6 Reasons You Need to Include Pets in Your Will

Our pets give us love. They share our beds. We even buy them birthday presents. And though you might consider Fido to be a bona fide member of the family, the law has a different perspective. Your dog is your personal property — no different from your car or the silver china.

But unlike your other personal property, there’s good reason to include your pet in your estate plan. Here’s why your pet deserves a place in your will.

1. Your Pet Could End Up Lonely, Or Worse

Though pets have shorter life spans than people, many pet owners will die before their animals do. And those who fail to make arrangements for their furry friend’s future care take on the risk that their beloved animal could be condemned to an ownerless life in an animal shelter — or worse. Often, pets without owners are euthanized when there are no immediate options to find them a new home.

2. You Can Designate Funds for Pet Care

Funding is optional, but a future pet care fund is recommended for pet owners who want to ensure that their pet receives a certain quality of care in the event that they’re no longer around to see to it themselves. You can designate a fixed amount or a percentage of a bank account, insurance policy, retirement fund, or even a portion of the sale of a home.

If you do decide to designate funding for pet care, you need to figure out how much. Consider that pets are more expensive as they age. How long is your pet expected to live? Do you plan to compensate a person or organization to see your pet care wishes through, or are you only interested in setting aside funding for the actual pet care services?

It’s also important to determine who or what organization will be in charge of the funds. In a pet trust,…

9 Nostalgic Facts About Chia Pets

As a kid, you likely honed your green thumb and your pet parenting skills by looking after a Chia Pet. The premise behind the novelty item was simple, yet bizarre: Cover a grooved, terracotta figurine with moist chia seeds; fill it with liquid; and watch it sprout green “hair” seemingly overnight. Find out how the knickknacks made their way from Mexico to your kitchen windowsill, how the annoying catchy “Ch-ch-ch-chia” jingle came to be, why one Chia Pet will survive to see the year 3000, and more.


It’s unclear who invented the Chia Pet, but we do know that its massive success can be attributed to a San Francisco ad exec named Joe Pedott. He purchased the rights to the terracotta figures in the 1970s, and today runs Joseph Enterprises, Inc., a gadget company that produces quirky products including the Chia Pet and The Clapper, the sound-activated electrical switch. (Remember the jingle? “Clap On! Clap Off!”)

According to Smithsonian magazine, Pedott visited an annual housewares show in Chicago in 1977. There, he asked a buyer for a West Coast drug store chain what his most popular items were during the holiday season. “He told me that something called the Chia Pet always sold out,” Pedott recalled. “So I went over to talk with a man named Walter Houston, who was importing the little figures from Mexico.”

Houston’s company was losing money on the sales, and Pedott purchased the rights, convinced he could turn a profit. Sure enough, the ad exec eventually discovered that Houston had been swindled: Pedott traveled to Mexico, where workers made the terracotta figurines in their homes, and discovered that the middleman between them and Houston had been pocketing more than his fair share. He was fired, and Pedott established a direct working relationship with the Chia Pet sculptors. (Today, they’re made in China.) Though Joseph Enterprises, Inc. trademarked the “Chia Pet” brand name, it’s not a patented invention, which is why you may encounter imitations of the leafy figurines sold in stores under a different name.


According to Pedott, the now-iconic “ch-ch-ch-Chia” song arose from an alcohol-fueled brainstorming session. “I was out drinking one night and a friend jokingly stuttered ‘ch-ch-ch-chia,'” the ad exec said in an American Express OPEN Forum interview. “I grabbed his arm and said, ‘Hey, that is catchy. Let’s incorporate it.’” (Other sources claim that the jingle arose from a much tamer—and sober-sounding—agency brainstorming meeting.)


The very first Chia pet ever sold wasn’t actually an animal—it was a human. “Chia Guy,” a terracotta sculpture of a man’s head, was created in 1977; it looked kind of like a mix between Homer Simpson and Woody from Toy Story (1995), with…

Fun Facts About Goldfish

It may not be the cutest, cuddliest, or the most exotic animal to have in your home, but there’s something about the goldfish that appeals to pet owners around the world. These descendants of the Prussian carp were first domesticated in China 2000 years ago. Mutations produced fish with brilliantly colored scales, and after years of breeding, the pet store staple we know today was born. Here are some facts about the iconic pet worth knowing.


