Being aware of what to do, what to pack and where to go may save your life and the life of your pet. Many people store some disaster supplies or have a general plan for the family but neglect to think ahead concerning what will happen to the family pet.
Some time ago the ASPCA released the results of a poll about how well pet parents are prepared for emergencies. According to the poll, 42 percent of dog and cat parents said they wouldn’t evacuate without their pets. 39 percent said they would leave their pets behind. 19 percent said they didn’t know what they would do in that situation. It’s frightening to think that 39 percent of pet parents would leave without their pets and 19 percent weren’t sure what they’d do. If a situation is too dangerous for you to stay in and you must evacuate, then it’s certainly too dangerous for your dog or cat.
Another very upsetting statistic when it comes to families who leave their pets behind is the fact that according to the ASPCA poll, only 28% of dog owners and 24% of cat owners have their pets microchipped. 21 percent of dog owners and 46% of cat owners don’t have ANY form of identification on their pets at all.
After a hurricane or tornado, pet rescue organizations and shelters frantically try to reunite abandoned pets with their human families. A situation that could be made far less traumatic if all pets were microchipped, and if pet parents had a disaster preparedness plan in place.
Here are some guidelines to get you started:
Arrange for a Safe Place for Your Cat
Red Cross shelters don’t take pets and many other local shelters don’t either. Arrange in advance for a place for your pet. Locate boarding kennels, contact a veterinarian or a shelter beyond the danger zone. Even if they don’t have room they may be able to link you up with a temporary foster home for your pet. Plan ahead to keep your pet in a safe location. This way, your pet will remain safe should the worst happen in your area and your family can not get back to your home for a while. If you can locate a hotel/motel that accepts pets or have relatives or friends in a safe area who would accept your family and your pets, that would be ideal but if you find yourself in a situation where you must separate from your cherished pets, you’ll take great comfort in knowing they’re safe and sound.
Have Your Car Ready
When you know bad weather is coming, don’t let the gas get too low in the tank. Keep it filled up, top off the car’s fluids and make sure the vehicle is in shape for a quick evacuation. Keep a flashlight in your car and make sure the batteries are always fresh.
Take pictures with your smart phone so you’ll have current photos of everyone in the family (including all pets) in case someone gets separated. This way you’ll be able to show authorities the most current photo in the event a search is necessary. If it’s a pet that gets separated, you’ll be able to email or text a current photo to shelters and veterinarians in the area.
Have a Feline Emergency Evacuation Kit Ready
In addition to the emergency kit that you should have for yourself and your family, here are some items that should be packed in your feline emergency kit:
two-week supply of cat food and water
manual can opener
first aid kit
supply of any medication your cat currently takes as well as copies of prescriptions
disposable litter box or a small plastic litter box
litter and litter scoop
small plastic bags to dispose of soiled litter clumps
brush and comb for removal of debris from coat
small bottle of dish soap
a carrier that is assembled and ready to go (you may also have a soft-sided foldable one stored in the kit for convenience)
flashlight with extra batteries
copy of your cat’s medical records
towels (to grab and safely hold a panicky cat)
picture of your cat (in case you get separated)
Establish a Family Plan
The above guidelines are just the basics of what you should prepare. Make sure you have talked with your family and everyone understands where they should go and what they should do in the event of a disaster. Go online and print out a list of supplies you need for your family and make sure everyone knows the location of the disaster kit. Arrange for a planned meeting place in case your family members are in separate locations when a disaster strikes. In our family we have a family member who lives out of our area who serves as a center for phone calls. In case we can’t get through to each other on our cell phones, all family members know to contact her when they get can get to a phone.
Resources for More Information
Here’s a link to a pdf brochure from the Department of Homeland Security
I also urge you to take your pet to your veterinarian for microchipping. Here’s some valuable information from the AVMA on microchipping
Plan ahead. It may just save your pet’s life.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.