Who Will Care for Your Pet When You Can’t?

In my last blog, I briefly mentioned a charity called The Cinnamon Trust. It’s a really interesting charity and I thought the work that they do, and indeed the need for their services, deserved looking at more thoroughly.

You may be thinking ‘That’s all a bit cryptic, Karl!’ Well, let’s dive right in and I’ll explain a bit more about the Trust, what they do and why they’re needed (along with other options that are available for similar situations).

The Cinnamon Trust The Cinnamon Trust is “the only specialist national charity for older people and their much loved, much needed companions.”

The charity was founded in 1985 by Mrs Averil Jarvis because there was an evident need for people to care for beloved pets when their owners were no longer able to. The charity’s aim is to “build friendships with the owners who come to us for help. The Trust can then extend this friendship by introducing volunteers that will help with the day-to-day care of a pet when this has become difficult. Together we make sure that these little heroes who mean so much remain happy and healthy.”

As they explain, pets “are a constant companion – on hand 24 hours a day, every day, comforting, loving and protecting [older people] from loneliness.” But they recognised that the worry of what would happen to their pets was sadly preventing some older people from having, or replacing, a beloved companion. “The special relationship between owner and pet adds incalculably to the quality of life, but all the pleasures and benefits can be completely neutralised by intense anxiety regarding the fate of their devoted companion should the owner die, fall ill or have to move to residential accommodation.”

They’re based in Cornwall but, as they say, this is just where they answer the phones! The Cinnamon Trust has a network of over 20,000 volunteer pet carers and fosterers all over the UK (and a waiting list of more), so their services are accessible nationwide. They help 150,000 people each year with over 158,000 animals as well as running two home-from-home sanctuaries (primarily reserved for pets with complex medical needs). Cinnamon Trust volunteers can help pets and their owners to stay together at home, walking dogs, cleaning out bird cages, or undertaking other regular pet care tasks that are no longer manageable. They can offer short-term foster care if owners have to go into hospital, either for planned or unplanned stays. They provide any support that’s needed to help pets and their owners to stay together for as long as possible. However, when that’s no longer an option, carefully selected foster carers can be arranged through the Trust’s meticulous pet profiling, so owners know that when they sadly pass away (or have to go into permanent care), their animal companion(s) will be settled quickly and easily with their long-term foster family rather than going to a shelter to await rehoming. In any situation, the Trust puts a great deal of effort into finding the right match and understanding a pet’s needs and routine to minimise upset and upheaval. The pet profiling is very detailed – right down to playtime preferences and night-time routines – to help the pet feel at home in their new accommodation. All Cinnamon Trust foster carers are carefully vetted and the Trust has a written agreement which states that each and every animal will be safe and cared for, for the rest of their days. The charity maintains regular contact with lifelong fosterers so that they always know how each animal is doing.

As the Trust explains, their service is for all types of pets: “We realise that pets come in all shapes and sizes so not just cats and dogs. We have had birds, horses, goats, tortoises and even a cow! If you love them, then so do we! Our goal is to match pets to a “like for like” home keeping things as familiar as possible.” One pet owner, a 96-year-old lady from Devon, explains on their website that she was thrilled to have found a foster carer who she can trust to care for her small flock of sheep when needs be, as she has raised them from lambs and they ‘are like family to her’.

The charity makes a number of promises, including, amazingly, taking care of all future vet bills for the pets entrusted to their care. They also pledge to keep all ‘pet families’ together as well as staying in contact and supporting pets forever more. They make no charge for registration or pet profiling, relying solely on donations and legacies to cover their costs.

The Cinnamon Trust is different from a standard re-homing charity as everything is pre-arranged. They can provide day-to-day assistance, short-term care or a long-term home with a volunteer, but animals are not taken into shelters, kennels or catteries and then rehomed to a new family – it’s all pre-planned. Anyone can make provisions for their pet through the Cinnamon Trust, with their Pet Profiling service offered for ‘anyone who has concerns that there will be no-one to look after their pet, in the event of their death or permanent move to a care home.’ Knowing that your pet will be taken care of, no matter what, must bring a great deal of relief and peace of mind.

