Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, wild fires, floods and blizzards can be devastating, but being prepared in advance can help you remain calm in the face of disaster. Keep in mind that your family’s disaster plan should include your pets – follow these tips from Dr. Kim Smyth and Dr. Ernie Ward to prepare your furry family for a hurricane.
before the storm
Keep calm when predictions begin. Pets can sense barometric pressure changes, so ease worry by speaking in a reassuring voice and making extra time for play and cuddling.
don’t leave it to chance
If an evacuation order is issued, evacuate as soon as possible. Biding your time will only cause congestion on already busy evacuation routes, and if you are seeking room at a local shelter, you may lose your spot.
Find out which evacuation shelters allow pets ahead of time. You can contact local officials to find out where you can take pets before the storm hits. Your vet or a boarding facility may also take pets.
When you evacuate, do not assume that you are leaving for a short time. Even if you think the threat of disaster is low, anything could happen. It is common in disaster areas for owners to not be able to return to their homes for days or weeks. Do not evacuate without your pets!
the whole kit and caboodle
Put together an evacuation kit that includes:
- Pet carriers: clearly label it your pet’s name, breed, sex, date of birth, your current address and contact numbers, and any important medical information. Many disaster shelters will not accept your pets if they do not have their own cage.
- Medications for two weeks: put prescriptions and preventatives in a bag, and write down the instructions and schedule in case you have to leave your pet at a kennel.
- First aid kit: this should contain bandages, scissors, antibiotic ointment, eye rinse, alcohol prep pads and tweezers.
- Food and water for one week: divide into individual bags, 1 meal per bag, in case others have to feed your pet. Many shelters will not have adequate food and water.
- Slip leashes: slip-type webbing or nylon leashes can hold pets more securely, and can even be used to restrain a cat in a pinch.
- Medical histories: keep printed and electronic copies of your pet’s latest exams, blood tests and proofs of vaccines or licenses.
- ID and contact info: make sure pets have a secure collar with your current contact info, and if they’re microchipped, make sure your info is up-to-date.
- Litter, piddle pads and trash bags: bring a small baking pan and towels, too.
If a disaster strikes, the last thing you will want to think about is where you put Spot’s rabies certificate!
in the thick of it
If you’re waiting out the storm, keep curtains closed, and distract pets with games, toys and natural calming remedies. Keep pets inside; a spot on your rug is a small price to pay for keeping pets safe. If you evacuate, make sure dogs have ID tags, and cats are in crates.
Proceed with caution! Pets can become injured or ill from breathing toxic generator fumes, drinking dirty water or eating spoiled food.
The best time to plan for danger is when you’re safe and sound, so do
your best to be prepared before the official warnings are issued. And remember, everyone is stressed, nervous and worried in the time of disaster. Be courteous, understanding and helpful.