Happily, hurricanes don’t occur everywhere. But, regardless of where you live in the world, emergencies are possible—from tornadoes to earthquakes to cyclones to wildfires or gas leaks. Having an emergency preparedness plan—with your pets included—could save lives.
Meteorologists, climatologists, and other scientists predicted several years ago what’s come true today. Even Al Gore made this prediction. As waters warm, hurricanes can grow larger and more powerful, and can hold together longer (which means more powerful storms will come ashore). It seems that’s certainly begun to happen.
The waters are warmer (this is a fact). This is the first time storms like Harvey and Irma have hit the U.S. back to back. Harvey is by far the most intense storm ever to affect Houston. And a third hurricane, named Jose, may also impact the U.S. soon. Even if the U.S. is spared the wrath of Jose, some Caribbean islands weren’t so lucky. The larger issue is how so many hurricanes can happen all at once. And, with all this happening, Hurricane Katea hit Mexico and didn’t get much press. But, had Katea turned in another direction, it would have hit the U.S.
Ask anyone who’s lived through an emergency, and you will hear preparation is worth the effort and may save animal and human lives.
Here are some ideas:
Carrier train cats and small dogs. Chasing cats around the house to stuff them into a carrier not only takes time but also causes already anxious animals to be a lot more anxious, if not downright terrified. Also, the entire process will stress out the family members. Because time will likely be of the essence, cats who aren’t carrier trained and can’t be herded quickly into a carrier are sometimes left behind.
Never assume the emergency—whatever it is—won’t last, and leave the pets in homes to fend for themselves. If you evacuate, always evacuate with your pets.
While an increasing number of shelters provide space for families with pets (and most by law must allow for pets), not all shelters do provide a pet-friendly place.
Prepare a list of pet-friendly hotels/motels so you don’t need to figure that out at the last minute.
For many reasons, it’s unwise to leave dogs in the yard when you’re not home. If something happens when you’re not home, and the pets are outside, they are more likely to be endangered. Being indoors is typically safer.
Another reason for cats being indoors only: When something happens, an outdoor cat may be anywhere and will likely be unprotected. As Hurricane Harvey hit, some cats were outdoors and never could return, likely perishing in the storm.
Know where your pets’ medications are. If you evacuate, be sure to take those meds with you, and that includes flea/tick protection and heartworm prevention.
Some suggest storing dog food for an emergency. I don’t believe that is practical, as the food will only get old if there is no emergency for several years (as we all hope) and may even attract bugs. Pet food is typically handy—just be sure to take your pets’ food with you (especially if it is a therapeutic or prescription diet).
All dogs and cats should be microchipped and also registered with the microchip provider with your current contact information. A chip without current registration is like a cell phone without a phone number. What’s the point if you can’t be contacted when the microchip is scanned? Also, it’s best that all individual pets wear collars with ID tags. Any pet carriers should be labeled with your contact information.
For cats, remember to bring along a litter box and cat litter.
Don’t depend on your phone (which may lose power) to find a phone number. Write down your veterinarian’s contact info and take that with you.
Bring waterproof containers for much of what your pets require.
It’s always a good idea to affix a “pets inside” sticker on the front door of your home.
Small pets, such as Guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets should be placed in a carrier since their usual habitat is too difficult to move. And, like all pets, their food and any medications should travel with them. Reptiles, in some cases, may be left in place, since many species can go days or weeks without eating. That’s a case-by-case decision.