Have you ever thought what you might do with your animals if your home was flooded and your emergency accommodation didn't allow pets? Or if you were stuck without someone to care for your pet if you were suddenly rushed into hospital? No? Me neither until a few months ago - and I work for an animal rescue charity.
If you haven't thought about such situations then be reassured that you're not alone. Our new research shows that four out of every five pet owners do not have plans in place for their animals' care should life take an unexpected turn of events. By which we mean hospital stays, natural disasters, or changes in relationships, work or living arrangements.
Why the lack of planning? I suspect it's like many things in life: it's one of those jobs we all probably know we should do but never get round to doing - like writing wills. Or simply because we've already got a regular animal minder, so they'll probably be there for Max or Missy in the event of a disaster.
But this is where complacency might catch us out. The problem with an emergency situation is dealing with the additional layers of stress because of our other responsibilities. And it's not so easy to run through all the options when you're in the thick of it and time is pressing. Only last week a man launched an appeal on Facebook urgently asking for someone to care for his three dogs while he goes in to hospital to receive treatment for a sudden and serious illness. His normal dog sitter wasn't available, which is why he was turning to strangers. One can only imagine the torment he is undergoing because of the worry over his dogs. I hope that he found some help in the end and didn't have to hand them over for rehoming. I'll come back to that in a minute.
Examples like this combined with our own research have prompted us to think about how we could offer tools to help owners plan for pet care in the event of an emergency situation.
It's called the Tails of the Unexpected campaign and in addition to a free online planning guide, we're providing pet care forms so that you can record a detailed snapshot of your pet's life. Everything from their daily routines to the places they love to be tickled the most.
There's another important aspect of the planning process and that's the financial implications of your pet's care. Unless you have exactly the right kind of insurance, the cost of an emergency situation will have an impact on your wallet which needs to be part of your plan.
Now you might ask - why is a rescue and rehoming charity interested anyway? After all, isn't that why we're there - to help out when people run out of options?
That is indeed our role. But it's also our experience that for some people signing over their pet to a charity is very much a last resort. Some of the sad situations we see at the National Animal Welfare Trust just might have been avoided if there had been a plan B.
So go on, tell us, who would look after your pet if you were involved in an emergency situation?Suggest a correction