How To Help Your Pets During Natural Disasters

Like it or not emergencies happen. Natural disasters happen. Earthquakes, volcanos, landslides, hurricanes, tornados, flooding, and wildfires are natural and while there’s not much we can do to prevent them, we can be prepared for when they do happen.
There are lots of resources out there for us when natural disasters strike, but what about our pets? If you’ve been following me for any length of time chances are good that you’ve heard me say that you are your pet’s biggest advocate. This is no different.
First things first, leaving your pet behind is simply not an option. At least for me, it isn’t, and if you’re reading this it’s not an option for you either.

Plan An Evacuation

Since we agreed that leaving your pet behind isn’t an option, we’ll start the list of things to do with this: have a buddy system in place in case you are not home when an evacuation occurs. Friends, family members, neighbors should all be on the list. In the event of an emergency, each of you will check with the others to confirm evacuation plans and to make sure that everyone gets out safely including all of your pets.
While you’re at it, go ahead and plan your evacuation route. I just Googled “plan my evacuation route” and found a ton of resources, so start there. When you plan your route, make sure to find emergency veterinary offices along the way and at your destination, as well as pet-friendly hotels along your route and at your destination. I get it, it’s another task to add to your to-do list, but it’s so incredibly important.
It’s also important for everyone in your household to know what your plan is. Who will be contacting who and who is responsible for what. It’s also a good idea to practice your routine regularly, especially with your pets. Make sure your pets are comfortable riding in the car and being calm in their carrier or crate.
Unfortunately, not all evacuation shelters allow pets, so keep an updated list of boarding facilities and animal hospitals close to your designated evacuation facility.

Be Prepared

There are some things that we can do every day to help keep us prepared for an emergency. For instance, check your pet’s collar, harness, and leash regularly. Make sure they are always in good condition, strong and sturdy. You should also keep your leashes and harnesses (and carriers if you use them) close to your exit. Carriers can live in the coat closet if necessary, but you certainly don’t want to be scaling shelves in the garage to find your carrier in an emergency situation.
I also like to keep my pet records in one place, easy to grab and go, next to my carriers in the closet. In addition, I keep their records in the cloud. I recently did a video on digitizing your pet records, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/9IIfrJMMmtA
I like having both digital and physical copies because I may not have access to the internet in an emergency.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have your pet’s tags on their collar including a rabies tag and a name tag that includes your name and current phone number. If you choose to titer test your pet to avoid over-vaccination as I do, make sure you have those papers available as well. If you’ve never heard of titer testing, check out a video I did about vaccine due dates: https://youtu.be/HebM9gfw8dI
I tend to recommend microchipping your pets as well, and if you have your pet microchipped, make sure you have the contact information up to date at all times. You will also want to have your pet’s microchip number accessible to you online and offline.
Also make sure you have all the proper equipment for your pet to ride in your vehicle, whether that be a carrier, a crate, or a booster seat with a seatbelt rated for your pet and their size.

Create An Emergency Kit For Your Pet

All of the following should be available at any given time since we never know when a natural disaster or emergency will occur.
  • A carrier or crate for each one of your pets. Write your name and phone number on the side of each.
  • Food for at least 2 weeks for each of your pets
  • Water for at least 2 weeks for each of your pets
  • If your pet needs medications, make sure you always have at least 2 weeks’ worth
  • For cats, a litter box and litter, at least 2 weeks’ worth
  • For dogs, plenty of poop bags
  • Your pets medical records (paper copies and digital copies)
  • Sturdy leashes and harnesses
  • Your pets microchip number
  • Paper and digital copies of everyone on your buddy list, and all of the contacts in your evacuation plan (hotels, veterinarians, boarding facilities, etc)
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Current pictures of your pet in case you are separated
  • Pet beds and toys

Sheltering In Place

If you are able to shelter in place, you will want to choose a room in your home that is the safest for you and your pets to stay safe. The safest rooms are generally interior spaces with no windows. Try to remain calm, your emotions and behaviors will affect your pets.
Remove any toxic chemicals or plants from your safe space, as well as anything sharp and objects that may easily fall off of shelving or walls.
If you have cats, try to close off areas where your cat may try to hide and get stuck, such as vents and underneath furniture. If you do have to evacuate, you don’t want to struggle to collect your pets.

Evacuating

It’s better to be safe than sorry. If evacuations are inevitable, leave. If you can get out early you could beat traffic and get your family and pets to a safe place.
Remember that if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet. Never leave your pet behind and never tie them up inside or outside of your home!
Contact your local emergency management office to ask if they offer accommodations for you and your pets. If pets are not allowed, you will need to refer to your plan for where to go.
Whether you have to take your pet to a shelter or if your pet will remain with you, make sure to take everything in your pet’s emergency kit.
One thing I do want to mention is that if you will be utilizing a shelter for your pet, whether with you or at an animal boarding facility, your pet will be subject to treatment for fleas, ticks, and other parasites, as well as vaccinations. If you’re anything like me, this freaks me out. I take great care to avoid these unnecessary chemical loads in my pets, though I understand why these may be necessary for an emergency situation. BE PREPARED FOR THIS! Plan to detox your pet once you are reunited.

After An Emergency

Your pet may be traumatized and their behaviors may change. Work to re-establish your routine as quickly as possible. You may want to contact your veterinarian if this behavior change lasts more than a week or two. Monitor your pets closely and never let them loose in unsafe environments. You know your pet best, so if they are overly stressed, anxious, or just generally uncomfortable, contact your veterinarian.