Caring for a pet during illness

Lorna Cowan / 15 October 2015

There are many charities and organisations that can help you look after your pet while you are ill, in care or hospitalised, as well as schemes that will ensure your beloved pet is cared for and rehomed in the event of your death.



We love our pets and they love us, and they depend on us to look after them, feed them and give them a caring home. So what would happen if you were taken into hospital or you had to move into a residential nursing home? And have you thought about who would look after your pet if you were to die before them?

Fortunately there are organisations and charities that can help, so you’ll have peace of mind that the pet you love so much will be taken good care of, even if you’re not around.

Help in your home

If you still live at home, but are struggling to care properly for your pet, the good news is that there are plenty of options available. If you’re not as mobile as you once were and can’t get out and about to walk a dog, an active friend or neighbour may happily lend a hand. Or ask around and find a local dog walker.

Alternatively, Borrowmydoggy is a community of dog lovers who will walk your dog if you are unable to. DogBuddy is a similar insured group of dog sitters who will look after your pet if you need to be away from home for a while, and Petpals will care for all domestic pets and small animals, including rabbits, hamsters and birds.

Pet care if you’re in hospital

It’s worrying enough having to go into hospital without also fretting about who will look after your pet. If a friend can’t help, contact The Cinnamon Trust (www.cinnamon.org.uk). The charity has a network of volunteers who offer a fostering service, giving your pet a loving home if you’re unable to.

For those living in London and the South East, The Mayhew Animal Centre (020 8962 8000) also runs a Pet Refuge Scheme, providing foster care for dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs and support for their owners during a crisis.

Pets and nursing homes

Don’t fear the worst if you need to move into a nursing home or sheltered accommodation. Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people, understand all about the comfort and love a pet provides. As a result, they have a pet-friendly policy that covers all of their retirement housing and care homes.

Or contact the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC), who can tell you which councils and housing associations accept pets in their retirement housing. A list of pet-friendly homes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be found at the EAC Housing Care website. You can also call the EAC FirstStop Advice line on 0800 377 7070.

If, unfortunately, you are unable to take your pet with you, as heart-breaking as it is, don’t think you need to put it to sleep. There are several charities who will find your pet another loving home. The National Animal Welfare Trust operates rescue centres for animals and birds, specialising in caring for elderly and ‘retired’ pets. Or get in touch with Animal Samaritans or Cats Protection.

Pet care in the event of your death

Many people worry about what will happen to their pet if they die before them yet, according to the RSPCA, around 70,000 pet owners pass away each year without making any arrangements.

If there’s no one in your family, or a close friend, who is able to take care of your pet should anything happen, there are a number of charities who offer free schemes whereby you register with them during your lifetime, and they will take care of your pet when you die.

Dogs Trust will never put a healthy dog to sleep and offer a Canine Care Card, like an organ donor card, that notifies others of your wishes. See the Dogs Trust website or call 020 7837 0006 for more information. Blue Cross operate a similar Pets Into Care Scheme, 0300 777 8240, the RSPCA offer a Home for Life service, 0300 123 0239, and Wood Green animal charity have a Pet Promise Scheme (0844 248 8181). To help with the cost of caring for your pet, you may wish to leave the charity some money in your will.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.