Complete Guide On Pet Care After The Death Of Owner

Know Your Pet Will Be Cared For When You No Longer Can

None of us really want to think about passing away. The irony, however, is that it's inevitable for everyone. At some point we must all face it and doing so comes with making a few difficult decisions.

Consider everyone in your family, and then think about your pets. What happens to my pets if I die? They have no one to advocate for them unless you do. Don't leave them out of the picture when you start putting together your final will.

You want to make sure you secure who will look after your pet when you die and you will rest easy knowing that you have control over what happens to your fur babies in the case you're no longer with them.

Planning For Temporary & Permanent Pet Care

Should the worst happen and you were to die unexpectedly, your pet would greatly benefit from an already prepared, long term pet care and rehoming plan.

What Should A Pet Care & Rehoming Plan Include?

A good, solid pet plan will establish exactly who will be able to care for your pet in each of the transition stages following your death.

Specifically, a pet care plan should include the following:

  • A temporary and permanent caregiver including back-up caregivers for both scenarios
  • A list of all information about your pet that will be useful for the new caregiver
  • A power of attorney for pets
  • A copy of your will or trust that includes specifics related to your pet

Why Would Someone Need A Pet Care & Rehoming Plan?

A pet care and rehoming plan is important for anyone who owns a pet. In the case that you were suddenly unable to care for your pet, it enables those close to you to be able to easily and properly place your pet in the most capable and caring hands.

A pet plan helps you to plan out pet care after your death, whether it is a temporary pet caregiver or a permanent pet caregiver.

Due to the recent COVID outbreak, it is especially important to ensure that you've got a plan for your pets, whether permanent or temporary in the case that you become ill or are hospitalized.

It is vital that you ensure who will look after your pet when I die, just as you would your children. Our pets are like children for many families and there is peace of mind knowing that in the event tragedy strikes, a plan is set in place to make sure they are cared for in a manner that you would want.

4 Steps To Creating Your Pet Care Plan

We've created a four step plan to help individuals or families create a viable in-case-of-need health care plan for their pet in the event they are unable to temporarily or permanently unable to give them the necessary care they need. While this plan is not foolproof and will take some time and careful thought, it may give families peace of mind that their pet will be taken care of in the event of an owner's death or inability to no longer care for their pet.


First, you will want to figure out who your pet’s caregivers will be and how you would like the executor of the estate to go about rehoming a dog after death. You need to elect someone to care for them temporarily and permanently. Ask yourself who you could trust to potentially take over the care of your pet in your absence? Which would be the easiest transition for everyone involved?

You should choose two caregivers: one that is temporary and one that is permanent.

Temporary Caregiver

When it comes to temporary care, a local person probably makes the most sense to take custody of your dog after death. It will be more convenient for someone who lives nearby to be your pet’s short term caregiver.

Choose someone that you know can take care of your pet's basic needs short term. This could be a neighbor, a neighborhood teen that you've used for pet sitting or dog-walking while on vacation or even a close-by friend.

Permanent Caregiver

The person you choose to watch over your pets permanently is a big decision. Ideally, you would choose someone your pets know and have some degree of familiarity with.

When you are deciding your pet’s permanent caregiver, you might want to think about what the most comfortable living environment for your pet would be. This might be a member of the family such as a sibling, a cousin or a best friend.

Make sure others in your life know who the emergency care person is so there is no confusion or delay in care. Efficiency is key in an emergency. You want everyone involved, including your pets, to get into more comfortable and safer surroundings as soon as possible.

Confirm that everyone’s knowledge of the plan is consistent. Communicating your plan to a few different people you know will help to keep the transition straightforward. You want to make sure any confusion or miscommunication is avoided. That way, the care of your animal(s) can continue in a minimally stressful manner.

Things To Look For In A Caregiver

Establishing caregivers for your pet, both temporary and permanent, takes a great deal of thought and consideration. Here are a few things you should look for.

Financial Stability

Financial stability is a huge factor to consider when you’re choosing your pet’s new caregiver. As you likely know, pets can be expensive. The costs of keeping them healthy and thriving can certainly add up. You will want to make sure your pet goes on to live a comfortable life, despite the fact that you are gone. The most ideal situation for them is that they suffer as little as possible.

