From hurricanes to brush fires, natural disasters that are beyond your control can force you and your family to evacuate your home. Preparing your dog or cat for such a contingency can make the difference between survival and a devastating consequence for your cherished furry family member. Take these steps before the threats of hurricanes and other dangerous and destructive events loom on the horizon.

Decals, Chips, and Tags

Visit your local pet supply retailer and purchase a pet alert decal. This adhesive decal may be placed on a window or on the door to your home. Their purpose is to alert emergency workers to the presence of pets in your home that may need to be rescued. You should also purchase a new identification tag for each of your pets' collars. When having the tag engraved, include the following information:

  • The pet's name
  • Your name
  • Your home address
  • Your current contact number
  • The name of your pet's veterinary clinic

Since collars can slip off of pets during times of a struggle, such as in trying to free themselves from a stranger's grasp or from a pile of rubble from a collapsed building, ask your veterinarian to implant a microchip into each of your pets. Once this procedure is performed, do not delay in registering the chip with its company database so that your contact information can be accessed if the chip is scanned. Remember to keep all contact information up to date.

Research Evacuation Destinations

Prepare a list that includes the names and telephone numbers of pet friendly hotels that you may need to turn to for accommodations in the event of an evacuation. This list should be laminated or placed in an airtight, waterproof plastic bag. You should contact each of these facilities periodically to confirm that they are still in operation and that their pet friendly policy remains in effect, updating the list as needed. Prepare a second list that provides the names of all animal hospitals in the area in case your pet becomes injured and requires medical attention. Some animal hospitals provide boarding services in the event that you cannot locate a hotel that accommodates pets. 

Survival Kit

Each of your pets will benefit from a survival kit in the event of a lengthy power outage or a home evacuation. The kit should be stored where it can be accessed quickly and easily, and every member of the household should be made aware of this location. Each kit should contain a pet first aid kit and all of your pet's basic needs over the duration of at least three days:

  • Store your pet's usual dry kibble food in airtight containers, and remember to pack a manual can opener if your pet eats canned food. Each time you shop for your pet's food, remove the old food from the kit and replace it with the new food to ensure that the food does not spoil.
  • Include bottles of water in the kit in case access to running water is interrupted.
  • Store any necessary long-term medications in waterproof bags. To prevent expiration, employ the same strategy as for the food and exchange the medication each time you refill your pet's prescription.
  • In a sealed waterproof bag, keep updated copies of your pet's medical records, an index card with your pet's identification information, a photograph of your family with your pet and an index card with your contact information.

Additional items to keep in each pet's kit that will not require updating include

  • Bowls for food and water
  • A blanket and a toy
  • Plastic bags for waste disposal
  • An extra leash and collar for dogs or an extra leash and harness for cats
  • A simple litter pan and a ten-pound bag of litter for cats
  • A crate to safely house your dog in a shelter or hotel and a cat carrier to safely transport your cat

Network with a Neighbor

If you are on good terms with one of your neighbors that also has pets, have a conversation with them about disaster preparedness for your pets. Exchange house keys and contact information so that either one of you can take charge of each other's furry friends if the other is not home when disaster strikes. Discuss a plan and potential meeting place in case an evacuation forces one of you to transport all of the pets to safety, and inform your neighbor where your pet's emergency kit is located in your home.

When a disaster occurs, stress and anxiety levels rise in those who are affected, and pets pick up on the emotions of their owners and react accordingly. Try to remain as calm as possible while working through the evacuation and aftermath of a disaster, and reassure your dog or cat by speaking in soothing tones. Staying calm and being prepared will go a long way toward ensuring that you and your pets can weather through a disaster together. For assistance becoming prepared for an emergency with a pet, talk to a professional like Babylon Animal Hospital.