For a lot of people, their pets are considered a part of their family. If that is you, you’ll want to plan ahead for anything that will be different for your pet. Of course, some things will be different if you have a cat or dog than if you have a gerbil or a horse, but read through and treat this like a buffet: take what you want and leave the rest.
Let’s see what can be done before, during, and after an emergency.
Before The Emergency
Clearly Identify Your Pet – at the very least, make sure your cat or dog has a collar and nametag, but also consider having your pet microchipped. Have your cell phone number on it, and perhaps the number of an out of the area friend. Keep the information updated.
Disaster Kit for Your Pet – You can have all the non-perishable items in it, and be ready to go. Be sure to rotate dry pet food every 6 months, along with rotating your water storage. It’s also a good idea to include pet items in your emergency car kit. In your kit, pack:
- pet food for at least a few days
- bowls to put the food in
- manual can opener (if you are storing canned food)
- water – for people, the recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day. Pets may not need that much, but it is better to have more than too little.
- medicines your pet needs, along with medical records
- litter box, litter, litter scoop, etc.
- leases, harnesses, carriers
- photo of you with your pet (to substantiate ownership), description of your pet – in case you are separated
- pet bed and pet toys – to help relieve stress
- written information about your pet (such as medical information, behavior issues, information about veterinarian) in case you are required to leave your pet somewhere temporarily
- blanket to wrap around a scared pet
Evacuation Plan – When you make your family plan, include your pets. If you have to evacuate, where will your pet be? Ideally, with you, but that isn’t always feasible. It’s important to research nearby places that will allow you to keep your pets with you. Check for a hotel or motel, friend or relative, kennel, or even a local animal shelter that might provide emergency shelter or foster care.
During an Emergency
IF YOU DO EVACUATE: If you think you might need to evacuate, evacuate early. Don’t wait until evacuation is mandatory, because then sometimes the first responders won’t allow you to take your pets. Also, pets can become disoriented and more uncooperative if they sense something different, such as smoke, a storm, or high winds. If you need to evacuate, always take your pets. You may think you will only be gone a short time, but sometimes things happen and you might not be allowed back in the area for a long time, if at all.
IF YOU DON’T EVACUATE: Choose a room to be your “safe room” and put your emergency supplies in it, along with the pet’s supplies. Close off parts of the house so that the pets are more confined and less likely to hide. Close off openings like fireplaces, pet doors, etc. with plastic sheeting and tape. Move any dangerous items like toxic products out of the area.
Animals can sense weather changes and will sometimes hide if they’re afraid. Bring your pets inside the room as soon as you know things are getting more dangerous. This can keep them from running away and you won’t need to find them when they are more excited and stressed.
After the Disaster
After a disaster there can be a lot of things different, and this can be disorienting to a pet. Keep pets confined if there is any chance there is house damage through which the pet might escape. Familiar sights and smells might be gone, and if they aren’t on a leash or in a carrier, they can become confused and get lost. Also, wild animals (especially snakes) can come into an area when there is flooding or wildfires.
Stress can be very upsetting to pets, and can cause behavioral problems and personality changes. It is important to help them get back to their normal routine as soon as possible. If the behavior problems continue, talk to your vet.
Help your pet stay calm by using a comforting, soft voice around them. Both you and your pet will benefit from spending time together. Some pets won’t be willing to be held and comforted because they are scared, so just interact with them however they will allow. For some pets, chew toys help relieve anxiety.
By planning ahead, your pet can be just as protected as the rest of the family.