How to Prepare If Pets Outlive You

Young woman with  cat and dog

Image Copr.

This week, the pet community is reeling from the tragic and sudden death of two heroes, animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin and Cat Writers Association president Dr. Lorie Huston. Dr. Yin left behind her beloved dog Jonesy, while my friend Lorie is survived by 6 special needs rescue cats. CWA members are networking to re-home Lorie’s cats.

Neither expected to have their pets outlive them. Do you have plans for your special pets?

In the past, elderly readers have contacted me to ask about setting up care options for her pets should she die before them. Although healthy and with every intention to stick around for the foreseeable future, at age 72 she wanted to be prepared, should something unexpected happen. But as we’ve seen, even younger people can have the worst happen.

Sadly, orphaned pets often end up in shelters or destroyed by the surviving family members, when nobody feels able or willing to care for the left-behind fur-kid. The adult pet hasn’t a clue why she’s suddenly gone from a loving home and lap, to a scary metal cage.

How to Prepare For Pets After Your Death

What can caring owners do to prepare for the worst, if death, disability or age takes away a pet’s home? Will family and friends rally to find loving homes for all of the orphaned animals?

Your family and friends, veterinarian contacts and church relationships may be eager and willing to offer a place for your pet should you die before them. Maybe you have brother-dogs that would pine away if separated, or special needs cats that requires extra medical care. Often, a simple promise among friends will be sufficient. Ideally, the animals already know and get along with the new owner—because missing you will be as tough for them as for your human family.

In today’s changing world, though, good intentions and a promise made years before may go out the window should the person’s own situation change. For instance, maybe your friend has other pets that won’t accept your animals, or living arrangements/finances have changed. For peace of mind, it’s best to make formal arrangements in your will and try to address every eventuality.


Legal restrictions won’t allow a beloved pet to actually inherit from your estate because critters are themselves defined as property. But you certainly can set up trusts for the care of the pet, and name a specific person who will receive those funds so that they can take the critter into their care for the remainder of its life. Once you find persons willing to take your pet, consult with an attorney about the proper paperwork necessary to make a legal and binding arrangement.

There also are “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries” that might be able to take your pets. Organizations that give pets a home for life, though, have limited openings. A fee is involved that pays for the care, and this may be set up in your will or other legal document.

David Congalton and Charlotte Alexander wrote the book, “When Your Pet Outlives You” which contains sample legal forms, names of pet law specialists, addresses of pet retirement homes and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., a report on all relevant state statutes, important court decisions affecting people and their pets, and precise details on how to set up a pet trust.

The Humane Society of the United States offers a free brochure called Providing For Your Pet’s Future Without You. It suggests you find at least two responsible friends or relatives and provide them with emergency information for short-term care.

Also ensure your neighbors know how many pets you have and how to contact emergency care givers. Carry a wallet “alert card” with this information and post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows. The pamphlet includes sample legal language for wills and suggestions how to choose a permanent care giver for your animals in case of your death.

Once these emergency issues are in place, you’ll have peace of mind. That allows you to relax and enjoy making the most of the time you have with your special animal companions.

May you have many more loving years with your special companions. Meanwhile, I’m making my own emergency arrangements — just in case — for my Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat, while my heart breaks for Lorie and her furry wonders left behind.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


rottweiler chihuahua and food bowl

Image Copr.

On September 26, 2014, Bravo of Manchester, CT began recalling select lots of Bravo Turkey and Chicken pet foods for dogs and cats because they could be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled product was distributed nationwide beginning on November 14, 2013 to distributors, retail stores, internet retailers and directly to consumers. Products being recalled include:

  • Bravo! Blends All Natural Chicken Blend diet for dogs & cats
  • Premium Turkey Formula BRAVO Balance RAW DIET
  • Bravo! Blends All Natural Chicken Blend diet for dogs & cats

In addition, as a precaution, the following chicken products are being withdrawn: all sizes (2 lb., 5 lb. and 10 lb.) of Bravo Chicken Blend(s), Bravo Turkey Blend(s), Bravo Balance Chicken Balance and Bravo Balance Premium Turkey Formula frozen raw diet products with best used by dates between June 20, 2016 and September 18, 2016.