Other Pet Care Options…

To the best of my knowledge, the Cinnamon Trust is quite unique as a charity in the way that it operates and the services and peace of mind that it offers to pet owners. However, they obviously can’t be there for every person and every pet! So, what are your other options for making sure your pet is cared for if you’re no longer able to look after them?

Well, no one likes to think about the ‘what ifs’, and planning for the future is much more appealing if we’re looking at holidays, house moves, that kind of thing … but being prepared for every eventuality is important and can really help to ensure that your pets are cared for the way you would want them to be if the worst should happen.

It’s really not a nice task, to sit down and discuss what will happen to Kitty, Fido or even your flock of sheep if you’re not able to look after them anymore, but morbid as it may seem it can actually bring a great sense of relief, knowing that things have been put in place. Sadly, for so many animals, their owners don’t have the foresight to make such plans and, in an emergency situation, who knows what could happen to them?

If you’re temporarily taken into hospital or too ill to look after your pet, other animal charities such as Blue Cross and often smaller, local animal rescue charities have a network of foster carers who can offer emergency help and look after animals in the short-term. There are also local pet-sitting services, or nationwide businesses such as Pet Pals who can offer pet visits, pet sitting or home boarding either for planned or emergency situations. It’s worth having a think about what would happen if you were suddenly taken into hospital, and who you would want to look after your pet. Have a plan in place and nominate someone to ‘set the ball rolling’ and organise for the care plan to begin. You will also need to have funds set aside to pay for any services if required.

It’s also a good idea to have a detailed ‘pet care plan’ written out and easily accessible at home, covering all your pet’s daily needs – from food and medication to their sleeping arrangements, favourite toys, commands they understand, and quirky little habits. Passing on this vital information will help them to settle much more quickly and easily wherever they’re being looked after.

In the event of your death, it’s really important that your wishes for your pet’s care are clearly stipulated in your Will. In the eyes of the law a pet is considered ‘property’ so you can leave them to someone in your Will, just as you would a house! You can’t leave money to your pet but you can leave money or property to your named ‘pet guardian’ and request that those assets are used for the pet’s care. You need to ensure you’ve discussed this situation with your nominated ‘pet guardian’ rather than just springing it on them as a surprise when you’re gone! Make sure they’re happy to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet, and will do so in the way you would want them to. Choose someone you know and trust to love and care for your pet in the way that you would.

Ideally, someone your pet knows and is used to spending time with. It’s worth reviewing this every so often, too. Has anything changed with your nominated pet guardian – a new baby? Divorce? Move to a rental property that doesn’t accept pets? Another pet of their own? If something has changed in their lives that means they’d no longer be able to look after your beloved pet, choose someone else rather than burdening them – and your pet – with an unworkable situation and inevitable heartache.

If you have no family or friends who would be willing and able to take on your pet in the event of your passing, you can plan for what happens to them through a charity such as The Cinnamon Trust, as detailed above, or the Blue Cross which offers a ‘Pet Peace of Mind’ programme. Up to four pets per household can be registered on this programme, and the Blue Cross will then pledge to look after your pet(s) at one of their rehoming centres and do all they can to find them a loving, happy home. Other charities offer similar schemes so be sure to think about exactly what you want for your pet, and check out your options. Discuss your wishes with friends and family so that they know how to action your plans when the time comes. While this is particularly pertinent for older people with pets or anyone with suffering from serious or terminal illness, it’s something that pet owners of any age should consider and plan for, as sadly tomorrow is never promised.

As I say, no one really wants to think about this kind of thing … but really, we all should! Thinking about it and planning ahead can alleviate so many problems and make sure your pet is cared for in exactly the way you would want them to be. Take a little time to think about your wishes, discuss them with others, and do some research. Our pets are always there for us as dependable friends and faithful companions but they rely wholly on our care, so it’s vital that we think about how that would continue if, for any reason, we can no longer be there for them.