What should you do when a pet owner dies?

Nearly 60% of UK households own a pet. When someone dies, it is likely that they will own a pet in need of a loving home. In this guide, we will look at what you can do to help grieving pets settle into a new environment. We also explore your options to find animals a permanent new home when a pet owner dies.

How to help a grieving pet

When a pet owner dies, animals are known to grieve a death in a similar way to humans. You may find that pets experience separation anxiety, or a loss of appetite or energy. They can also appear restless, or vocalise their anxiety and grief.

Some of the ways in which you can help a grieving pet include spending more time with them. This could include taking them for walks or adding more physical activity into their daily life. Make sure that you provide them with plenty of food and water. If they have another animal playmate who they usually spend time with, schedule a playdate with their owner.

Check the pet owner’s will

After meeting the immediate needs of any pets, consider who will care for them long term.

Check the pet owner’s will for wishes relating to care and financial provision for their pets. Alternatively, you may find that wishes are included in a letter of wishes to the owner’s executors or family. Here’s what to do to find out if the pet owner left a will: How to find out if my loved one left a will

Sometimes, a will leaves pets to a specific person, or to a charity able to rehome the pets.

If there is no will, check who is responsible for looking after the estate. This person should make arrangements for any pets to be looked after.

Read our guide to the intestacy rules here.

There are other options to consider to rehome a pet if their owner did not leave any wishes.

Fostering the pet until you find their forever home

Until you can find a suitable permanent home for any pets, you may want to consider fostering the pets yourself. Alternatively, a friend or family member of the owner may want to foster or adopt the pets themselves.

There are also many charities out there who will arrange for a foster family to take care of a pet. Quite often, a charity will give a foster family the first opportunity to adopt the pet.

Adopting the pet

When finding someone to look after the pets in the long term, there are several things for you to consider before you arrange for the pet to be formally adopted.

These considerations include what the living arrangements will be for any pets, whether the person wanting to adopt has pets of their own already, what hours they will be available to care for the pet, and whether they will be able to financially meet the pet’s needs as their owner would have done.

Surrendering the pet to a rehoming centre or animal charity

Sometimes, you will need to consider surrendering a pet to an animal shelter or charity, if you cannot find anyone to adopt them.

A shelter or charity will need details about the pet themselves, including any medical records, and details of their usual daily routine and emotional and physical needs, such as their diet and how many times a day they exercise. This will help a shelter or charity to care for the pet and to find a long term home for them.

Which charities can help when a pet owner dies?

Blue Cross

Contact your local Blue Cross service to check if they have a rehoming service for the type of pet you are looking to rehome: Find your nearest Blue Cross service

Blue Cross helps to rehome dogs, cats, horses and many species of small animal.

Association of Cats and Dogs Homes

The Association of Cats and Dogs Home (ACDH) provides a directory of local members who may be able to help you to find a new home for any pets. Find your local rescue centre here.

Dogs Trust

For useful guidance on what to do with a pet owner’s dog which needs to be rehomed, fostered or adopted, click here: Giving up your dog