Why Every Pet Owner Should Include Pets in Their Estate Plans
Where would your pet go if something were to happen to you? Would they be loved and looked after? No one expects their pets to outlive them, but if you have an estate plan, including your pets is one of the most important and benevolent things a guardian can do for them.
When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough
Many people don’t bother to worry about their pets because a friend, relative or neighbor has agreed to take them if something ever happened. While that is always a kind gesture and and may ease your mind, an informal agreement like that is usually not enough. Chances are that person isn’t expecting this to happen either, and if it were to, the reality sets in quickly. For some, the loss of the friend or relative is too much to handle on its own, and under the stress of grieving they feel unable to take on the animal they once promised to care for.
In other instances, living situations may have shifted. Their financial situation may have changed so that they can no longer afford to care for your pet, perhaps they now have children with severe allergies, or their property does not allow animals. There are so many unforeseen factors that may affect someone’s ability to keep their promise, however well-meaning it was. Rescue groups and shelters repeatedly see relatives seeking to dump their deceased family member’s pet on someone else. who are eager to be relieved of the responsibility. This is heartbreaking and equally distressing to the animal who is grieving their beloved companion, too.
Pet Financial Planning: What to Consider
Eve Kaplan, Certified Financial Planner at New Jersey-based Kaplan Financial Advisers, LLC says on her blog, “A good pet owner knows that a pet may outlive him/her so provisions must be made that go beyond a simple will or informal handshake agreements.” If you’re ready to put a plan into action, the first step is to decide on a guardian. “Specifying a legal guardian is very important,” Kaplan advises, “and making sure the guardian is compensated – if needed – also is critical.” You might even consider specifying two guardians, just in case. Remember that you’ll want bonded animals to stay together whenever possible.
Next, you need to decide on the funds to cover costs of your pets’ care. This varies per animal and household, but keep in mind its better to have too much than not enough. You give your pets the very best, so ensure they get that same quality of care even if you’re not around.
If you don’t have anyone suitable to be your pets’ guardian, look into sanctuaries nearest you and take a visit. Make sure to draw up an agreement with them before adding the organization into your financial plan.
Finding a Financial Planner That Cares
Forty-one states have laws that specifically allow pet trusts, but creating a pet trust isn’t quite a mainstream practice just yet, although it should be. That said, not every financial planner is going to see the importance of the trust as you do or be as compassionate as they should.
“It’s important to locate an attorney who handles your personal estate documents and is equipped to take pet estate work seriously and not laugh at it as some trivial pursuit,” Kaplan adds. After all, your pets are family, so make sure your financial adviser sees them that way, too.
“My face may be white, but my heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old.”
A pet’s love knows no boundaries, and there are few discomforts that their companionship cannot ease. While this holds true for all stages of life from children to seniors, in times of happiness and health, to times of loneliness and recovery, those who experience the greatest benefits may be the ones who need it most. Like pet therapy for children and people with disabilities, animals also have a special power for spiritual healing and physical well-being in senior citizens.
The popularity of pet-friendly senior housing has grown tremendously, and with good reason. According to A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior housing referral service, of all the inquiries they receive more than 40 percent ask if pets are permitted.
Having a pet offers seniors much-needed companionship in a time where they are likely to feel lonely or forgotten. The stress of moving and surrendering some or all of their independence can be eased by the presence of an animal. By nurturing a beloved pet, they are given mental stimulation, a sense of purpose, motivation to keep active, and may even be more likely to take better care of themselves. The benefits are endless.
To take advantage of the power of pets, senior housing complexes have multiple ways of incorporating furry friends into the routine. Some allow their residents to have in-house pets (weight/species restrictions vary), while others have ‘community pets’ that have free roam of the place or hang in communal areas. Even more communities employ visiting therapy animals to brighten up everyone’s day. Scientific studies have proven that just 15 minutes spent connecting with an animal can lower heart rate, decrease blood pressure and release serotonin. Over time, these benefits can reduce depression and even prevent serious health complications such as heart disease and strokes.