Details with “use by” dates of affect products and what you should do can be found on the company website at or by calling 866-922-9222 Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm ET.


In addition, Kong Aussie Sticks dog treats were also recalled this week by the manufacturer, JAKKS Pacific of Walnut, California due to possible contamination with mold.

Kong Aussie Sticks Small PackageThe products being recalled have the following item numbers:

  • Item 75559
  • Item 75560

And these “Best Before” dates:

  • 1/30/16
  • 1/31/16

The product can be returned to PetSmart for a full refund. For further info, contact JAKKS Pacific at 877-875-2557, Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm PT. Kong can be reached at 303-216-2626.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cold Protection for Hot Dogs & Cats

red Dog and white cat

THIS would be Karma’s answer…if Magic would let him snuggle! Image Copr. Drago_Nika/

Do your fur-kids enjoy the cold weather? Or do they use shivery days to campaign for more lap time? How do YOUR pets stay warm during shivery days?

I know it’s only Fall and warm weather will hang around for another month here in North Texas. But the cold is just around the corner. Magical-Dawg loves seeing his breath and would spend lots more time outside–if his humans could stand it! Seren-Kitty, though, is a heat seeking kitty and has staked out several warm nap spots throughout the house. Karma-Kat showed up during cold weather last year, and has a distinct preference for sunny spots.

What about your cats and dogs? Paws up, or down, to winter?

Sure, they have fur mufflers to keep icy winter blasts at bay. But pets risk cold weather dangers just as much as people do, and maybe even more. Because most folks have a warm place to retreat, and not all cats and dogs have this luxury. Others, like Magical-Dawg, may not have the sense to come in from the cold when they’d rather play in the frigid temps.

I grew up in Northern Indiana and hated the cold–I still do, although I do appreciate seeing a white Christmas (but from the view inside the house, LOL!). My thriller LOST AND FOUND takes place during a freak blizzard that puts a little boy and his service dog at risk for freezing to death. The main character September offers cold weather pet tips in a radio interview as the book opens. And the sequel HIDE AND SEEK continues the story, with the Maine Coon kitty character lost outside in freezing temps. Yep, I include “real life” risks in the fiction but when it comes to your cats and dogs, be sure you know all the furry de-tails to keep ‘em safe (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

Dog for a walk in winter

Small dogs and thinly furred canines need help staying warm. Image Copr. Pingvin121674/


Dogs and cats don’t benefit from gi-normous dog houses, and even the garage (unless it’s heated!) may not be protective. Instead, they curl up in small shelters that can be warmed by their own body heat.

Shelter from the wind and precipitation is vital. Fluffed fur traps warm air next to the skin in an insulating layer, but wind strips that away.Getting wet makes the cold worse, when fur can’t fluff to hold warm air. A twenty-mile-per-hour wind makes forty-degree weather feel like 18 degrees, more than enough to cause frostbite in an unprotected cat or dog.

Adult dog and cat body temperature ranges from about 100 to 102.5 degrees F. Puppies and kittens, though, have trouble maintaining body temperature. Newborn pups and kittens must pile together in furry bundles, or snuggle next to Mom–and if left alone, they can develop hypothermia and die even in mild weather. Huddling together shares warmth and reduces wind loss of heat, and shivering generates heat.

Shorthaired pets have less protection but even fuzzy critters are at risk. Thinly furred areas or body parts exposed to the wind or that come in contact with the icy ground have little protection from the cold. And the little dogs may develop potty issues because they simply hate getting cold and would rather “go” where it’s nice and warm–inside!

Pets conserves heat by diverting blood circulation from the ear tips, toes and tail to protect the vital organs in the central part of the body. But reduced circulation to these extremities increases the chance for frostbite.

cat at a window

Cats like Seren prefer to experience winter through the window. Image Copr. yanikap/


Tissue is 90 percent water. When frozen, cells rupture when the water expands just like ice cubes overflowing the tray. The resulting damage—termed frostbite—can be painful and severe.

Frostbite turns the skin pale white, gray or blue. Fur may hide the damage but you’ll notice pets limp from frozen toes, frozen ear tips or tails droop, and the skin will be very cold, hard, and nonpliable.

