What would you do with your pet if you were forced to flee your home due to a hurricane, wildfire, or other disaster? What happens if something bad happens while you’re gone from your pet?
You should have a pet emergency kit and disaster preparedness strategy in place if you don’t already have one. It’s difficult to consider the worst-case possibilities. However, having a strategy in place could make all the difference in keeping your cat safe.
Here’s how to get yourself and your pet ready in case of an emergency.
Learn about the natural disasters that can occur in your area.
Is your area susceptible to hurricanes? Tornadoes, blizzards, and wildfires, for example. Most areas experience “native” disasters that strike more frequently than others.
On the Gulf Coast, for example, hurricanes are prevalent, but they are unlikely to witness the wildfires or earthquakes that are so common in California.
It’s a good idea to start by identifying the most common natural disasters.
Check your property’s elevation level and flood history if you live in a hurricane-prone area. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with local evacuation routes.
This will assist you in developing an effective plan for both yourself and your pet.
Make a Plan for Your Pet’s Evacuation
When natural calamities hit and you must leave, every minute counts. Make sure your pet is included in your evacuation plan so you know where to go in the event of an emergency.
If possible, find pet-friendly evacuation shelters ahead of time so you can stay together. If there are no shelters available, alternative possibilities include:
- The office of your veterinarian
- Animal shelters in the area
- Hotels that accept pets
- Facilities for boarding
- House of a valued family or acquaintance
The most important thing to remember is that your pet evacuation plan should include a variety of choices. You won’t have to waste time making frantic phone calls after a calamity.
“Having your [pet’s] medical records on hand is also important,” says Purina Chief Veterinary Officer Kurt Venator, “since some pet-friendly disaster relief centers need proof of immunizations for your pet to stay there.”
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to evacuate with pets. However, your veterinarian can assist you in preparing so that your pet is as secure as possible while you are away.
Your veterinarian, for example, can provide you with weatherproof “Pets Inside” stickers. Place them on the front and back doors of your home to notify rescuers to the presence of pets.
Establish a Buddy System
You should have a strategy not only for evacuating with your dogs, but also for what will happen if something goes wrong while you’re gone. You can prepare for this by enlisting the help of a trusted neighbor, family, or friend to keep an eye on your pet. You may use the same logic to theirs.
Add this caregiver to your emergency contact list as someone who can approve emergency medical care if you are unable to do so.
“Add emergency contacts to the call list connected with your pet’s microchip as well.” This way, if calamity strikes while you’re away, anyone who finds your pet will be able to contact your emergency contact in your absence,” says Purina Behavior Research Scientist Dr. Ragen McGowan.
Also, let your “buddy” know where your pet’s emergency kit is if calamity strikes while you’re away.
Checklist for Pet Emergency Kits
Depending on whether you have a cat or a dog, your pet emergency kit may comprise the following items:
- Water in a bottle
- One to two weeks’ supply of food for your pet
- Food and water bowls that collapse
- Cat litter and a litter pan
- Harness, leash, and collar
- Pets should wear a life jacket and have their paws protected.
- Extra batteries for the flashlight
- a basic first-aid kit for pets
- Medical history and vaccination records
- Contact information for the veterinarian
- Medications chart
- Contact information in case of an emergency
In the event of a separation, take photos of your pet.
In the event of separation, Dr. Venator recommended that pets wear a secure collar with current identifying tags. “Pet owners should think about having their pets microchipped so that they may be identified and located using an electronic device.”
“It’s also a good idea to include a few of your pet’s favorite toys or even a T-shirt that smells like a family member,” Dr. McGowan says, “so they have something familiar to help them feel secure when boarding in a strange place.”
Ensure that your pet’s emergency kit is up to date.
Once you’ve put together a pet catastrophe plan and a cat or dog emergency kit, it’s critical to maintain the contents up to date.
Every six months, replace any food or water in the pet emergency kit. On all food and water containers, write the date you prepared or checked them so you know when to replace them.
Maintain the accuracy of all other things in your pet’s emergency kit, especially emergency contacts and immunization records.