So whether your loved one has a full-time furry companion, or just the ability to spend time with one on a regular basis, the benefits are outstanding. Cooperation with the animal rescue community allows seniors and living centers various opportunities to take advantage of this incredible bond. Seniors for Seniors-type programs match senior citizens with a senior pet, and some even waive adoption fees. For those who aren’t able to care for an animal full time, pets can be ‘shared’ among multiple residents. Alternatively, seniors can foster through a local rescue organization and keep pets on a short-term basis, allowing them to save multiple lives through their own. Some assisted living centers even have Pet Care Coordinators that share in the responsibilities and management of in-house pets.
If you are considering pets for yourself or a loved one who is in senior or assisted living, contact the organizations director or reach out to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. For a list of pet-friendly senior and assisted living communities by state, go here. Of course, the care of the animals is of the utmost importance for everyone involved, so speak with the appropriate representatives, depending on your situation. If you someone you know is currently a pet guardian, consider including the animals in an estate plan or trust to ensure their long-term comfort and well-being is secured.
“Senior pets: their affection is timeless, their devotion is endless, and their love is forever.”
Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘The smallest feline is a masterpiece” and who could disagree? Facades of the toughest men become softer simply by putting them in the presence of a litter of kittens. From the moment kittens are born, their lives become a circus of adorable antics as they grow, learn and explore the world around them. We can’t seem to get enough of these precious little ones!
Kittens are Helpless at Birth
Mother cats give birth after a gestation period of about 65 days. Some mammals, such as foals, can run within mere hours of birth, but kittens are entirely dependent on their mother for weeks and undergo incredible sensory and phsyical growth during this time. Kittens are born both deaf and blind, and won’t open their eyes until 1-2 weeks of age and even then their vision will be blurry. It will take another two months before they fully develop the incredible eyesight adult cats are known for.
Also, newborn kittens are unable to regulate their body heat so snuggling for warmth is crucial in the first few weeks. The time that mothers and babies spend cuddling and nursing is an important form of bonding and beyond adorable! Orphaned kittens require additional external heat, such as a heating pad.
Tabbies, Calicos and Tuxedos, Oh My!
There are hundreds of feline color combinations, but did you know that kittens within the same litter can all be different? Cat genetics is a crazy thing. Mixed-coat litters- such as a calico, tabby, and tuxedo- are not all that uncommon, and to make matters more confusing, one litter can potentially have two different fathers! Because of the role of genetics, only 1 in every 3,000 calico cats are male and those rare few carry an extra sex chromosome, XXY, and are infertile. Orange tabby cats, on the other hand, are more likely to be male.
Blue Eyes and A Button Nose
If kittens can be born with so many different coat patterns, why are they all born with the same blue eyes? Because, similar to humans, the pigment melanin takes a while to be deposited into the iris. Cat noses, however, are entirely unique from the moment they are born. In fact, no two cats’ nosesprints are alike- just like fingerprints. This kind of makes eskimo kissing your cat even more precious, doesn’t it?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 1 in 5 Americans suffer from at least one type of allergy. Pet dander is one of the more common allergies, affecting roughly 15-30% of allergy sufferers. Considering that between one-third and nearly one-half of homes have a dog or a cat, there are plenty of people who are allergic to pets yet still consider pets to be part of their family and share their home with them. Knowing how to manage your allergy symptoms and limit contact with dander can go a long way towards creating a peaceful, breathable home for those with pet allergies.
Understanding Pet Allergies
Many people mistakenly believe that they are allergic to an animal’s fur, but it is actually the dander (dead skin that is shed) and saliva, known collectively as allergens that causes a person’s symptoms to erupt. Fur, however, does carry a heavy amount of allergens, especially cats since they groom themselves frequently, coating their fur with saliva.
