All posts by Jennie Richards

Cats Need Clean Water Daily to Maintain Their Health

Cats are made up of about 70% water, so they need clean, fresh, cool water daily to maintain their health. If you feed your cats dry food, then water is even more critical as dry food has a very low water content (about only 10%), so they will need an additional supply of water.

It’s critical to always provide your cat plenty of fresh water in various places of your home. Make sure that the bowls are large enough and be sure to clean, wash, and refresh the water bowls at least every other day.

Just because you have larger bowls doesn’t mean you should wash them less. Be sure to wash bowls with soap and water. Bacteria and germs develop quickly when water sits still after a couple of days.

Cats Need Clean Water Daily to Maintain Their Health
Pyrex Glass Bowls for Cats Water

Consider using only glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowls for water—avoid using plastic for water or food. Plastic can leach out chemicals and can hold bacteria.

The more cats you have the more water bowls you need. We have several in each area of our house and refresh them daily. I like and recommend using large Pyrex glass bowls, they’re very inexpensive, strong, ample, and safe for cats to drink from them.

Most Toxic Plants for Cats, Lilies and More

With Easter right around the corner and springtime here, it’s time to highlight the list of the most poisonous and toxic plants for cats.

Most Toxic Plants for Cats
The Lily is Extremely Toxic and Deadly for Cats

Many people give and receive lilies for Easter, but know that lilies are considered highly toxic and poisonous to cats—they are so severely poisonous they are in fact deadly.

The reported mortality rate for lilies is as high as 100% if left untreated later than 18 hours after ingestion.

For cats that even ingest a small amount of most types of lilies, severe kidney failure can occur within 36 hours. Just the yellow-orange pollen that falls off the stamen onto your table or counter is lethally poisonous to cats. Since cats groom, if the pollen gets onto your cat’s fur, be sure to wash it off with water or a wet towel, and make sure there are no traces left. Continue reading Most Toxic Plants for Cats, Lilies and More

How to Afford the Cost of Veterinary Care

When you adopt a cat, you aren’t thinking about the day when your cat may become ill, or get injured, or need emergency care. But cats do get sick and sometimes do require expensive diagnostic tests and emergency care. You may be faced with veterinary expenses far beyond what you can afford, or need unexpected medical care that you didn’t anticipate and don’t know how you’re going to pay for it. Of course, you want to make the best decision for your cat, regardless of the cost, but how to pay for it? Here’s how to afford the cost of veterinary care.

I have been in this situation countless times with our many rescue cats. So often, I have needed to pony up and pay for complicated dental care, full-mouth extractions, multi-day emergency hospitalizations, or treating kidney failure to the tune of thousands of dollars—and I had no idea how we were going to pay for it.

Continue reading How to Afford the Cost of Veterinary Care

How to Protect Your Pet With a Pet Trust, Will and Pet Protection Agreement

Have you thought about what will happen to your cat if you become ill, or incapacitated and must move into a care facility, or you unexpectedly die? Have you made permanent arrangements for your cat after you’re gone?

More than 500,000 pets that were loved and cared for are euthanized every year in U.S. animal shelters because their caregivers became incapacitated or died and they made no prior arrangements for the ongoing care of their pet. This is tragic, but it doesn’t have to happen. Here’s how to protect your pet with a pet trust, will and pet protection agreement.

It’s critical to have a plan in place for when you die. Your plan should include two elements: an emergency plan that goes into effect to provide immediate care for your pet, and a long-term plan through a trust or pet agreement that is shared with a good friend, relatives, and neighbors. This will ensure that your pet receives the immediate care needed and promptly goes into the right hands that know your plan.

Pets are often overlooked when their caregiver becomes incapacitated or dies, and your pet can be discovered days after the tragedy suffering or dying in the home, or they can fall into the wrong hands that take the pet to the local shelter, not knowing that a plan was in place or because there was no plan in place. With a formal plan, you can have the peace of mind that your pet will be well cared for after you die.

To establish a plan you will need to work with an attorney to create a living trust or pet trust, or consider one of these alternative options. The benefit to a trust, is a trust can go into effect immediately, as opposed to a will that can take weeks or months to be implemented and can be contested, endangering your beloved pet’s life.

Here are several options to help you put a plan in place to ensure your pet’s future after you’re gone.

  1. Identify a Caregiver for Your Pet

First consider identifying a trusted and willing family member, friend or neighbor who would serve as a responsible, agreeable caregiver that you could appoint as a guardian after you’re gone. If you can’t find someone to be a permanent guardian, consider identifying 2-3 friends, relatives or neighbors to act as interim, temporary or emergency caretakers if something happens to you. They will be the people who come to your home immediately and remove your pet(s) and provide temporary care for them, until your established plan is implemented. They can also be tasked with bringing your beloved pet to the place you have designated (like a “continuing care program”) upon your death.

