Today’s Disaster Preparedness for Pets

We’re all pretty accustomed to thinking about disaster preparedness for ourselves and our (human) loved ones. There are websites and books galore devoted to planning evacuation routes and making lists of necessary supplies.

Today is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day! So, how can we incorporate our pets into our disaster plan? It’s not that hard. If you plan to stay in your home during a disaster, make sure you have extra pet food and an extra supply of water on hand to meet their needs. As a rough rule of thumb, a cat or dog needs 2 ounces of water (1/4 cup) for every kilogram of body weight (about 2 pounds) per day. That’s 1 ounce per pound per day. So, a 10-pound cat or dog would need about 10 ounces of water every day — that’s a little over one cup. If it’s hot outside, or they have to pant a lot to keep their cool, they may need 2 or 3 times that much, but that is a good starting point.

One of the first things you can do is practice some prevention — that way you may not need a disaster plan. If you know a storm is coming, get your pets indoors and safe. Plug in a pheromone diffuser to help keep them calm. Pets left outdoors can become frightened and run away, and the last thing you want to do while you are safeguarding your family is run into a dangerous situation looking for a lost pet.

When you do make a disaster plan, remember to keep any medications that they may need on hand. If a tornado blows through town or an ice storm knocks the power out for a week, you may not be able to get to the veterinarian’s office to pick up a refill, so try not to let the prescription run low, and keep extra on hand for emergencies. This is much more important if it is a lifesaving medication like those used to treat heart conditions.

Make sure they have a collar with identification that has up-to-date information, including your phone number. Folks move all the time and it is easy to let this one slip. I have been guilty of having ID tags on my dogs that had addresses from three or four houses ago on them! If your pets get separated from you during an emergency, an ID tag can be an important link in the chain of reuniting you all. Microchips can also be implanted under the skin of dogs and cats, and if your pet gets lost most shelters have microchip readers that will display your phone number — if you have updated your information (you can usually do it online with the company that makes the chip).

If you have an evacuation plan (for example, if you have to leave your home due to fire or your neighborhood due to a wildfire) keeping control of your pets is vitally important. Getting a cat in a carrier is best, but sometimes that can’t be done. Tossing them in a pillowcase will do in a pinch — you can always get them in the carrier when you are in the car and they can’t escape (just don’t do it while the car is moving). For dogs, make sure that you have a leash and collar that they can’t slip out of — many dogs can back out of a loose collar if they really try. Collars that loop around the neck and tighten as the animal pulls are the safest — many pet stores carry them. Luckily, small pets like birds and rodents can usually be transported right in their cages.

In case you have to leave the house, keep a small evacuation kit for your pets with your kit for the two-legged members of the family, too. Things to keep in the emergency kit include:

  • Leashes
  • Bags for cleanup
  • Bowls
  • A small supply of food
  • Medications
  • Medical records
  • Blankets or pillowcases (for transporting scared pets)

With a little forethought and preparation, you can get everyone in the family, whether they have two legs or four, fur, skin or scales, through a challenging emergency. Your pets are counting on you to make a plan and stick to it!

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