While genetics do play a role in a person’s likelihood of having allergies, no one is born with allergies. Rather, they may develop later in life due to various triggers as the body’s immune system tries to figure out what is safe and what isn’t. Usually, this allows the body to successfully identify and ward off viruses and other harmful invaders. But sometimes our body overreacts and attacks harmless substances like pollen and pet dander. Of course, not everyone develops allergies and people who do have them in varying degrees of severity. Many people’s allergies are so mild they don’t do anything to treat them.
Studies have shown that raising children in a home with a dog or cat can actually strengthen their body’s immune system, especially when they are exposed while under 2 years of age. Additionally, these children have reduced risk of allergies and are less likely to develop respiratory infections, coughs, and colds.
Unfortunately, most allergens including pet dander are light and clingy: they travel easily through the air and attach to just about anything fabric: clothing, carpet, and furniture. In order to eliminate exposure, you should address how dander travels and collects in your home. Whenever possible, replace carpet and install tile, wood or laminate flooring so allergens don’t get trapped and linger in the fabric. Place filters over air vents to prevent dander being blown through the air ducts, especially into the bedroom of those with allergic reactions. These are very inexpensive and can be found at any home improvement store. Invest in a decent air filter, preferably one with HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) technology which means it captures at least 94 percent of allergens, greatly helping to purify the air and help you breathe more easily.
Of course, regular washing of bedding, both human and animal, in hot water is suggested. Routine vacuuming and cleaning will also help, even if you do have a HEPA filter. If symptoms are severe enough for a member of your family, you might consider having ‘pet free zones’ in your home, especially bedrooms. Allergies are the cause of about 11 percent of cats surrendered to shelters, according to the American Humane Association, and not all of them will make it out. For this reason, and the fact that your pet is already comfortable and happy to be part of your family, it is best to do anything possible to ensure you all can stay together. If visiting friends or relatives have allergies, your pet can stay in a separate room for the duration of their stay and will be just fine.
Your house might be hoarding allergens, but they are originating from your pet, so why not address the source directly? Daily brushing is important, and so is regular bathing. Shaving your pet may be helpful for decreasing the fur, but it will not have an impact on dander, since that comes from the skin itself. For in between baths, use hypoallergenic and shed-control wipes. Pets with unhealthy coats or skin will produce an excess of dander, so make sure your pet- and their coat- is healthy. Dietary supplements, such as fish oil, can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy skin and coat. No need to buy the pet-specific kind from Petsmart, you can just use a generic brand from a grocery or health food store , which tends to be cheaper. Be sure adjust the dosing depending on your needs and pet’s weight.
While allergies to animal dander are always an inconvenience at best, in most cases it can be managed. Taking the advice above, as well as speaking to your doctor or allergist if needed can help. All avenues should be explored to ensure that you and your pets can live happily ever after, together.
*Disclosure* This article is not a substitute for medical advice. You should speak with an allergist to identify your specific allergens and discuss treatment options for living with pets and allergies. If you have any personal tips, please share in the comments.
Losing a pet is never easy, no matter how peacefully they pass, or how many times you’ve gone through the grieving process. Once the initial shock and heartbreak is over, it is common for people to find a way to memorialize or honor their deceased pet. For many, this helps them reach the acceptance stage of the grieving process, and makes way for warm, happy memories.
Here are a few unique ideas you can do to honor your pet, from simple and sweet, to extravagant and strange. No matter what you choose to do, it is important that it is meaningful to your family and honors the special bond with your pet.
1) Custom Nose-print jewelry
One of the most adorable pet-themed jewelry available! Get a personalized sterling silver pendant with your cat or dog’s nose print and wear it as a necklace, bracelet, on a key chain, etc. Of course, there are plenty of custom paw-print jewelry options if you prefer.
