There are hundreds of millions of pets in the U.S. alone. The joy they provide their owners and families is unlimited. What greater pleasure than watching your pup or kitten grow, sharing memories with it and your family?

But what happens to your beloved pet when you’re gone? Unlike human relatives, a full grown pet can’t take care of itself, and it’ll need immediate attention if and when you can no longer provide food, shelter, and most importantly, love. That’s made difficult if you don’t make provisions for your pet’s world without you.

According to the ASPCA, around 500,000 pets are sent to shelters every year because their owners died or became incapacitated. Just imagine; scared, lost, and sad animals thrust into new surroundings, probably in an underfunded, bare shelter, wondering why their parents aren’t there. By spending an hour planning, you’ll make sure your pet is cared for with love and special attention, both in the short and long term.

Ultimately, unexpected doesn’t have to mean unprepared, and we’re here to help you with that preparation.

Here’s what to do to make sure your pets have the care they deserve:

1Find friends or relatives (at least 2, preferably more) who can commit to becoming short term, emergency caregivers should something happen to you. That means you providing them keys to your home, instructions for feeding and care, veterinarian information, and details about long term care for your pet (a fund you’ve saved, a pet retirement home etc). Of course, these things can become complicated, and that’s where AfterVault comes in. When you open a secure online vault with us, we can store all of that info we mentioned, then make sure it’s delivered in timely fashion to your pre-nominated emergency caregivers should something happen to you. It’s a sure-fire way of making sure lots of detailed information lands in the right hands fast.

2. But how to choose those caregivers? After all, it’s vital they can provide a home and care that’s fair to them and your pet. First, you should decide if you want to separate your pets or keep them together. This will depend on whether one of your emergency caregivers is able to support more than one addition to their home. Of course, if they can, it’s always better to keep your pets together for comfort and security. Make sure the new caregiver knows your pet, has experience caring for animals, and most importantly, understands the huge commitment they’re making. That means having a detailed conversation about your plans.

3. There are also a few simple things you can do to ease the transition. Make sure your social circle (relatives, friends, and neighbors if possible) know exactly how many pets you have, and pass around the details of your emergency caregivers. It’s a great way to make sure news travels fast should a true emergency happen and you become incapacitated. It’s not nice to think about, but ultimately, your beloved pets are the beneficiaries. Be sure to carry a small card in your wallet bearing the names and phone numbers of your emergency caregivers. If you have the space, you might also leave a little note that gives anyone reading the card some general info. Finally, you should consider removable stickers posted on the exterior of your home that inform people about the breed and number of your pets. These stickers will notify people (particularly emergency responders) that you’re not the only one in the house. Why removable stickers? Well, if you move, you don’t want firefighters or paramedics risking their lives searching for pets who no longer live there.

You may be wondering if you should seek legal assistance in providing for your pet after you’re gone. In our next post, we’ll be covering wills, trusts, and pet retirement homes should you wish to go the extra mile (and why not? Your pet will go the extra mile for you!). But, think short term as well as long term. Wills and trusts take time to review and execute, so they’ll be cold comfort to your hungry, confused pet in the days after you’re gone. The key is to think ‘immediate’ before thinking about long term. Once you have a plan for the first days and weeks, we can develop one for the months and years ahead.

To discuss your plans, get in touch with AfterVault experts. It’s the safest, fastest, and most reliable way to ensure your plans are executed in time for your pets.

NOTE: This blog post is intended for general information and thought stimulation. It is not intended as legal advice, and should not be considered a replacement for legal advice from a licensed attorney with experience in the laws of your state, as well as your personal circumstances. If you are confused or worried about making provisions in the event of your incapacitation or death, seek legal counsel.