You will want to provide the interim caregiver with an information sheet on your pet(s) including: care and feeding instructions, any medical prescriptions and where the prescriptions are located, any medical concerns, your veterinarian’s contact information, and any permanent care provisions that you have set up. Give each designated caregiver keys to your home, so they can act immediately to remove and protect your pet(s). Make sure relatives are knowledgeable about these caregiver appointments and have their contact information should something happen to you.

  1. Special Continuing Care Programs

Some rescue groups, shelters and veterinary schools offer continuing care programs where you pay a fee, or give an annual donation, or a one-time large donation to the organization in return for their promise to care for your pet. This is usually a service provided for people who have specified in their will or trust that their pet(s) are to be entrusted to the specific organization’s program at the time of their death. Eligibility is typically available for people who either make regular annual donations to the organization or make a one-time donation or pay a fee before or upon their death, documented in the will or trust.

For example, in Walnut Creek, California, one such place is Animal Rescue Foundation’s Guardian Program. Another is the San Francisco SPCA’s Sido Program, where cats and dogs can be enrolled to receive immediate care until a new loving home is found. In New York, the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington has a program called the Safe Haven Surviving Pet Care Program that guarantees care until they can get your pet adopted into a loving home. For the Safe Haven program, you pay a one-time fee of $10,000 for your first pet and $5,000 for each additional pet to join the program. If you can’t identify a caregiver for your pet that you trust after you’re gone, then this type of program is a good option for you.

  1. Establishing a Pet Trust

Most states have passed laws that allow pet owners to establish trusts specifically for their pets. Setting up a “pet trust” is similar to establishing one for a child or relative. You will name a trustee and caregiver for your pet. The trustee will be in charge of dispersing your money or property to the caregiver who will then use the money to care for your pet in the way you have specified in the trust. Or the trust can name an organization that has previously agreed to take on the care of your pet (like the above-mentioned Continuing Care Programs), and will identify a person to transport the pet to the designated organization. Establishing a pet trust will require trustees to carry out your pet trust’s instructions exactly as you documented and intended and will incorporate oversight into guaranteeing its performance.

Drawing up your pet trust, you will want to include specific care instructions, foods and medicines, where the medicines are located, your veterinary information, and the identification of an “alternative” pet guardian should something happen to your primary pet guardian. You will want to consult with an estate-planning attorney when creating a pet trust, or contact a special pet trust attorney who is specifically experienced in creating pet trusts.

  1. Establish a Pet Protection Agreement

Generally pet protection agreements are less expensive, but also less protective than a pet trust. If you don’t have money to establish and maintain a trust, then identify one or more caregivers and write out an agreement that identifies the person(s) who will care for your pet when you die or when you are no longer able to provide continuing care for your pet. You don’t necessarily need an attorney to do this, but if you write the agreement yourself you should go to a Notary and get it notarized, dated and signed, then provide family, friends, neighbors, your vet and caregiver with copies to ensure that it happens.

Another option is to use LegalZoom’s Pet Protection Agreement form, which starts at $39 dollars. Once completed, signed and dated, make copies and make sure that your designated caregiver, family, friends, neighbors and veterinarian all have copies of the agreement to make sure there is proper follow through.

  1. Wills and What They Mean to Your Pet

Some trust attorneys experienced in drawing up pet trusts say that a will is very inferior to a trust, and often fails to protect pets. Wills can take a long time to read and process and in the meantime your pet’s life is at stake if no one is immediately stepping in to remove them from the home and care for them. Oftentimes, pets end up at shelters or are euthanized, while the will is being processed. It’s just too late for them.

Overall, the most important thing to remember is to take action in preparing for when an emergency may happen to you that will prevent you from caring for your beloved pet. It’s best to always put everything into writing including who you have designated to care for your pet going forward and how you wish to have your pet cared for. Doing something is better than doing nothing, especially when your pet’s life is at stake.

Important Additional Resources

2nd Chance 4 Pets – Provides lifetime care solutions and information to pet owners to help plan for your pet’s continued care. Download the Care Instructions Form from their website or see here.

Another article on Providing For Your Pet’s Future Without You, with some helpful resources, by Petfinder

Factsheet – Providing For Your Pet’s Future Without You, by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Pet Trust Attorney, Rachel Hirschfeld – She specializes solely in establishing pet trusts or Pet Protection Agreement Pet Trusts. She is available for consultation and the preparation of all documents to establish your trust.