Redness, blisters, and serious infection develop days later. If it’s really severe, the affected tissue turns leathery and insensitive to sensation. If not removed surgically, those areas fall off. When I worked as a vet tech in Eastern Kentucky, we often had pet patients that lost parts of ears, toes and in one memorable case, an Elkhound lost his curled tail. All cases of frostbite need veterinary attention after first aid. Details for treating frostbite and hypothermia can be found in The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.


While frostbite causes discomfort and damage to the extremities, hypothermia happens when overall body temperature falls below normal. In people hypothermia is defined as body temperature lower than 95 degrees, and treatment is vital to survival. When body temperature falls too low in pets, they can die.

Mild hypothermia happens if body temperature drops to between 95 to 99 degrees F. Pets act a bit sluggish and lethargic, and you’ll see muscle tremors and shivering. Moderate hypothermia is more serious when the temperature falls to 91 to 95 degrees. Severe hypothermia is body temperature 90 degrees or less, and is an emergency—take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible! Pets lose the ability to shiver if their body temperature falls to 90 degrees or below, so that’s a warning sign. They may fall unconscious, and rescue breathing may be necessary.

The best protection is to provide shelter from the wet and cold. Bring outdoor cats and dogs inside during severe cold. Why not snuggle together, share body heat and protect each other safe from Old Man Winter’s dangers?

So how do you protect your pets from cold weather? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Audition for STRAYS, Channel Your Inner Pet!

Strays Logo2-LoRezCome channel your inner cat and dog and audition for STRAYS, THE MUSICAL on Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:00-9:00 pm on September 23-24 (callbacks September 25) at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.

STRAYS explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. The actors give voice to a variety of cat and dog characters in this hilarious–and often moving–musical review “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior while honoring the bond we share with them.

STRAYS seeks up to 25 actors, singers and dancers, from kids to adults. Families (parents and kids) are encouraged to audition together. Rehearsals are at the Honey McGee, Sunday through Thursday evenings beginning September 28 with performance three nights only November 6, 7, 8 at the Honey McGee. The show will be rehearsed in individual scenes, so actors won’t be needed at every rehearsal. Families will be scheduled at the same time frame.


No experience is necessary. Auditions consist of filling out a form, singing a short selection of your choice (or simple music will be provided), reading scenes from the script, and demonstrating your best cat and/or dog character. A pianist will be available for you to bring sheet music, or bring your own CD for your song and/or dance audition. Dancers may be asked to learn a short routine.

There are up to 20 individual speaking/singing parts; you may be cast to play more than one role or given additional lines and/or solo verses in company songs. STRAYS includes music styles from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel and musical theater, and even rap, country-western, jazz, and Celtic. The show will be performed with full orchestration via CD recording.


Featured roles for men include BOY PUPPY (age 13-20), CHOW HOUND (adult bass/baritone), OLD DOG (adult tenor), LUCKY CAT (adult, talk-singer), DOG RAPPER (any age), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).

Featured roles for women include GIRL KITTEN (soprano/actor age 13-20), QUEEN CAT (soprano/adult), OLD CAT (non-singing, mature), CAT RAPPER (any age), PETS TRIO (any age, close harmony), DANCE CAT (solo-modern/ballet), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).

Several featured roles may be played by either males or females of any age, and include BLUESY DOG, BEGGING DOG, WISH CAT, and GOSPEL CAT (all mid-range solos), EGO DOG (non-singing), and DANCE PETS (any age).


THE SECRET GARDEN show just closed at the Honey McGee Playhouse, and this gorgeous set will be re-purposed and used for STRAYS.

STRAYS will be co-directed by Frank Steele and Amy Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser. Anyone interested in technical/crew positions is encouraged to attend.

For further information contact Amy Shojai, (, 903-868-1022). You can also fill out an audition form online at the Theatricks website.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Prepare Pets for Disaster–Then Pray You Don’t Need It!

Fire fighter saving cat

Bucharest, Romania – October 2, 2012: A fire fighter holds a cat, after saving it from a burning block of flats in Bucharest. — Photo Copr bizoon/

September is Disaster Preparation Month, and it’s important to have a disaster plan not only for yourself when Mother Nature throws a tantrum, but also to keep your pets safe. Whether you must deal with tornadoes, floods, landslides, typhoons, wildfires or other emergencies, there’s a rule that we must always PLAN FOR THE WORST.

