Are you prepared for your pet’s care in a disaster or evacuation?

I love animals and pets and I am sometimes more aware of natural hazards as an earth scientist than other people. Combine the two and you get pet emergency preparedness.

I’d been planning a post about this, and in light of our recent Mw 4.8 earthquake in Victoria (which I admit scared me!), I thought it was a good time to post about this. Getting pet first aid certified and living near a plate boundary has definitely made me more aware of what to do for my pet in case of emergency. In fact, I will openly admit my pet first aid kit is better than my human one!

No matter where you live, some kind of natural disaster could hit. Whether its an earthquake, tornado, blizzard, volcanic eruption, flood or a hurricane, you should always be prepared. Prepare an emergency kit and an evacuation plan for yourself and your family. It pays to prepare for these things, and maybe you have.

But have you thought about your pets? If not, make sure you do! No matter where you live, there could be an earthquake, tornado, blizzard, flood, and you have to have a plan not only for yourself and your family, but for your furry friends, too! You won’t always know when its coming, so its best to always be prepared in case the worst happens.

After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, hundreds of cats were heart-breakingly abandoned and left homeless. To read more about them and how they are being rescued, take a look at Red Zone Cats .

Its the same story following the Japan earthquake in 2011 and the subsequent Fukushima disaster. The Japan Cat Network is striving to help lost pets and those left behind in the areas affected by radiation.

The most important thing to remember is never leave your pet behind if you are evacuated. If it isn’t safe for you, it is NOT safe for your pet!

Make sure you have the following essentials ready:

  • Carrier/crate – you should actually leave this out for them all the time, so they can get used to being around it.
    • Be sure to practice putting your pet in their carrier ahead of time.
  • Extra food and drinking water in a handy backpack or rolling suitcase.
    • A can opener if cans are not pop-tab cans.
    • Food and water bowls.
  • Extra medication if your pet requires any plus whatever you use to administer it to them (like pill pockets). This is very important if they have a chronic condition!
  • For a cat, have extra litter handy and a litterbox or cardboard box to be used as a litterbox, as well as a scooper and garbage bags.
  • For a dog, have an extra leash and collar on hand to get them out of the house quickly. They’ll need to go for a walk after you evacuate, after all.
    • Its not a bad idea to keep a muzzle on hand as well in the event you need to restrain your dog.
    • Plastic bags for poop scooping.
  • First aid kit – You can buy one at a local pet store or assemble one following the guidelines from the Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Plus: Consider getting pet first aid certified. It made me a lot more confident in caring for my cat and I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know. Check with your local first aid providers if they offer a pet course, ask a local pet store or animal shelter, or google “pet first aid + your town”.

Other items for pet disaster kits (be sure to put all papers in waterproof ziploc bags!):

  • Keep a list of phone numbers for your regular vet, the local 24/7 emergency pet hospital, your pet sitter or any secondary care-giver for your pet in case you are away (a neighbor or perhaps someone with a key to your place)
  • Address, phone number and contact info of at least two pet-friendly hotels in your area in the event you have to evacuate with your pets and stay in commercial accommodation.
  • Blankets, towels, toys, pillows, brushes for grooming, a thundershirt to help keep them calm (thundershirts for pets)
  • Copies of your pet’s medical history. Its a good idea to have this in case of an emergency in case you ever need to take them to the hospital (and I hope you don’t).

Other things to think about for general pet safety:

  • Make sure you plan for a secondary care-giver in the event you are not able to get home to care for your pet. Make sure they have a key to the house, know where all food, medications and emergency supplies are kept.
  • Printed photos of your pet in case they go missing. Putting up photos and missing posters in your neighbourhood is one of the best ways to find a missing pet.
  • Make sure your pet has ID! Microchip, tattoo or a collar ID tag. More than one is even better. It is so important to have your pet’s name, your phone number (and/or address) and if they require any medications engraved on the ID tag so when found, you can be contacted and they can get proper care.
  • Get a sticker for your door in the event of emergency, please rescue my cat. Such as this one (free) from the ASPCA.
  • Consider looking into pet insurance. If your pet is young and healthy, this may be good for covering unexpected pet costs in the future. I ultimately decided my cat was too old for it to be worth it, but if I ever got a young pet I would definitely invest in insurance.

Resources:
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness
Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team Be Prepared!
Humane Society Guidelines for pet disaster planning
Walks’n’Wags Pet First Aid for the US and Canada

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