Estate Planning for Owners and Their Animal Companions (PDF), by Rachel Hirschfeld.

Pet Trust Primer, by the ASPCA.

List of states that have State Pet Trust Laws provided by NOLO, and by the ASPCA (2012).


Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care

February is dental month! Dental disease has become the number one health concern in adult cats. Your cat needs good dental care just like you do. Without it, cats are more prone to problems associated with poor dental hygiene and can get serious and painful dental diseases. Without good dental care cats can suffer from having a painful mouth and as a result, can even stop eating. Good dental hygiene is as important to cats as it is to humans and contributes to your cat’s overall well being, comfort and happiness. The good news is most periodontal disease in cats is completely preventable with good dental care and annual wellness checks.

Roughly 4 out of 5 cats develop periodontal disease. Why? Partly because dental care in cats is often overlooked and left untreated. Cats hide their pain very well though they may be silently suffering, and many cat owners don’t take their cat for regular annual wellness exams each year. Untreated gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) often progresses into gum infection, chronic disease and can even impact vital organs.

Continue reading Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care

Top Dangers for Cats in the Home

When you think about it, our homes can present a minefield of possible hazards for cats. Here’s some help navigating the dangers, and making your home safer, happier and healthier for your cat. Checkout our full list below.

Continue reading Top Dangers for Cats in the Home

Preventing Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Lower urinary tract problems in cats can be life threatening, are extremely painful, and need immediate attention and treatment by a veterinarian. Preventing lower urinary tract problems in cats is critical for your cat’s health.

Urinary crystals can quickly turn into kidney stones, and kidney stones are deadly in a short period of time, so never wait or postpone seeing your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will determine if there are underlying medical conditions causing the symptoms through conducting a urinalysis, culture and cystoscopy and a complete medical review. If your cat is visiting the litter box repeatedly in a short period of time, straining in the box and sitting in the box trying to urinate, or urinating outside the litter box, it’s time to visit your vet.

Continue reading Preventing Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes

There’s a beautiful black and white homeless cat that has lived outside our home for several years now. He wanders between several neighbors’ homes, but he has two homes that he actually calls “home” and that feed him daily—ours and our neighbor. His name is Alex and he’s lived outside for so long that he’s deeply afraid and distrustful of people. Building a simple cat shelter for Alex seemed like the right thing to do to protect him from the elements and give him a comfortable place to lay his head.

Alex appeared to have been abandoned many years ago, when he was a very young cat. He likely had been left homeless when his people moved away from the neighborhood, and left him behind. So Alex’s defenses were always up, he had learned to be on high alert to dangers, and he had become a scared, shy and cautious cat around humans. However, he trusted me enough to let me within about five feet to watch him eat and quietly talk with him. He always watches me carefully—eyeing my every physical move to see if I’m going to betray his trust. Over time though, Alex has come to know that I’m not a threat, but rather his friend who is just simply trying to make his little life better.

Continue reading Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes

How to Create a Happier, Stress-Free Environment For Your Cat

Sometimes change is unavoidable for our cats, like moving into a new home, bringing home a new baby, having house guests, or adopting a new dog or cat. All of these can truly rock a cat’s world and trigger behavior changes. Sometimes even the slightest change can cause some cats to become uncomfortable, fearful, stressed, and anxious. Here’s how to create a happier, stress-free environment for your cat and ways to enrich their environment at home.

Cats are very vulnerable to changes in their life, and they will often show us when they are feeling anxious and uncomfortable by hiding more often, obsessively licking or vocalizing more, uncontrollably chewing or drooling, sleeping all day or more than normal, urine marking or even potting outside the litter box. Sometimes external changes in the cat’s home environment can even negatively impact your cat’s overall health and quality of life.

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Safety and Protection Checklist for Cats

Cats are curious animals, and because of it, they can get themselves into trouble at times. This list of dos and don’ts will help you be a more responsible guardian of your cat, and help to keep your cat safe from harm; free from unnecessary injury and accidents; free from unnecessary disease and suffering; and keep your cat as healthy and happy as possible!

Some Don’ts

DON’T let your cat roam free in the neighborhood.

DON’T leave your cat unattended in your car. NEVER leave a cat inside a car on a warm or hot day, even for one minute.

DON’T re-home or give your cat away. Always try to keep your cat even when life requires making unexpected changes or facing unexpected challenges. If you must re-home your cat, be sure to screen and interview the potential adopters in person for their experience and history with cats; learn everything about them and meet all family members that live in the home; check their work/landlord/school/personal references; and visit their home in advance to make sure the cat will have a safe and loving environment to live. Here is a list of tips for preparing to adopt a cat.

Continue reading Safety and Protection Checklist for Cats