Time To Give

Indeed, time is also an important element to take into consideration. It may even be the most difficult thing for most people to come by. You will want to provide your pet with a new home filled with people who have enough time to give. Pets, just like humans, will get lonely when they spend too much time isolated. They need socialization and play time just like we do and a family that has time to spend.

Home Environment

You also want to make sure the person taking over the care of your pet has a living situation that fits. For example, when rehoming cats when an owner dies, picking someone who has dogs or is rarely home probably wouldn’t be the best course of action. Consider the environment that would be the most comfortable for your pet, and make sure it aligns with their temperament.

Same Temperament

You will want to make sure the home situation matches what your pet needs. If it thrives on interaction from other animals and isn’t aggressive or territorial, then you might want to seek out a friend or family member with other animals who are of a similar behavior. If your pet is more on the aggressive or standoffish side, you probably want to find them a home with no other pets involved.

Love For Animals

You want your selected caregiver to have a love for animals or pets. Consider choosing people who either currently own a pet, have owned pets before, or who have experienced pet-sitting for other families and pet owners. This will make things much more relaxed and easygoing for your pet as well as your friend or family member who is taking them on.


Pet care after the death of an owner is not something to take lightly. Your pet is like your child, and the person taking over their care will essentially be inheriting all the responsibilities from you. Choosing a trustworthy person will give you the feeling that your pet will get the care and attention it needs and is deserving of.

Patient & Kind

These traits are especially important for your pet’s situation because it will have just gone through a major change in its life. Loss affects animals as well, and you want to make it as painless as you can for them. Try to find someone in your circle who genuinely wants to have them in their life, not someone who will do it grudgingly because they feel an obligation.

Young & Healthy

In an effort to not have your pet’s life uprooted too many times, try and find someone to care for them who will more than likely be around long enough to care for them the rest of their life. Anyone very elderly or not in the best health situation might not be a great choice for rehoming a dog after death. Try to generally consider those who are still young and healthy, or at least who have older kids to back them up in case the worst should happen to them.

Limited Travel

When selecting your pet’s new caretaker, you’ll want to make sure you don’t pick anyone who doesn’t have a solid home base where they spend most of their time. Most people who travel often, either for work or for pleasure, avoid bringing animals with them for that very reason. It can also be very stressful to travel around with pets. Your bets might be better placed with someone who doesn’t move around too much.

Stable Family

Like anyone, being in a stressful environment will cause them stress, too. You want to maintain their stability when you’ve passed, not let them end up in a less than stable, emotionally stressful home. Make every effort to provide a caregiver for them that has a happy, stable family situation so that your pet can in turn be happy and thrive in their new environment.


Organization is actually quite important when you become a caregiver of pets. There is much to keep up with when you are in charge of an animal’s life, such as medical records, dental wellness, exercise routines, and training time. For someone who struggles with keeping their own life organized, however, it might become a hindrance for them to take custody of a dog after death.


When building your rehoming and pet care plan, take a moment to consider the current care and/or routine that your pet requires. Don’t forget the little things you do for your pet day in and day out, and make sure to include any tips and tricks you’ve learned with handling your pet’s needs.

It’s necessary to make sure that your delegated care person has all the vital information beforehand. Any health and wellness details about your pets will be among the most important that should be communicated in advance.

This is essential in case they have any questions, or in case anything isn't completely clear. Keep in mind that while your pet's care routine comes naturally to you, it may take some time and practice for the new caregiver to get comfortable with handling it all.

For example, you should list any medications they need to be given, any toys they favor, etc. It could also help to mention details like ways to make it easier to administer your pet’s medicine, whether storms or fireworks stress them out, and any other helpful details you can think of.

Don't forget other important details about your pet's personality. What comforts them when they're anxious? What things tend to put them at ease? Your pet is unique, so give as much information as possible to reflect any particular traits they have.

Breaking the list into sections such as medical, basic needs and other information can be very helpful for the caregivers as they won't have to hunt for the information.

