Because our animals are childlike in their dependence on us and their needs, I feel pretty strongly about our responsibilities toward them. I think that anyone who brings an animal into their life must take that decision seriously and be prepared to care for that animal for the duration of his or her life. I am pretty much zero tolerance when it comes to people who tell me that their dog or cat is precious to them, but they have to give them up because of ___________ (fill in the blank). The excuses range from I don’t have time or the dog won’t listen or the cat refuses to use the litter box or we’re having a baby or some other reason. I was in a pet supply store once and saw a flyer for a gorgeous dog which read “New home needed immediately! Moving to Minnesota!” I grunted and asked the woman at the counter, “what? Do they not allow dogs in Minnesota?” I just think that having pets equates to making a promise. You don’t give away your relatives, you don’t give away your children and you don’t give away your pets or, worse yet, surrender them to an animal shelter where they may be summarily destroyed. If they mean so little to you, please. Just don't get a pet or become a foster for a homeless pet instead.
If you consider yourself someone who has a true, committed relationship with your pets, I think that there is one more thing you can do for them which you may not have done already. I'm talking about finding a Petparent.
Much like people may have a Godparent for their children, I want you to consider doing the same for your companion animals. As much as your family and friends love you, you simply cannot assume that they will willingly take in your pets if the unexpected happens. This can’t just be some wishy-washy assumption that someone you are related to or someone you know will step in and help. It has to be a direct conversation with someone in your life to get them to commit to taking your animals and keeping your promise to those animals in the event you no longer can. I’m not suggesting you have anyone sign a contract. I am suggesting that you have a face-to-face chat or serious telephone conversation in which you get a commitment from at least one person that they will care for your pets if you die or become so ill you cannot keep them. Ideally this person will be someone very close to you whom you can trust. Make sure that person knows about the health condition of your animals, who your veterinarian is (in order to get copies of records if needed) and that you tell them about your pet's needs and personality. If something happens to you unexpectedly, it is up to you to minimize the trauma to the animals you love. You do that by making solid plans for their care so that they can transition into a new home as easily as possible.
I know that planning for the worst is uncomfortable for us. The idea of having a will or an advanced directive for our own health care is difficult for us.
But if you love your companion animals, you'll make a plan and you will have a true Petparent. You'll sleep better at night knowing you have kept your promise.