Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
When we moved to our location in the woods, we had feral cats that came to the house. We trapped them and had them fixed, got them their shots, and brought them back and turned them loose. They would come to the house and we put out dry food for them. Now we are getting very old. What do we do about the feral cats if we go to a nursing home? Thanks for any input.
~ Old Cat Person
Thomas: First of all, OCP, we really want to thank you for taking such good care of your feral cats and wanting to make sure they are taken care of if you have to go to a nursing home.
Bella: We think we’ve got some ideas for you–and for anyone else in your situation.
Tara: We suggest that you get in touch with rescue or trap-neuter-return (TNR) groups in your area. In addition to helping you arrange for their care, they may be able to provide you with food and veterinary care as needed, too.
Thomas: Alley Cat Allies has a page on its website where you can find groups in your area. This directory is only for the United States, so if you live outside the U.S., you may have to do a bit more research to find a TNR group in your area.
Bella: The TNR group may also be able to help by relocating your colony or by advising the people who live in your home after you do, about the benefits of TNR and get them involved as well.
Tara: Your local shelters also may be able to help you find resources in your area, too.
Thomas: This brings us to a very important topic–one that’s of concern for pet cats as well as for feral cats. That is that all of you humans need to have a plan in place for the care of your cats if you should die or become incapable of taking care of them.
Bella: The death or incapacity of a family member is one of the most common reasons cats are surrendered to shelters. If nobody in the family has a place for the cats, they’ll probably end up at the shelter.
Thomas: There are a couple of things you can do to arrange for your cats’ care that don’t require a will. It’s especially important to have these guidelines in place in the event of your incapacity as well.
Bella: Having a will is a good first step, but wills can take a long time to go through the probate process, so it’s important to have something in place for immediately after your death or incapacity.
Tara: First of all, find at least two responsible friends or neighbors who can take care of the cats (feral cats or domestic cats) in the event of your unexpected illness, injury or death. Those people should have copies of your house keys so they can get in and provide food, water, and affection.
Thomas: Make sure they and your relatives know how many cats you’re taking care of, and the names and contact information for the people who have agreed to be emergency caretakers. Each of the caretakers should know how to contact the others, too.
Bella: Carry an “alert card” in your wallet with the names and contact information for the emergency caregivers.
Tara: And put one of those removable “Please rescue my pet(s)” stickers on the outside of all entry doors, with the number of cats listed.
Thomas: If you can make a formal arrangement for the care of your cats, that will be really helpful in the event that you have to go to a nursing home, or you are unexpectedly incapacitated. Make sure to keep those arrangements up to date and check in with your caretaker contacts periodically to make sure they’re still okay with taking care of your cats in an emergency situation.
Bella: Mama has emergency care arrangements in place for us, and she’s had to use them a couple of times when she went to the hospital. We know the people who would be taking care of us if Mama couldn’t, and we like them very much.
Tara: If you want to be extra-safe, you can set up a power of attorney with a trusted friend or family member, and that will give them the power to take care of your cats while your will is being probated or while you’re in the hospital or rehabilitation.
Thomas: Although there are a few shelters and humane organizations that will take cats in after the death or incapacity of an owner, most really don’t have the facilities to provide long-term care for cats. Also, cats grieve too (I know this from personal experience–my first human went into a nursing home, and I never saw him again), and they often need personal attention as they process their own grief.
Bella: So, Old Cat Person, the best thing you can do is to contact TNR groups in your area and ask them for assistance. You can also make legal arrangements like a power of attorney or designating a personal representative in the event of your death or incapacity.
Tara: It’s never too early to start thinking about how you want your cats to be taken care of in the event of your illness or passing, so please, for your cats’ sake, start making arrangements now if you haven’t done so already.
Thomas: What about you other readers? Do you have a plan in place for your cats’ care if you can’t take care of them anymore? Do you have a feral cat colony you’re taking care of? If so, have you been able to plan for that colony’s care in the event if your death or illness? If you have any tips for Old Cat Person, please share them in the comments!