By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 1 September 2011)
Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, house fires, and toxic spills necessitate rapid evacuation, and it may be impossible to gather supplies at the last minute.
Put Together a Pet Disaster Kit
Ideally, pet owners should have one disaster kit for the human members of the household and another for their pets. A pet disaster kit should contain:
- Pet identification
- A first aid kit for animals, including any medications they require
- Veterinary records, veterinarian’s phone number, and a list of any special medical requirements stored in a waterproof case
- At least 3 days’ worth of food and water for each pet, along with a manual can opener in case the electricity is not working
- Blankets, bedding, and familiar toys that will comfort pets during stressful events
- A carrier for each pet that is sufficiently large that the animal can stand and lie down
- A leash and harness for each pet
- A litter box and litter
- Towels and/or paper towels, garbage bags, and cleaning solution in case of accidents
Have a Disaster Plan in Place That Includes Your Pets
Be aware of local evacuation routes and have a plan in place that includes your pets. First and foremost, make a list of nearby organizations (and those in neighbouring areas) that you can call upon if disaster strikes. Many emergency shelters that take people don’t admit animals other than service dogs so in the event of a disaster, you may have to find other accommodations for your pets. Options include:
- Pet-friendly hotels
- Veterinarians and emergency veterinary hospitals
- Animal boarding facilities
- Animal shelters as a temporary last resort
Leaving animals at home during a disaster is often a death sentence. Frightened pets may starve, succumb to thirst, or escape outdoors, falling victim to predators, accidents, or contaminated water and food sources.
Make Arrangements for Backup
Pet owners may not be home when disaster strikes, so a key should be left with a trusted nearby family member, friend, or neighbour. Arrangements should be made to meet at a designated location in the event of a disaster and/or evacuation order. Be sure to tell your backup person where your pet is likely to hide if frightened, provide a list of contact numbers where he or she can reach you, and make sure pets are wearing ID at all times. Getting an implanted microchip increases the chances that your pet can be identified and returned if lost.
Keep Pets Indoors When the Crisis Is Over
When returning to your home after an evacuation, keep pets indoors until all problems (i.e., debris, contaminated water, etc.) have been cleared away. If you have an outdoor cat, block the cat door and be careful that he doesn’t escape outside until things have settled down. Cats are particularly likely to become frightened by the chaos, and may run off or become lost if familiar scents and landmarks have been changed.
For more information on disaster preparedness, call 1-800-BE-READY or visit www.ready.gov.
Reference: American Red Cross. (2008). Cat First Aid. Yardley, PA: StayWell.