And then pray it doesn’t happen.

A recent survey revealed 13% of pet owners had been through a disaster or evacuation with pets, and of those, 12% had been separated from their fur-kids. I don’t know about you, but I’d go CRAZY if I was separated from Magic, Seren or Karma at such a time! Other findings:

  • 46% do not have an emergency plan in place for their pets.
  • Of those who do have a plan, only 40% practice it with their pets.
  • Less than 35% have an emergency kit for their pets.
  • 63% do not have Pet Alert stickers in their windows.


Watch news and weather reports. When weather turns ify, bring all pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them. Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and up-to-date identification. If you have nothing else handy, use a felt-tip marker and write your phone number and name on the pet’s tummy.

Designate a “safe room” in the house to confine pets until the all clear. Many homes in North Texas don’t have basements or storm cellars. An internal room without windows, often a bathroom without windows, can be a good option. At my house, the cats get stuffed into cat carriers and placed inside the pantry situated under the stairs. It’s big enough that the humans and Magical Dawg can fit inside, too.

Teach pets NOW to go to their “safe room” by practicing and rewarding with tasty treats, favorite games or anything that really floats their boat. Cats often hide during strange weather so make sure you have a way to find them.


If you must evacuate, take your pets along. It may be days before authorities allow you to return home.

Red Cross shelters currently prohibit pets, except for certified service animals. In the wake of the Katrina deluge, efforts are underway to make some changes that accommodate furry family members. Until/unless those changes come about, if you’ve got to evacuate, find a hotel, friend, or other accommodations in advance that will let you bring your dogs and cats. Hotels that ordinarily prohibit pets may make exceptions during times of emergency evacuations so always ask.

  • Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, to the pet’s collar tags. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet’s ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen. Write directly on a flat nylon collar or halter to make it easy for a stranger to read the information.
  • Have a pet evacuation emergency kit handy that contains pet food, medications, cat litter, vaccination/health certificates and veterinary contact information. You may need proof of vaccination to be admitted to shelters. Be sure your kit contains a three-day supply of all the pet essentials. If easily packed, take an extra towel or blanket for each pet. Don’t forget sturdy leashes, harnesses, carriers or X-pens for safe confinement. Not sure what else to pack? Check out Pet360’s top 10 pet emergency kit items.
  • Most facilities will require your cats and dogs to be under your control, and may also require proof of current vaccination. Include a favorite comfort toy or treat, the pet’s food and can opener if needed, and don’t forget water—one quart per cat-size pet per day (more for big dogs) is a good rule of paw. One of the pheromone spray products such as Comfort Zone/DAP for dogs or Feliway for cats can help relieve the stress of being in a strange environment.
  • Have plenty of plastic bags and newspapers as well as containers and cleaning supplies to help deal with pet waste. Puppy training pads or Depends undergarments work well.
  • Prepare for the unthinkable, too. Include current photos of your pets in case they get lost, and bring a first-aid kit to care for possible injuries. Include disposable latex gloves, sterile dressings, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, eyewash, thermometer, and any prescription medications your pets need. You can find more specifics in “The First-Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats.”
  • Your evacuation kit should also include a cell phone, flashlight, extra batteries, battery powered radio, map of area, whistle/air horn to signal for help, and matches in a waterproof container. Keep a list of emergency numbers with your phone, including a pet emergency clinic number and shelters that may temporarily house animals. Keep your car tank filled with at least half a tank at all times.

first-aidThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides information and relief for human victims of disaster, and also offers more information about pets here. The ASPCA also offers great disaster preparation information for owners at http://www.aspca/org/BePrepared.

This evening September 18 at 7 pm ET, the ASPCA will bring together various disaster experts for a Google+ Hangout to talk about how to prepare for disasters with pets. The virtual event will be moderated by GMA’s weather anchor Ginger Zee, featuring experts from ASPCA, FEMA and USDA, as well as special animal guests who were disaster survivors. Download the free ASPCA App which includes a check-list of actions to take before, during and after a major storm.You can find more info and RSVP at this link:

Be ready for Mother Nature’s “what if” surprises now and prepare for the worst. I pray you’ll never need this information.

Have you ever gone through a disaster or evacuation with your pets? What do you wish you’d known, or would do differently? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!