This weekend we celebrated National Emergency Pet Disaster Preparedness Day, an excellent reminder to form a plan and get everything in order BEFORE disaster strikes. The recent floods in Tennessee have gotten everyone thinking about emergency preparedness: are you prepared, or is it buried deep down on your to-do list right after cleaning the garage?
For example, in the recent Tennessee floods, families had to evacuate with little warning. Many emergency shelters do not accept pets, or require that your pet has a collar with tags and all of the pet’s medical records (some shelters require a microchip, too). If you have to evacuate, you may have only five or ten minutes to gather all of your belongings. In that time, can you catch and crate all of your pets — along with their vaccination records, a few days’ supply of food, etc? Keep everything together in an easy-to-remember spot and do a drill periodically so that evacuation can be built into your muscle memory.
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Here are ten things you can do for your pets to prepare for any disaster or emergency:
Even if your cats are indoor cats, bell, tag and microchip them. This is not a belt-and-suspenders exercise. A bell will help searchers find your cat — perhaps trapped in rubble or a tight spot. Sometimes well-meaning people will keep found cats in their homes, and will wait to see if a lost cat ad appears in the newspaper (which could take several days). They won’t think (or bother) to take your cat to a vet or shelter to be scanned. Tags ensure a quick reunion, and microchipping is a backup when the collar is lost. Indoor cats do escape, and if you’re not home when disaster strikes, the cat could survive the disaster but be lost to you afterward. Wouldn’t you like Fluffy returned to you as soon as possible?
Order a Together Tag for your cat. With this pet recovery service, those who find your pet can access the web via a code on your pet’s tag to find outside-of-area family contacts, your pet’s medical history and current meds, your vet’s contact info, etc.
Take several GOOD well-lit photos of your cat at several angles. Upload high-res versions to an online photo-sharing site (Flickr, Facebook, etc). If your home computer is destroyed (or you’re barred from returning to your home for several days), you’ll still have a backup photo to give to shelters and put on flyers.
If your cat is on medication, scan the labels (black out personal info) and upload them to a photo sharing site. Keep a copy of the info in your wallet or at work. If your community experiences a disaster, your vet’s office may not be open (or records could be destroyed) and your home might not be accessible. This ensures you have ready access to prescription info for your pet.
Put a decal on a front window alerting firefighters to the presence of animals in your home. If you evacuate with all of your pets, write “Evacuated” on it.
Got a multiple cat household? Make sure you have one cat carrier for each of your cats. We keep extra fold-up cardboard carriers in case of emergency.
Keep an emergency stash of food and meds (if feasible), and refresh as necessary. A minimum 3-day supply is recommended. And don’t forget water or purification drops. We live in earthquake country, so we keep kits in our cars with a stash of thyroid meds and canned cat food (which comes in handing when you encounter strays). Here are some emergency preparedness products for pets.
Get a Pet First Aid Kit and a book on Pet First Aid and keep in an easily accessible place. And crack open the book before disaster strikes.
Got an emergency plan? What would you do in case of fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc? Make a plan that includes how to escape from your home, and what to take with you. Create a checklist of what to do and what to take. Practice your evacuation. Then practice it with a blindfold on. In most emergencies, power will be out, so you’ll be grappling around in the dark. You should attempt to evacuate within ten minutes, and if you can do it in five, you’re ready for anything!
What will happen if you can’t get home to your cats for an extended period? Catster Hazel Lucy designed some cards she uses so that anyone who can get into her house will know immediately what to do with Hazel Lucy. Make one for each cat and post in a prominent location, like the back of your entryway door. Click here for all the forms.
What’s that cat in top photo wearing? It’s a state-of-the-art emergency suit that’s available in Japan. You strap it onto Fluffy so that she can survive for days after a major earthquake. Each suit contains all of the necessary gear including water, food, aromatherapy oils, and rubber foot pads, all contained in the pockets of a flame-resistant coat. (No, I didn’t know aromatherapy oils were a must-have item in the Earthquake kit, either!)