When Disaster Strikes: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Pet


September is Disaster Preparedness Month* with good reason: it is the height of hurricane season and as I write this Hurricane Florence is about to wreak havoc on the Carolinas. It is heartbreaking to try and imagine what it must be like to pack up on short notice and pray you have a home to come back to.

Even when folks do their best, there are news stories of pets left behind or that have escaped in the panic of trying to get to safety and are missing. So not only does a family need to worry about their home, but the whereabouts and safety of one of it’s members. And it’s not always about hurricanes. Family emergencies, power outages, and other problems with the home can mean having to pack up and go.

Under those circumstances, it is hard enough to get yourself together let alone your pet. With that in mind, here is a five point checklist to review and re-review as necessary so you will be prepared. Bad enough to deal with a tragedy that displaces you & your family, let alone the lack of resources to get your pet to safety.

  1. Keep Vaccinations Up To Date. This one is easy to disregard, but bringing your pet on the road or temporarily re-homing him could mean exposure to other people and animals. Even the most well behaved pet can become fearful and lash out at a temporary caretaker, and most boarding places won’t even accept a pet without current records. All of a sudden the lack of a vaccination can become your worst nightmare. Download your vets app if they have one to stay on top of health issues and also as a great resource for easy answers to questions when you are away.
  2. Never Underestimate the Value of a Pet Emergency Kit. Or overestimate the ease of putting one together. Start with a simple disposable litter box that you can pick up for around $10 at most grocery stores. Fill it with the other things listed here and store in the garage for easy access. Done. For box, include: List of medicines (or a reminder card to grab them along with where to find). A recent photo or three of your cat in case you get separated and need to provide it for reference.  A harness, blanket, catnip, a few cans of food and some treats. It also would be worth the effort to pick up a vial of Bach Rescue Remedy or some Calming Chews as most cats are nervous travelers. Finally, don’t forget the scoop and a few bags to dispose of litter. (The litter itself can be added from on hand supply unless you decide to include that as well).
  3. Cat Carriers. Here’s the thing about carriers. I think we all have one – somewhere – but because it is not a daily use item it’s working condition and size are not always front of mind. (One of mine was purchased when the girls were kittens, and just like a car seat or stroller, they have long outgrown it). You need a way to transport your cat that is safe and comfortable. Take time when you have it to pick one up and keep it near the emergency kit in the garage.
  4. Kitty Godparents / Pet Safe Places. I’m sure we all have a friend or family member who has stepped in to help with cat care when we are gone. But have you ever really talked with them about taking your cats if they need to be re-homed? And are they even a good longer term fit in the first place? Your cats need Godparents, or someone who is designated to step in to help with their care should anything happen to you. This step takes a little more thought and effort, but is HUGE in terms of the peace of mind when you may need it most. In an emergency when you need to be away but can’t take your cats with you, at least you can rely on the person you know won’t be put upon, which is so much better than trying to plead for help from someone who’s heart is just not into it. No Godparents? Create a list of pet safe places like vets who board or pet friendly hotels. Even with the internet, researching this when you need it takes valuable time. Just because a place boards doesn’t mean it’s a good place to leave your cat, so find the good guys and jot them down. You will still need to call and make arrangements but the list will save you the headache of knowing where to go.
  5. I.D. Tags / Microchip. While most dogs have up to date, legible tags as they are outside a lot, often this is not true for cats. Take a few minutes next time you are web surfing and order something useful. With so many options available – including digital tracking tags – this is a must. How awful would you feel if your cat got away and you were in an unfamiliar area? If they do get lost or separated from you websites such as Nextdoor and PetFBI can help reunite you, but having tags that are up to date and easy to read is half the battle.

As long as you are here, if you have a few more minutes I would highly recommend reading through the ready.gov pet preparedness social media tool kit information. When it comes to pet safety, a little extra effort goes a long way in the time of need. Don’t forget to bookmark this page to keep it handy or share with a friend!

*September is Disaster Preparedness Month, but June is Pet Preparedness Month. Really, any month is a good month to be prepared.

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