2) Blown Glass Pendants
Turn your pets ashes (or fur) into a stunning piece of blown-glass. With this unique creation, they will remain close to your heart at all times, but no one will know what it is, unless you choose to tell them. Choose from transparent or colored, and a variety of shaped pendants. The type of sentimental item you choose to use (i.e cremains, fur, fabric, etc) will affect how it appears in the pendant, and varies from bubbles to colored flecks.
Perfect for the earth-friendly pet family, these burial pods and urns are bio-degradable and come with a seeded leaf planter so your beloved pet’s resting place ‘sprout a lasting tribute.’ These pods are available in a variety of sizes, for small animals to large dogs, and even fish-sized.
4) Pet cemetery
For families that wish their pet to be buried as many humans are, you might choose to lay your pet to rest at a Pet Cemetery. Many of these cemeteries are full-service memorial centers, offering viewings for friends and families, customized funeral services, and even clergy or funeral celebrants. New Jersey has quite a few of these, but each offer different services. For a full list of pet cemeteries visit the Pet Loss Support site.
Younger generations, especially, may enjoy getting a tattoo of an extra-special pet they’ve lost. But with the growing popularity of tattoos, this option really is for anyone! You can get a picture of your pet (be sure to find an experienced portrait artist!), or get his/her paw print or name. Alternatively, if you’re especially bold, a few artists will actually meld the ashes into the ink, so your pet is forever part of your body’s artwork. Although is not a common practice, it has been done a handful of times, with both human and animal ashes.
6) Unique Photo Options
Framing a photo and placing it in where you’ll see it often is an easy way to remember your pet. Sometimes, picking out your favorite single photos can be hard, so why not try one of these other photographic ideas? Make a book! There is a great site called Blurb that allows you to upload photos then caption, decorate and arrange them into a beautiful, professional book. You can chronicle your pet’s whole life if you want to, or focus on the highlights and holidays. Another unique idea is to compile lots of photos into one giant image, mosaic-style. Or, if you have a photo that is especially meaningful, get that one hand painted in your favorite style by a local artist: acrylic, oil,
7) Light Affection Photo
Instead of just a photo or painting, why not let your pet’s face continue to light up your life, even after they are gone? This company creates custom-carved photo lights and night-lights.
8) DIY Shadow Box
Shadow boxes are much more personal than just displaying photos: through tangible objects, you can express your pet’s personality, his or her favorite things, etc.
Ideas for including in your Shadow Box:
- name tags and collar
- favorite toy
- a photo and poem
- molded paw print
- adoption certificate
- baby teeth or lock of fur
- bows, bandanas, etc.
- for more inspiration, browse Pinterest
Your pet was one of the lucky ones. They got to spend their life being loved, sleeping on warm beds, always a full belly. You should take solace in this, in knowing your beloved pet’s life was made better because of you (and likely the other way around as well). A great way to honor your deceased pet is to make a donation in his or her memory to a local rescue group, so that other pets may be as lucky.
Which of these ideas do you like the most? How have you memorialized your beloved pets? Share in the comments!
For most of us, especially here at Pets fur keeps, our pets wear many hats: they are our greatest comfort, patient listeners, our best friends, spirit lifters; just to name a few roles . Our pets often bring out the best in us, and depending on some of your resolutions, they can be wonderful motivations and inspirations to achieve your goals. So while your dog or cat probably doesn’t have their own new year’s resolution, that doesn’t mean they can’t help with yours!
Lose Weight & Exercise More: Year after year, this takes the #1 spot for most popular resolutions, and probably always will, considering 1 in 2.6 adults think they are overweight, and roughly the same percent are obese. But if you have a dog, you’ve got the best exercise partner ever. Set a goal of how far you want to walk everyday, and stick to it, but not just for yourself, for your dog: to see your pup’s eyes light up when you say ‘walk’ and grab the leash, to see his little dance as you walk out the door.
For added incentive, download the ResQWalk App (it’s free for both iPhone and Android). The app tracks the number and distance of all your walks, AND it donates money to the rescue of your choice every time you hit the pavement. Talk about motivation!
