Thursday, March 17, 2011

Disaster preparedness and your pets

The recent disaster in Japan has just about everyone thinking about disaster preparedness, particularly when you live in a state with a history of earthquakes, a bunch of coastline and a couple of nuclear power plants. As a pet owner, I’m certain you will want to include your pets in any and all preparations you make, so here’s a quick list of items you should have on hand in case of a disaster where you have to evacuate quickly.

You should have one carrier per pet. I know us cat owners can get a little slack about this, keeping one carrier around and trading off which cat goes to the vet on what day, but if there’s an emergency at your house you’ll need a separate one for each cat, so why not go ahead and get them now? I also highly recommend getting one for the dog, even if your dog has never needed to know the inside of a crate during their training years. Should the disaster be one where you are out of your home for a bit; a fire, flood or earthquake, you and your dog will both appreciate having a place where they can go and rest, secure from everything else going on around them. There are many excellent crates that fold up and down like card tables, so grab yourself one per dog and have them on hand.

Get a duffle bag and put in the essentials you will need for a week or so for your pets. You should include food, food dishes, an extra leash and collar, a few days worth of medication, a plastic cat litter tray and cat litter. It sounds like a lot, but remember that in the event of a true emergency there’s a good chance the corner store won’t be open to help you out, should you forget something. Freeze-dried food is very light and has a great shelf life, followed by canned food. If you add canned food to your kit, remember to include a can opener. Lightweight plastic dishes can be temporary food and water dishes, and there are plenty of lighter alternatives to clay or “scoopable” litter that are great cat box options. If there’s room, add in a few toys or treats. Include a paper with your veterinarian’s name, address and phone number. Finally, include a few photos of each of your pets, should they become separated from you.

Once you’ve got the duffle packed, make sure you place a stash of drinkable water in plastic containers next to the bag, ready to grab and go. Add a few blankets or towels on top of the duffle bag to use in the carriers, or to replace any towels that might get soiled.

Check your pet’s ID tags and make sure they include a cell phone number. Having your home phone number isn’t going to help if you’ve been evacuated and someone is trying to get your lost pet back to you. If you have your pets microchipped, make sure your contact information is updated with the microchip company, including a cell phone number.

Finally, make sure these items are stored some place where they can be quickly and easily accessed. Having carriers stashed out in the back shed or in the rafters of the garage won’t help if you’ve got to move quickly.

Check the contents of your disaster kit a couple of times a year so you can rotate out old items and replace them with fresh ones. A great time to do this is when you change the time on your clocks, much like you check your batteries in your smoke detectors.

Remember, in the event of an emergency, a little preparation can go a long way to keeping your four-footed family members safe.

P.S. The Search Dog Foundation has deployed teams from California to help victims of the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can help support their efforts. Head to for details.

*Written for the Bakersfield Voice.


browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

Great post! Being prepared can't be emphasized enough.

Living in an area where there are huricane evacution routes everywhere, my Humans are very aware of always being prepared.

Hey, I even have my own suitcase!

Y'all come back now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Lori @ According to Gus said...

This is a great reminder. As paranoid as we are, we don't have anything put together so we could grab it quickly. The last thing you'd want to do is forget something important (meds, tags, etc...) if there was a disaster.

The news coming out of Japan is so tragic and heartbreaking. :(

Cat Chat With Caren And Cody said...

this post was superb! I have a carrier for my dog and my cat but after reading your post I realized if God forbid we have a disaster there are a ton of things I need to get to be better prepared. Thank you for this fabulous post!

Pamela said...

I'd add one more suggestion to a really thorough post--practice socializing your dog to strange situations. If you have to evacuate, you'll need your dog to cope with crowds, perhaps boats, different floor surface.

The last thing you need is a skittish pet making it even harder on you.

Vicky said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Pamela, you're absolutely correct about introducing dogs to strange circumstances in advance. Everything one can do to help prepare their pets for emergencies should be incorporated into your disaster plan.

Comfy Control Harness said...

What an informative (and timely!) post. Thanks for this information about how one might handle their pet(s) during some disaster situations.


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