Estate Planning with Cats: Provide for Your Cat in Case Something Happens to You

cat snuggling with owner

Most people know to include their children in their estate plans. However, figuring out how to provide for your cats if something happens to you is also vital. Once I had kids, I realized I needed to get my estate plan written down and set in stone. However, I quickly realized it’s a bit more complicated than just writing down some stuff on paper.

Plus, besides my kids, I had my pets to consider. While I’d like to think that someone would care for my pets if something happened to me, I can’t know this for sure. Plus, I can’t expect others always to have the resources to care for my cats. Things happen, and my pets likely wouldn’t be at the top of others’ priority lists.

Therefore, I had to figure out how to care for them even if I wasn’t around anymore. Luckily, there are several options out there.

Long-Term Care for Cats

Surprisingly, several organizations around the country are designed to provide long-term care for felines should you no longer be able to care for them. Simply put, these “retirement homes” are designed to be just like real homes. However, they are staffed by experienced caregivers and often home to dozens of cats.

Each of these organizations is a little bit different. However, they are not like boarding facilities, and they don’t offer cats for adoption. Instead, they provide a home where your cat can stay for the rest of its life.

Some of these organizations cost money. Sometimes, this is paid as a monthly fee (like insurance), or you must pay a set fee before your cat needs to be placed. Often, you can set aside the necessary funds in your will to ensure that your cats are cared for. However, I also discovered many organizations that do this work for free. Often, they have donated property and volunteers.

These organizations would work great if you’re sure that none of your family members can care for your pets. If you discuss the possibility with your family members and everyone says no, then you probably want to organize one of these non-profits to take care of your cats in the event of your death.

However, these organizations are few and far between, so it depends on whether one is located near you. Technically, there doesn’t have to be one near you—but you need a way for your cat to get there. Longer trips will obviously be more complicated.

If someone in your family is interested in caring for your pets, there are steps you can take to ensure that they have the resources to do so. This is how I decided to go, as I’d want my pets to remain with my children if possible.

ginger cat with the owner
Image Credit: Yuriy Seleznev, Shutterstock

Adding a Cat to Your Will

You cannot leave money to your cat. Most areas label pets as property, and property cannot “own” other property. However, there are ways you can set up your will to ensure that whoever gets your cat also gets the money to care for the cat.

The easiest way to do this is to find a family member willing to care for your cat. Once you have someone you trust will take care of your pet, you can leave the person both your pet and money to care for the pet in your will. However, nothing stops the person from using the money for something else.

Therefore, this method involves putting much trust in someone. Both the cat and the money would be their property when you die—and they could do whatever they want with either.

It is a good idea to name an alternate person just in case the primary person can’t do the job. I always recommend having a backup.

Cat waking up its owner sleeping in bed
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

Using a Pet Trust

While I didn’t decide to go this route, having a pet trust is a great option for someone that doesn’t necessarily trust the prospective caregiver to care for the pet properly. This arrangement legally obligates the person to care for your pet and follow your instructions. If the person doesn’t follow directions, they are open to being sued (and the pet being placed elsewhere).

You’ll need several clear explanations to make a pet trust work, as well as an amount of money that can be used for pet care. You’ll need to name the person who will care for the pet and a person who can sue if the trust isn’t followed.

You’ll also need to explain what can be done with the money if it isn’t all used during the pet’s lifetime.

This method provides some accountability that just leaving the pet to someone in the will doesn’t. However, it is expensive and inflexible. If something happens, the caregiver may be unable to pivot and provide your pet’s care. If you trust the caregiver, it is likely more structure than you need.

cat loving his owner
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Can I Leave All My Money to My Cat?

Sadly, no. You cannot leave money to your cat. In most cases, cats are defined as property. One piece of property cannot own another piece of property. Therefore, you cannot leave your money or anything else to your cat.

However, you can get pretty close by setting up a pet trust. In one of these trusts, you leave your pet to a particular caregiver with instructions and money set aside for their care. The money can only be used for the pet’s care, and the caregiver can get sued if they use it for something else. You can also decide what is done with the money if there is any leftover.

This way, you can ensure that your pet has a good life after you are gone, even though you can’t leave money directly to them.


Estate planning is always a little bit complicated (or, at least, it seems that way to me). However, I found out there are several straightforward options when trying to figure out who will care for your cat after you’re gone.

You cannot simply leave money to your cat. Because they are considered property, cats cannot own other property. Property can’t own things, in other words. However, you can place your cat and money in a trust, indicating that the money must be used for your feline. In this way, you pretty much ensure that your animal will be cared for.

If you trust someone in your life to care for your cat, you can alternatively leave them in the will. Once this is done, they do become that person’s property. Therefore, they can do whatever they want with your cat. For this reason, it’s important only to do this if you really trust the other person.

You can also leave your cat to an organization that handles these things. Several across the country take care of cats left to them in trusts and other legal documents. However, you usually have to provide money for your cat’s care, which you can do in your will.

Featured Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels

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