Medical Information List

  • Write down their vet’s name and number/address.
  • List any pet medications they are on.
  • Mention the medicine’s instructions; how often each medicine needs to be administered, the amounts, and any precautions if applicable.
  • Method of administration for your pet’s medicine.
  • Any tips to make the administering of their medicine a little smoother, if applicable.
  • Leave any pet insurance details you may have for your pet in case of an accident of any kind.
  • The tracking information if your pet has a tracking chip.

Basic Information List

  • A copy of the keys to your house/or make sure they know where a spare key to your house is located.
  • Make sure that your friends, neighbors, and/or relatives know how many pets you have in the house.
  • Be clear on what your pet eats, how often they eat, the amount, etc. Are they accustomed to people food? Do they like to eat in a crate?
  • Specify where your pet would normally sleep, and whether they will sleep with the temporary caregiver or not
  • Specify whether your pet gets along well with other animals and people.
  • Let them know how they act around children as well.
  • Are they good in the car/travelling? List ways to make traveling easier, if needed.
  • Is your pet still in training? Make a list of things they know, or any words they respond to, etc.
  • List any grooming details needed, and any tips or tricks you know of to make the process easier.
  • You will also want to include the groomer you use for your pet in the case that they might be most comfortable with them.

Other Information List

  • List out their favorite toys, favorite treats, or anything that might calm them down when needed.
  • Mention any things that your pet really enjoys, like walks at the park, baths, etc.
  • TV programs or music that might calm your pet down could also be helpful to tell their new owners.
  • Provide any blankets, bedding, grooming supplies, etc. that they will need to take care of them and upkeep their health and wellness.
  • Make sure to mention any quirks or things that might aggravate your pet, make them anxious, or just difficult traits they may have. For example, let them know if they are jumpy around loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.
  • Alleviate some of their distress by keeping items that smell like you.

All these things are essential to have listed out for proper pet care after your death. It’s one thing for someone to buy or adopt a new animal, but it’s a totally different thing to inherit one who is already set in their ways.

The caregiver taking on your pet will have to figure out what they’re used to, and how they are the most comfortable. The best thing you can do for them is to help them be prepared.


Powers of attorney for pet care let you appoint someone to make decisions for your pet on your behalf. The appointed person will be able to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make them yourself. The documents are less complicated than trusts, and don’t require any formal maintenance like other legal entities.

Based on your power of attorney documentation, your designated pet representative will be in charge of enacting any final wishes you’ve specified for your pet. Provisions can be installed in powers of attorney which allow your representative to care for your pet, expend money for their care, and place them with permanent caregivers if necessary.


Pet owners have a couple of different options when it comes to adding pet provisions and instructions to a will or trust. You can enlist the help of a will writer if you feel the task too tedious, as many do. Will writing services can cost $200-$400 on average in the U.S. Research will writers for hire to get a quote specific to your area.

While it isn’t mandatory to use legal counsel to create a will or trust, you could certainly consult a lawyer to help you work out all the details. The documents for emergency pet care plans often prove difficult for the average person to be able to navigate; a lawyer can help you figure out which kind of document suits you and your pet’s needs.

Which Is Better - A Will Or A Trust?

Having a will or trust set up for your pet will help to solidify your pet’s future. However, both avenues come with their own unique pros and cons. Having a better understanding of what each entails can help pet owners make a more informed decision about what works best for their situation.

Just because wills can mean a prolonged process in getting your pet placed into their permanent new homes doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t mention them in your will--it just means you should lean on other documents that can support your pet’s wellbeing in the shorter term.

A trust can seem like a better option, but can be expensive to maintain. The best course of action is to work with your lawyer to determine the best route for you and your pet. No situation is exactly the same, and you want a solution that can fit your needs.

When You Don't Have Anyone To Care For Your Pet

If your situation is slightly different in the sense that you’ve got no suitable caregivers who will look after my pet when I die, don’t despair. There are other options out there for people in these scenarios.

Organizations That Can Help

There are plenty of charities and organizations which exist for this very reason. Sometimes, pets find themselves without a home. In some cases they have no relatives of the owner to move in with. Take a look at the following list of charities and pet care organizations that can help you out.

