One summer day in 1994 I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. The air was so full of smoke I thought my house was on fire. I ran around to check everything and finally I woke up enough to realize the smoke was coming from outside, not inside. Then I thought, “Oh my God, there’s a wildfire, and it’s right near my home!” I was ready to evacuate that minute. But then logic won out and I turned on the TV news, where I found out that the smoke was actually from wildfires in Quebec, hundreds of miles away, and the prevailing winds had brought the suffocating pall to my home near the Maine coast.
Whenever I hear stories about wildfires, I remember how scared I was that day. I can only imagine how much more terrifying it is when the fire is in your back yard. Here’s some advice on what to consider for your cats during wildfire season.
Even if you don’t live near a wildfire, the smoke can be extremely harmful. If yous is an outdoor cat, keep her indoors, no matter how much she begs to go out. This is especially true if your cat has respiratory problems. Not only will this protect her lungs, it’ll be easier for you to find your kitty if you have to evacuate.
Regardless of whether you’re being told to evacuate, have a “go bag” ready — you never know when the wind might bring the fires to your area. Put your cat’s carrier and a tote or other bag containing food supplies, medications, a litter box, and other necessities near the door. Visit the ASPCA’s disaster preparedness page to find out what you should have in your evacuation kit.
Know where you will go if you have to evacuate. Many disaster shelters don’t accept animals, so have an alternate plan such as the home of a friend or relative, a pet-friendly hotel, or a pet shelter or boarding facility.
If you have a cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged. If power goes out and your battery dies, you won’t be able to call for help if you need it.
If you drive and you know a wildfire is in your area, make sure your vehicle’s gas tank is at least half full. A disaster might knock out power, rendering gas pumps inoperative.
Have a road atlas or GPS device so you can use surface roads and back roads rather than freeways to get to safety if necessary. If you don’t have a vehicle, research other evacuation methods beforehand and make sure that you can take your cat on a bus or other commercial carrier.
If the fire is near your home, cover your cat’s carrier with a wet towel to keep flying embers from burning her fur as you go from your home to your vehicle.
Above all, don’t panic. You have to keep your head, at least until you reach safety. Once you’re safe, you can cry and tremble all you need to.
Check out this non-animal-related wildfire safety website to keep your home and property safe, too.