Natural disasters have wrecked homes, towns, and whole cities in the past, and unfortunately, pets are just as affected by storms, earthquakes, and emergencies as their people are. You can include your pet in your family’s disaster preparedness plan, and you’ll be ready if and when the time comes for evacuation or hunkering down through a storm.
Make a list for a go-bag, and gather all the items you can.
If a disaster is approaching, your local officials will probably tell you to prepare a go-bag, in case your area is evacuating. Your pet’s go-bag will need food, water, vaccination and veterinary records, leashes and collars, and any medications your pet needs. You’ll need a kennel or crate as well.
So what can you do today to make it easier if the call for action comes?
Make a list of all the things you’ll need in the go-bag for your pet or pets. If any of these items can stay in one place in your home, put them there and keep them there. For example, you may use your dog’s travel crate as the bin for their veterinary records (neatly filed in an envelope), extra leash and collar, and pet-safe antibiotic ointment. Keep the travel crate in your garage, and tape the rest of the list to it.
That way, when it’s time to assemble the rest of the go-bag, like food, water, and medications, you already have a gathering place and some of the items ready to go.
- Make sure you have enough food and water on-hand to feed your pet for several days. FEMA recommends having a 3-day supply for every pet.
- Wet food can be more useful because it already contains some water, and your pet won't need to drink as much.
- Get all the medicines your pet will need, including flea and tick prevention.
- Make a first aid kit. Lots of items you might pack for yourself and your family, like gauze or bandages, will also be usable on a pet in a disaster, but make sure you have a pet-friendly antibiotic ointment.
- Your list should include lots of newspaper, paper towels, and plastic bags--your pet will still have to do their business, whether they can get to their normal spot or not. Your cat will need a litter box and litter.
- You'll need leashes, or harnesses for cats, carriers, and muzzles. Even if your dog is usually even-tempered, a muzzle will protect you and others from your dog if the stress of the situation makes them agitated.
- Have a notebook or sturdy note card with your pet's name, species and breed, sex, fur color or any markings, age, microchip identification number, and a current photo of you with your pet. All of these will help reunite you with your pet if you have to leave them at a designated pet shelter, or if you get separated during a disaster.
Develop a buddy system with your neighbors and friends.
In case you can't get to a pet shelter or a regular boarding kennel out of reach of the danger, check with friends, family members, and neighbors to see who might be able to care for your pet for a few days in case of a disaster. Even if your friends can't host your whole family until danger passes, they may be able to provide a safe place for your pet.
- Be sure to cast a “wide net”—a disaster could affect your whole town, so consider people in a wide radius of your home.
- Remember to be part of their solution—offer to take their pets in if their area is ever in danger.
Research the shelters, kennels, hotels, vets, and emergency centers in your area.
Some emergency shelters won't allow animals for public health reasons, so look in advance for pet shelters that are close to the shelters you’d be evacuated to.
If you’d be evacuating to a hotel instead, check to see which hotels allow pets and make a list with directions to each option.
Make a list of kennels that could take your pet in, and ask them in advance what their requirements are in terms of medical documentation—then get those documents for your pet.
Your veterinarian may also operate as a pet emergency center, but be sure to ask. If they don’t, get a list from them of nearby emergency hospitals that care for pets.
When disaster strikes.
If you have not been ordered to evacuate...
Your first step is to bring your pet inside with you. Cats especially may retreat to a hiding place in your house, so keep your cat in a certain room so you always know where they are. When and if the storm gets bad in your area, you may want to separate your pets, especially dogs and cats. Animals that usually get along can get into fights in stressful situations. Have kennels and carriers at the ready, preferably with blankets, toys, and other familiar items to help ease your pet's stress.
If you need to evacuate...
Take your pet with you. If for some reason that’s just not possible, FEMA recommends you take the following steps:
- Confine your pet to a safe area inside - NEVER leave your pet chained outside!
- Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water.
- Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink.
- Place a note outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located.
- Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your vet.
Visit ready.gov for more information on preparing for your pets in a disaster.
More on Emegency Pet Care
Treating a Dog's Laceration
Treating Cat and Dog Pain with NSAIDs
How to Calm Down a Dog
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.