  • Cinnamon Trust is a big one in the U.K. that focuses on the care and rehoming of pets of the elderly and the terminally ill.
  • Cats Protection focuses on cats and their permanent care upon their owner’s death, or temporary care needed as a result of hospitalization.
  • RSPCA runs a ‘Home for Life’ process, focusing on caring for pets who have outlived their owners, and works to provide them all a loving home.
  • Blue Cross also has a division that’s called ‘Pets into Care’, which aims to find loving homes for thousands of cats, dogs, small pets and horses each year.
  • ASPCA is a big one in the U.S. and “takes every possible action to increase the probability of adoption for homeless animals across the country.”
  • Dogs Trust works to provide your dog with the best possible care after you’ve passed, while working to find them a new permanent home.
  • Old Dog Haven in Washington specifically focuses on rehoming senior dogs who find themselves homeless at the age of 8 or older.

These all work to provide a safe, loving, healthy life for the animals in their care. Simply take a search for yourself in whichever geographical location works best for you and your pet. There’s sure to be a charity or two nearby that can help out.

Memorializing The Bond You Share With Your Pet

There are a few different ways you can get creative memorializing your bond with your pet before you go, and it can create further meaning that will last long after you’ve gone.

Toy Or Clothing

You could make sure to leave items of clothing or even some of your pet’s toys that might smell like you. Consider rubbing one of your pet’s plush toys against your clothing. That way, they have a way to smell you and have some comfort when you’ve passed.

Pet Memorial Jewelry

Memorial jewelry options such as a picture engraved pet keychain that can be given to your pet’s future owner as a thanks. You could also consider attaching it to your pet’s collar.

You could  also choose pet cremation jewelry to be worn around your neck for long enough to pick up your smell, to then be given to its new owner and kept in your pet’s new home.

Pet Care & Rehoming Plan FAQ's

Find the answers to some of the more commonly asked questions about pet emergency care

What if my pet’s designated caregiver doesn’t want to take my pet after I’ve died?

In the case that your pet caregiver doesn’t accept the responsibilities due to changing circumstances, health issues of their own, or any other factor, you should have a back-up person designated as your pet’s caregiver.

Do I need to set a financial limitation in my pet’s trust?

Yes, you will need to set a limitation in the case that your own budget doesn’t reflect what the trustee tries spending in the care of the pet.

Can I request that my pet be euthanized after my death?

It’s normal to worry about what might happen to your pet after you’ve passed away, or that they won’t be cared for properly. This worry can sometimes be taken to extremes such as requesting one’s pet be euthanized. This kind of request in one’s will is usually declined by the courts unless the animal is old or sickly.

How do I ensure that my wishes are carried out if I want my pet to be taken by a re-homing organization?

You usually have to sign up for your pet’s admission on the website of your organization of choice. Once that’s done, they will likely send you a clause to be added into your Will.

What will happen to my pet if I pass away and haven’t made any arrangements for their continued care?

Unfortunately, they would run the risk of being put into a shelter where they could be euthanized. That’s why it is important you make arrangements ensuring their continued care after you’ve gone.

Can I create a pet trust even if my state does not have a pet trust law?

Yes, as long as your trust can be connected somehow with a state that does have a pet trust law. For example, if the trustee lives in a state that has a pet trust law; the caretaker you’ve named in your trust lives in a state where there is a pet trust law; or if you own property in a state that does have a pet trust law.

Providing Care For Your Pet When You No Longer Can

Although passing on is something many of us don't relish thinking about, it's a necessary part of life. It's in your pet’s best interest to have a decent plan laid out on pet care after your death.

Make sure to have a trustee for pets and other relevant information in your will. Having this all prepared will give you the priceless gift of having peace of mind. Of course, most importantly, you will know that your beloved pet will be cared for.

Further Reading:

How To Help Senior Citizens Survive The Loss Of A Pet

10 Ways To Prepare The Family For The Loss Of A Pet

15 Ideas Of What To Do With My Pet's Ashes

August 27, 2020 by Frances Kay