Develop backup plan for pet in case of covid

Q I walk my dog, Buster, several times a day. I'm worried about how to care for him if I contract covid-19 and can't walk him. I'm even more worried about what would happen to him if I were to die from the virus. What's your advice?

A It seems to me that you need to consider three situations:

1) What happens if you are diagnosed with covid-19 and unable to leave home to walk Buster and shop for his food and yours?

2) If you are hospitalized, who will care for Buster?

3) If the worst happens and you die, where will Buster live?

If you plan for each eventuality, you'll feel more secure knowing Buster will continue to receive care.

First, let's say you are diagnosed with covid-19 and remain strong enough to feed yourself and Buster, but you're quarantined indoors. This week, contact two or three neighbors or nearby friends willing to walk Buster and shop for both of you if the need arises.

Ask these friends if they will take care of Buster if you need to be hospitalized. Make sure each of your helpers has everyone else's contact information, in case the initial caregiver has an emergency and Buster must stay with someone else. Advise your veterinarian in writing that you authorize these friends to stand in for you.

Invite the people in the caregiver group to walk with you on occasion so Buster gets comfortable with them. Show them how to get into your home in an emergency and where you store Buster's food and medication. Keep a three-week supply on hand, along with your veterinarian's contact information.

Here's the tough part: thinking about what will happen to Buster if you die or are otherwise unable to care for him. This difficult question is worth confronting, even without the threat of covid-19, because it's part of loving Buster.

Designate more than one person to adopt Buster so he will have a backup guardian if the first person's life circumstances change. Reaffirm with each person annually that they still want Buster if you become permanently incapacitated or die.

Talk about whether Buster's new family will assume financial responsibility for him or if you'll set aside money to care for him, perhaps through life insurance.

Then put it all in writing. Attorney Amanda Schwoerke, who teaches animal law at Duke Law School, recommends you consult your lawyer to ensure your wishes are carried out. Ask about setting up a pet trust, living trust or power of attorney specifically addressing Buster's care.

While pets are legally considered property, you shouldn't simply add a provision to your will transferring Buster to someone else like he's a piece of furniture. The person who receives Buster through your will has no obligation to actually take care of him or to use any inherited money for his upkeep.

If you can't find a friend or family member who wishes to adopt Buster, select a rescue organization or shelter that will choose the right adoptive home for him.

Whatever you decide about Buster's care, let the important people in your life know, and designate your wishes on a wallet card and in a prominent location in your home.

Q I want to use a Febreze plug-in near the litter box in my small bathroom. Is Febreze safe for cats?

A Yes, Febreze is safe to use around cats. Remember that litter-box odors are easier to control if you scoop the box daily and empty and scrub it every week or so.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at