Fall in Love: Another common resolution it to fall in love or find ‘the one.’ Did you know pets can help with that too? Yup, and rescue pets have even more sway for attracting that someone special. Check out these stats from a 2014 survey of Match.com pet owners by Petsmart Charities:
- 59% of women would be more attracted to someone if they found out they rescued a pet rather than bought one
- 35% of single women have been more attracted to someone because of their pet
- 4 out of 5 singles are pet lovers
Quit Smoking: If you can’t quit for yourself, would you do it for Fido or Fluffy? According to a 2009 survey, 28% of pet owning smokers would consider quitting if they knew the smoke could harm their pets. I hope you’re one of them! The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center says “Nicotine from secondhand smoke can have effects to the nervous systems of cats and dogs. Environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, making it hazardous for animals as well as humans.”
Cats who live with a smoker are 2-3 times more likely to develop cancer, including lymphoma, which kills 75% of afflicted cats in under a year. Cats with smoking families typically have nicotine and other toxins in their urine, and are especially vulnerable to oral cancers because they are constant groomers- consistently consuming the cancer-causing carcinogens from secondhand smoke (Mercola). For dogs in smoking households, their risk of lung cancer increases by 60%. Small animals and birds are also at increased risk for lung cancer, heart problems, and pneumonia (Petfinder).
So make this year count- not just for you, but for your pet, too! Best of luck with all of your resolutions and endeavors for 2015.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want everyone to show your gratitude for the felines in your life! While cats might be a bit subtle in their expressions of thanks, we know its there, don’t we? A bird-like chirp now and again, the question-mark shape their tail takes when they are delighted to see us, and everyone’s favorite: the sweet, slow eye-blinks of love. But just because they are subtle doesn’t mean we have to be! Here are some ways to show them you’re thankful for the joy they bring to your life.
1) Grooming session:
A good brushing can do a lot for a kitty; it prevents matting, especially in long haired cats, removes lose fur that can cause hairballs (which are no fun for you either!), it can be a great bonding experience with their human, it makes them look healthier and more beautiful, and offers guardians a chance to examine for abnormal skin conditions, growths, and other health concerns.
So take some time (even if your cat doesn’t absolutely love it) to brush them thoroughly. Offer treats while you’re doing it, especially if they are not big fans of being groomed. Feeling bold? Add nail trimming to the session, too.
2) Extra playtime
It’s easy to forget about play sessions with our cats, especially after long days at work, household chores, etc. But offering your cat regular outlets to expend energy will make both of you more relaxed at the end of the night. So put in the extra effort; put down the cell phone or turn off the TV and dedicate some time (or extra time, if this is already part of your routine) to play- no, really play- with your cat. Get them riled up, panting if possible, using whatever toy they like best; lasers, feather toys, mice, balls… For a most fulfilling experience, follow playtime with dinner or their favorite treat (For more playtime tips, check out my post ‘The Importance of Playtime‘)
Okay, so no cat wants to go to the vet, but it’s in their best interest. Domestic felines, like their wild cousins, are experts at hiding symptoms of illness (it’s an instinctual behavior that helps them avoid looking like easy prey to predators), so its important to take your cat for checkups and routine blood work, especially as they get older. Even if your cat is indoor-only (as they should be) and you choose not to get them vaccinated annually, check ups are key to making sure your cat isn’t suffering in silence.
Now and then its fine to give your cat something special to eat, especially as we ourselves indulge on Thanksgiving. Just make sure it is in moderation and kitty-safe! Here’s a great recipe from The Ultimate Cat Treat Cookbook.
Just like humans, cats benefit from having company of the same species. This is especially true if your cat is young, high energy or rambunctious, spends long hours alone, or recently lost a companion animal. Having another cat to roughhouse and play with typically decreases negative or destructive behaviors. Or, if you have a newly adopted young’n who tends to bother your older cat, getting another kitten will give your elder feline some peace. No matter what your situation is, chances are your kitty could benefit from having another. Not sure? Come in and talk to us about it- we’re experts on cat introductions and match-making. See our current adoptable list here.
