Going Paperless: Tips for Paperless Pets

The Internet would not be what it is today without cat pictures. So it seems only natural that I do a Going Paperless post on cats, or more generally, on pets. Anyone who has pets probably knows that they can generate a lot of paper. There are adoption records, vet records, special instructions for medication, licenses, and the list goes on. I think we often consider ourselves and our family when going paperless, but it can be just as useful to have pet information at your fingertips in Evernote. We have a couple of cats, Maggie and Zeke, and here are some tips I’ve used when going paperless with our pets.

1. Scan all adoption records

Many people acquire their pets through various pet adoption agencies and there is a fair amount of a paper that comes with them. I’ve found it helpful to scan in all of these papers so that they are easily accessible. It turns out I haven’t needed to access them very often, but when we started taking our cats to a new veterinarian, it helped to have these available.

2. Scan vet records

When I take one or both of our cats to the vet, I usually get a printed set of records of what was done during the visit, as well as the various bills and statements that come along with that. These get scanned into Evernote along with all of the other paper I get. The discipline for doing this can come in handy. Vets can request medical records from other vets, but in the meantime, it is nice to be able to provide a new vet with some “temporary” records from Evernote to bridge the gap until they have the complete records from the old vet.

3. Date the records appropriately

As with anything I scan, I alter the Create Date of the note to match the date on the paper that I am scanning. If a visit to the vet takes place on August 19, and I don’t scan the paperwork until September 1, alter the create date of the note, changing it from September 1 to August 19. My rule of thumb is:

The create date of the note should match the date on the piece of paper you are scanning.

This is useful when you are searching for record from a specific visit. All you need to do is search for any notes dated “8/19/2013” and the records from the vet will be part of the search results. It also helps maintain an accurate timeline of information about your pets.

Changing the create date of a note can only be done from the Evernote “thick” clients; that is, it can only be done from Evernote for Mac or Evernote for Windows. The screenshot below shows an example of where you alter this create date in the Note Info. You click the create date to change it.

Create Date

4. Tag notes with pet names for easy searching

I have written before how I tend to use tags sparingly. That said, I have also describe how I often tag notes with the names of the family with whom the notes are associated. If I am looking for medical records related to me, I would search for medical records tagged “jamie” which would prevent me from pulling in records from other family members.

I maintain this practice with our pets, too, tagging veterinary records, adoptions records, and other pet-related notes in Evernote with the name of the pet in question. If I want to see all of the notes related to a pet, I can simply do a search for:


and this would return all of the notes related to our cat, Zeke. It helps keep the records discretely organized for each pet, but also makes it very quick and easy to find.

5. Snap photos of products like food, treats and litter so you remember what to buy

Pets can be finicky, especially cats. They like what they like and when you try to give them something new, they complain about it, often in creative and unique ways. I am terrible at remembering the kind of cat foot we buy, or the type of cat litter we use.

Last night, after we’d been away for nearly a week, we discovered that we were almost out of litter. I dashed off to the grocery store, and when I got there, realized I had no idea what kind of litter we used. I pulled out my iPhone, started Evernote, and did a search for the word “litter.” Almost at once, I found this note:

Cat Litter

Which meant I came home with the right litter, and didn’t even have to call to ask which one to buy.

6. Keep instructional notes for pet-sitters

When we travel, we have a house-sitter or pet-sitter depending on the length of the trip. We have done this enough where it makes sense to have a note in Evernote for each of the cats with details and instructions about that cat when we are away. Things like how often we feed them, where the food is located, where the litter is located, phone numbers for the vet, etc.

Having these notes in Evernote makes it easy to update them with current information. And you don’t have to print them out. You can email the note to your house-sitter or pet-sitter right from Evernote!

These are some of the tips I used to keep our cats paperless. If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: 5 More Tips for Speeding Up Productivity with Evernote Using Third-Party Tools (Part 2).


  1. Not exactly a comment on the article, but in the past our vets have told us not to use litter with crystals for our cats because it can cause health problems.

  2. Jamie,
    Seems like your kids might be a bit younger than mine, but I would be interested in your thoughts on how to introduce Evernote to late elementary – middle school aged kids. An obvious place to start would be with school work, but alas, our district isn’t overly progressive when it comes to “less paper” in the schools. But maybe I can get them started on their own. Would you advise them getting their own Evernote accounts? Does that cause problems on a single PC? What simple steps might you take if your kids were a bit older?

    1. Tom, my kids are 2 and 4 so, yeah, most of what I use Evernote for them right now is to capture stuff they are producing (drawings, etc.) and then the usual run-of-the-mill stuff like documents their school sends home (schedules, notices, etc.). I’d have to think about it a bit to see how I’d work Evernote into their schooling as they got a little older. I would hope that in the next few years, there would be less paper being used, but even so, an important part of the Going Paperless process is understanding that while you might go paperless, you have to expect the rest of the world to still use paper and be prepared to deal with that.

  3. Thanks for the tips! I’ve started keeping the same info in my Evernote.

    My question is how do you keep your pet info organized within Evernote? Do you have a Notebook for pets along with the tagging you mention? Or some other method?

    1. Timothy, all notes for my pets go into my “Filing Cabinet” notebook, which is where most stuff gets dumped. They get tagged with the pet’s name so regardless of where the documents reside, they are easy to find by using a tag search. And we are not talking about hundreds of notes, but dozens. Searching by tag and date usually gets me what I’m looking for in just a few seconds.

  4. I started a notebook for my doggie Brooklyn almost immediately after I started using Evernote. It’s been about three years and its literally a little digital scrapbook of her entire life (she turned 3 this past April). Unlike Jamie I’m not a tag user at all so notes relating to the dog just go in her notebook. And her notebook is in my notebook stack titled Home Life.


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