wonderful people who will find new homes for our beloved

  22. Idaho PugRanch
    February 1, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    We are so glad someone stepped up for Mango. hugsMr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  23. Tenacious Little Terrier
    February 1, 2016 / 11:30 pm

    I'm glad Mango found a new home. In Portland, if you leave money to the humane society, I think they guarantee to place your pets in a new home.

  24. Groovy Goldendoodles
    February 2, 2016 / 12:43 am

    Very well written story. Thanks so much for sharing.

  25. Murphy
    February 2, 2016 / 1:10 am

    It always warms our hearts when a kitty or doggie finds a furever home!Keep Calm & Bark On!Murphy & Stanley

  26. Sometimes, Cats Herd You
    February 2, 2016 / 1:28 am

    We are so glad that Mango has gotten a "third chance." She is gorgeous!The Baby Boomer generation was the biggest pet-owning generation until last year, and we're afraid that it's stories like these that are making that generational shift. Cats (and dogs, too) who lose their owners are going to be a greater number in the years ahead, and it's something the rescue community needs to be thinking about now as a source of pet homelessness that isn't always considered.And your photos are gorgeous, by the way!

  27. rottrover
    February 2, 2016 / 1:49 am

    I know why you opened the e-mail that said Mango in it!! That was a fabulous piece, and we couldn't agree more. Thank you!

  28. The Island Cats
    February 2, 2016 / 2:09 am

    Oh we're so glad Amy decided to take sweet Mango in and give her a home.

    February 2, 2016 / 5:49 am

    What a beautiful heartwarming post! Mango is a beautiful cat! Such a blessing for her to find a loving home. <3

  30. M. K. Clinton
    February 2, 2016 / 5:59 am

    I really enjoy your specials series. ♥

  31. Anonymous
    February 2, 2016 / 8:47 am

    What a heartfelt story. We were reading with tears in our eyes, tears of sadness, but also happy tears. Good Luck Pawkisses to all 🙂 <3 <3

  32. Hilary
    February 2, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    I'm crying… what a sad yet beautiful story

  33. lsob21
    February 2, 2016 / 12:21 pm

    So happy for sweet Mango. I'm grateful that Lisa gave her the loving home she needed.

  34. Jill Weigel
    February 2, 2016 / 2:57 pm

    I am fortunate to have Amy as a close friend. Mango is in a wonderful home now with Amy, who truly is the kindest person and is taking great care of her. Wishing all the pets out there waiting for loving homes to be as lucky as Mango is.

  35. Madi and Mom
    February 2, 2016 / 3:18 pm

    Another beautiful and inspiring story. You tell them so well too.. we can feel the love. What a sad thing to happen to Faith then to take in Mango. She was a very special person. God bless Amy for seeing that Mango could live out the remainder of her years in a loving home.Hugs madi and mom

  36. Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog
    February 2, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    What a heartwarming story. I'm sure Faith would have been pleased to know the cat she took in and loved found a second chance.

  37. Caren Gittleman
    February 3, 2016 / 12:56 am

    oh this made me cry!!! What a sweet kitty but my heart breaks that she lost her beautiful human named Faith. I know of people who adopted a pet after the owner passed. My Vet got his current cat that way. One of his clients passed away (she had cancer) and she begged him to adopt her cat and he did. I love what you wrote "I hope Faith is at peace and knows that the gentle soul who stayed by her side is now safe and loved by another gentle soul and that the cycle of kindness and compassion continues."Thank you for sharing this most beautiful story!catchatwithcarenandcody

  38. Susan Willett
    February 3, 2016 / 1:53 am

    Such a good story. We helped rehome a cat whose human had died unexpectedly. It's a great feeling.—Purrs (and wags) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  39. Tweedles -- that's me
    February 3, 2016 / 2:45 am

    Thank goodness Mango is safe and happy now!lovetweedles

  40. pilch92 15andmeowing
    February 3, 2016 / 3:23 am

    I am glad a kind person stepped in to rescue Mango.

  41. meowmeowmans
    February 3, 2016 / 3:44 am

    What a beautiful happily ever after for Mango. We adopted our Angel Maggie after her owner was struck with very serious health issues.

  42. Cathy Armato
    February 3, 2016 / 6:39 am

    Oh my goodness, my heart breaks for Faith. How awful to have endured so much loss. I'm glad beautiful Mango has found a place to live out her senior years, bless that woman for taking Mango in.Love & biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  43. Cathy Armato
    February 3, 2016 / 6:39 am

    Oh my goodness, my heart breaks for Faith. How awful to have endured so much loss. I'm glad beautiful Mango has found a place to live out her senior years, bless that woman for taking Mango in.Love & biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  44. Christy Paws
    February 3, 2016 / 7:01 pm

    Beautiful story and post. What a wonderful, happy ending for Mango.

  45. Nichole Burke
    February 4, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    What a beautiful story… a loving home for Mango, and peace for Faith.

  46. Edie ThePug
    February 4, 2016 / 6:20 pm

    Mango helped Faith when she needed it, it's only right that someone helped Mango.

  47. Ruth Epstein
    February 4, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    What a wonderful story

  48. AmyShojai
    February 4, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    It's important to make plans for pets "just in case" (not only those who are of a "certain age"). I've had two instances in which colleagues my age passed away very unexpectedly, without plans for their pets…very sad, and thankfully, the pet community rallied in these instances. But as your story illustrates, that's not always so. Glad that things are looking up for Mango.

  49. Daily Dog Tag
    February 5, 2016 / 3:04 am

    I'm so glad that Faith's friends were able to persevere and Mango got a second chance.

  50. Sweet Purrfections
    February 5, 2016 / 3:32 am

    How wonderful of Faith's friends to not give up on finding Mango a new forever home.

  51. Lindsay Pevny
    February 5, 2016 / 9:21 am

    Wow, what a story. I'm so glad Mango was saved, and Faith got her wish – I know how difficult it is for cats, even as kittens, to ever find even one good home because there's just so many of them.

  52. CatofMine
    March 19, 2016 / 12:01 am

    , I am quite sure My wonderful 7 yr old Tabby Companion will Outlive me by a long Shot. I have isolated myself over the years and don't know what will become of him when I'm gone. We Love each other So much. I don't want to leave him, but my bones are old and tired. What has brought me so much Joy & Happiness is causing more Heartache now than I can stand. God Bless the Loving Pets You have Put on the Earth to Keep some of us from being Lonely…

  53. Marg
    March 19, 2016 / 12:15 pm

    That is such a great post. And so glad it was a happy ending. That Mango was a lucky boy. I am going to keep looking for that CatofMine lady.

  54. Sandra
    March 20, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    great story, we have often discussed what we will do when Jake dies, if we will get another dog, and the reason is we are OLD and what will happened to the pet after we die. I don't see any way to find her, she has no blog.

  55. Hannah and Lucy
    March 21, 2016 / 12:34 pm

    What wonderful friends to find a new and loving home for Mango.Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

  56. meowmeowmans
    March 22, 2016 / 3:04 am

    We are so happy that Mango got the loving forever homes he so deserved.

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