Of course, if you really want to show your cat gratitude, your best bet is to open all the cans of cat food and bow down at their feet 😉
Black cats are probably the most iconic feline. Their mysticism permeates the beliefs and folklore of many cultures across the globe, and can be found in music, literature, even comic books. Due to their association with witchcraft and the spiritual world, much of the folklore about black cats is ominous. Although these beliefs have roots that are thousands of years old, some have lingered and continue to haunt- not us- but the black cats of today.
In America those that are superstitious tend to associate black cats with witches and bad omens. In Greek mythology, there is a story about Galinthias who, in one story, is turned into a black cat before being sent to the underworld with Hecate, the Goddess of death and witchcraft, thus making black cats an omen of death. A common superstition in India is that if a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck (many people think this superstition stems from the Americas, but it does not!).
It only gets worse in the Middle Ages when cats were closely associated with heretics (heretical groups prayed with, and sometimes to cats), and so leaders of the Catholic Church at the time spoke out against them. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII went as far as to declare that “the cat was the devil’s favorite animal and idol of all witches.” For many, this solidified the feline/devil connection without question.
During the Black Plague, people eagerly accepted this scapegoat and cats were rounded up and killed. Of course, we now know that the Black Plague was spread by fleas that thrived on rats, so killing the cats led to a sort of Bubonic boom as the rat population prospered. The few people that did keep cats (sometimes doing so against the law), often did not fall victim to the Plague. It is possible that people were skeptical of their powers of immunity, thus strengthening the distrust of cats and their familiars. We don’t know the exact number of cats that were murdered during this time, but the bones of 79 cats (whose remains were dated 13th century) were found in a well in England, suggesting mass killings.
Fast forward to the witch hunts in Europe and Salem, Massachusetts where many presumed witches simply took in or cared for stray cats, but the association with the devil was still lingering in the minds of many. During this time, the belief that witches could transform into black cats to escape death also took hold.
YOUR LUCK HAS CHANGED
These are certainly the most negative anecdotes of black-cats superstitions throughout history, but they are not the only ones. In fact, they might be outweighed by the positives ones: tales that see black cats as good luck are present in many, many cultures. For example, in the United Kingdom, seeing a black cat means your luck will change for the better. In Japan, this is especially true for single women, since black cats are thought to attract suitors. In Scotland,a black-cat visiting your porch is a sign that prosperity is in your future. In Italy, a sneezing black cat is considered good luck.
THE MODERN BLACK CAT
For the most part, people have accepted these myths for what they are- nothing more than ancient superstitions. Still, one in ten people still believe black cats are unlucky. If you ask me, its people that are bad luck for black cats, not the other way around. Many adoption groups and shelter volunteers, including here at Pet Adoption Network, truly believe that black cats are more likely to have a long wait before being adopted. National studies have proven that black and dark cats are more likely to be euthanized.
Chances are its not due to the ten percent of people who are superstitious about them, but rather to other factors like the fact that black cats are harder to get good photos of, they may be considered ‘boring’ or ‘plain’ by potential adopters, and simply get overlooked when the cat in the cage to their left is an orange tabby or Siamese mix.
Anyone who has ever been owned by a ‘mini-panther’ knows how wonderful they are, and that the stigma surrounding them is simply nonsense. However, the fact remains: black cats need YOU to help dispel the myths, and find them the homes they deserve. Share this info-graphic and check out our adoptables’ stories.
**At PAN we believe October should be a month for celebrating black cats, not for fear mongering… so unlike some organizations, we do not hold black cats back from adoption during the month of October. Withholding black cats implies that any old witch can fly in on her broomstick and take home a cat from us. On the contrary, we hold our adoption applicants to the same high standards any month of the year, for any cat.**