Goldfish come in many shades, but it’s the orange variety that’s most closely associated with the species. This may not have been the case if it wasn’t for a rule enforced during the Song Dynasty. By 1162 CE, goldfish ponds were en vogue, and the empress at the time had her own built and filled with the colorful creatures. She also forbade all non-royals from keeping fish that were yellow, the color of the royal family.


Goldfish became the go-to fish for American pet owners in the late 19th century, and that’s partly thanks to Washington. According to The Atlantic, the U.S. Commission on Fisheries received an import of Japanese goldfish in 1878 and decided to give them away as a publicity stunt. D.C. residents could submit requests for glass bowls of goldfish, and at the program’s peak, 20,000 pets were handed out a year. The campaign lasted through the 19th century, and at one point, a third of all households in the city owned a government-provided goldfish.


One notable D.C. resident to hop aboard the goldfish craze of the late 1800s was President Grover Cleveland. Among the hundreds of fish he had imported to Washington were Japanese goldfish. And he’s not the only president to keep a pet goldfish. After Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, a 10-year-old from New York sent him a goldfish named Ronald Reagan the Second with the note, “I hope you get better and to help you get better, here is a companion … Just feed him daily and he’ll be fine.” (White House staffers put the…

Check Out These Animal Retirement Homes

Shelters have a hard time finding adoptive families for elderly pets, animals with disabilities or chronic medical conditions, large animals that need special facilities, and working animals who have outlived their usefulness. Some people have stepped up to provide permanent care for these animals, so that they can live out their lives in comfort and security.


Many thoroughbreds are born each year, but only a few can be champion racehorses. Of the rest, some become pets and a few will be used for breeding stock, but even they become old eventually. In 2002, the public was shocked to hear that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was sent to a slaughterhouse. The Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen was already trying to raise money to start a thoroughbred retirement farm, and the response to Ferdinand’s fate brought in enough donations to open Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky. That’s where former champion racehorses live out their retirement years alongside thoroughbreds that never raced—160 horses in all. The farm in Georgetown and its other locations in Franklin, Kentucky, and Greenfield Center, New York, are open to the public daily. Pictured above is 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, who is now a resident of Old Friends.

For decades, the U.S. produced medical breakthroughs with the help of experimental lab animals, including hundreds of chimpanzees. When animal testing began declining, research centers found themselves with a surplus of elderly chimps. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) founded chimpanzee retirement farms, funded through the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act.

Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana, is the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary, home to more than 200 retired research chimpanzees on 200 acres of forest land. The chimps are free to roam, build their own nests, and associate with each other as they please. The staff at Chimp Haven interacts with the chimps to ensure they have veterinary care, complete nutrition, and enrichment.


Elderly people worry about what will happen to their cats if something happens to them. In Tucson, Arizona, they know that their pets can be taken in by Hearts that Purr Feline Guardians. The cats that come into their care live in a family environment, but the demand is more than the home can provide. Founder Jeanmarie Schiller-McGinnis began a foster care program to help alleviate overcrowding by placing cats with other elderly people who could use a companion pet. The foster cats remain under the guardianship of…

How Robots Can Help You Be a Better Pet Owner

Feel like your pet parenting skills need improving? Technology’s got you covered. Here are seven ways that robots are making it easier to love, feed, and monitor your furry friends.


Let’s face it: No matter how much you love your kitty, dealing with their litter box isn’t always fun. But if you forget to change it, your cat’s bound to be offended—or even worse, punish you by “going” somewhere else. Luckily for both you and your feline, one technologically advanced pet care product company has created a robotic, self-cleaning litter box.

A weight-sensitive sensor detects when your cat is hopping in and out of the box. Once your kitty’s made its final exit and the litter’s done clumping, the smart litter box sifts the waste from the litter and deposits it into an odor-controlling base compartment. (A flashing light will alert you when it’s finally full.) The best part? As a pet owner, all you’re required to do is empty the waste compartment every seven to 10 days (or more frequently if you have more than one cat) and refill it with litter.


The only thing animals love more than belly rubs and snuggles is food—and if you forget to give them their kibbles, you can say sayonara to both. But thanks to a variety of WiFi-controlled food-dispensing robots now available on the market , there’s no reason for you to forget to feed your pet ever again. The robotic feeders hold several pounds of food and distribute it on a regular schedule, allowing you to adjust feeding times and portion sizes accordingly. Some feeders even feature HD cameras, microphones, and speakers so you can keep ultra-close tabs on your pet’s eating habits.


Walking your dog is a great way to squeeze exercise into your daily routine and bond with your canine pal. But if you’re sick, busy, or preoccupied, it’s hard to find…