Paws and Effect
There may come a time when you need to go to the hospital or have some other emergency that may take you away from your cats. Be prepared with an emergency plan for your cat.

It’s crucial to make arrangements in the event that an emergency takes you away from your cat.

Hi all. The Paws and Effect Gang have once again yielded the podium to me for a very important post. A few weeks ago, I found myself in the hospital and unable to take care of Thomas, Bella and Tara. Fortunately, I’d made a plan ahead of time, so the gang didn’t go hungry or lonely while I was away. (I was pretty lonely without them, but that’s another story.) Anyhow, this week I want to talk to you about making an emergency plan for your cat.

It’s not fun to think about, but the odds are good that at some point in our lives, we’re going to find ourselves in a state of disability that may render us temporarily unable to take care of our cats.

Why do you need an emergency plan for your cat?

There are a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that having an emergency plan for your cat will give you peace of mind. The middle of a crisis is the last place you want to be when you realize you don’t know what you’re going to do with your cat while you’re in the hospital or out of town with some other emergency.

You may think, “Well, I can hire a cat sitter.” That’s easier said than done on an emergency basis. A lot of cat sitters are fully booked and can’t take on a client in an emergent situation. Also, cat sitters like to meet the cat and the client before taking on a job, and they can’t do that if you’re not available. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a Plan B.

What does an emergency plan look like?

An emergency plan for your cat can vary in the details, but there are a few common components. First of all, you need to give a set of house keys to someone who doesn’t live with you. Hopefully you have people in your life who you could trust with that–for me, those people are my sister and her partner. For you, it could be a neighbor or a family member or a friend who lives nearby.

In addition to having the keys to your home, your trusted friend needs to know about what you feed your cat and any medications they may be taking. They should also know who your vet is, in the event of an emergency. If you have pet insurance, make sure they have your cat’s policy number, if your pet insurance company is one that provides direct payment to the vet. Since you might not have time to run to the pet store and stock up on food before your emergency, they should be able to pay for food and kitty litter while you’re away, if needed.

It’s really helpful if you have all these directions ready to print or pull out of a notebook.

I was fortunate that I had time to write care instructions before I went to the hospital, but if I were smart, I’d have had that document ready to go so I didn’t have to spend time writing the instructions at the last minute, when I was really sick, and hope I didn’t forget anything.

An emergency plan for your cat should include your vet's contact information.

Cats can get lonely, so make sure your emergency caretaker can spend some time with your cat every day as well as just feeding or cleaning the litter box.

An emergency plan, step by step

The first thing you need to do is find a friend, family member or neighbor you can trust with your cat’s care. Ask that person if they’re willing to be your emergency cat caretaker. If they say they can’t–no harm, no foul. It’s better to know now than when you’re actually having an emergency.

Then, once you have your emergency caretaker lined up, do the following:

    • Have a duplicate set of keys made and give them to that individual.
    • Put together a document for your caretaker that gives the following information:
      • What does your cat eat, how much, and how often?
      • Is your cat on any medication? If so, put the dosage and timing of medications (once a day, twice a day, etc.) on the information sheet.
      • Who’s your veterinarian? Write down the phone number and address of your vet’s office. If your vet isn’t available after hours, write down the phone number and address of the nearest 24-hour pet clinic.
      • Do you have pet insurance? What’s the policy number? Write that down and print out a claim form to go with the instruction sheet.
      • How can you be reached? If you’re going to the hospital and you know which one, you can write that down on the info sheet before you leave.
      • Where are the cat carriers located? If you have multiple cats, it’s helpful if you state which carrier belongs to which cat.
      • Where are the toys located? Also, if your cat has a favorite interactive toys, write down that information as well.
    • Get your emergency caretaker’s contact information and share it with your other friends and family members. That way, if you end up in the hospital but you didn’t get a chance to call your caretaker, they can get in touch and tell them what’s happening.

Emergency plan considerations

Keep in mind that if you have an emergency, that’s going to be really stressful for your cat, too. Cats are creatures of routine, and when the routine goes out of balance, your cat can become very anxious. When making your emergency plan for your cat, ensure that whoever is going to be taking care of your cat while you’re away is going to be able to spend quality time with her.

Shy or fearful cats will need extra support during this time. Make sure that your caretaker has a gentle voice and quiet movements, and that he or she has good “cat manners.” Hopefully your caretaker knows your cat pretty well; if so, they should be able to help your cat get through the tough times.

Shy or fearful cats may need extra support as part of your emergency plan for your cat.

Tara did really well while I was away at the hospital. You’d never know she used to be so scared of everything!

So tell me: have I missed anything? What’s your emergency plan for your cat? Is there anything you’d recommend from your own experiences? Please sound off in the comments!

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