If the tragedies in the Amazon, Australia, and the wildfires in California have taught us one thing, it’s that we need to be prepared for disasters—and our disaster plan should include our companion animals.
While we can’t know when every tragedy will strike—such as earthquakes, floods, or fires—we can always be prepared.
More than 85 million families, or 67 percent of households, in the United States have at least one companion animal in their household and for good reason: pets improve our mental health, and bring us joy. They’re our family.
So when disasters strike, we instinctually protect our family and often forget important things like medications or food that are necessary. While we can’t know when every tragedy will strike—such as earthquakes, floods, or fires—we can always be prepared.
World Animal Protection has been rescuing animals in disasters for more than 50 years. Here are some tips to make sure you and your family, including your pets, are prepared for the most unpredictable tragedies.
Carriers, Leashes, and Identification
While dog leashes may be more accessible, if you have smaller animals such as cats or rabbits in your household, it’s important to make sure carriers are easily accessible and can be grabbed in an instant.
As a cat mom myself, I make sure to have one carrier large enough for two cats and a leash for my third by my front door with another set in my bedroom. It’s important to make sure proper bedding or a towel is nearby to make sure your pet is comfortable in the event of an evacuation. Be sure to practice getting them in and out of the carrier quickly so they’re familiar with being transported.
Animals can often sense impending changes in barometric pressure. If your animal(s) tend to hide in inclement weather and a hurricane, tornado or any other potentially disastrous event is forecast, it is a good idea to sequester them in a room where you can easily access them should you have to evacuate in a hurry.
If you don’t have your pets microchipped, do so now in case they get scared and runoff during a natural disaster. Make sure the microchip is registered! In disasters, it is sometimes difficult to find a microchip on a dog or cat so as an added precaution, make sure your dog and cat collars have updated ID tags with your mobile phone number listed to make reconnecting companion animals to family members easier and more likely.
Food, Water, and Medications
This may seem pretty obvious but making sure you have a packed bag with nonperishable food, water, and any medications your companion animals may need is important. Most canned food and bottled water have a long shelf-life, though it’s important to check and swap out cans and bottles periodically to make sure it’s still okay for your pets to eat and drink. During times of stress, your pet may drink more than usual, so make sure to pack some extra.
For medications and dietary needs or supplements, be sure to store an extra supply in a waterproof container with the food and drink. Talk to your vet about specific requirements, such as tick and flea prevention, antibiotic ointment, and saline solutions you may need in case your pet gets hurt.
The CDC recommends keeping no less than two weeks of supplies stored for each pet in the household.
While this may be the last thing you’re thinking about while evacuating in a hurry, they’re incredibly important. Make sure any medical and vaccination records including your vet’s name and phone number are stored in a waterproof container. Have extra paper copies and store them online (through G-Drive, Sharepoint, Dropbox, or whichever online storage provider you use) in case you have to shelter your pet or place them in foster care.
Make sure feeding schedules, behavioral quirks, and any medical issues are noted in the documents. Nobody knows your pets better than you, so make sure any information about their behavior is noted. For example, if your cat becomes aggressive when scared or reclusive around new people, note that for shelter or foster caretakers to ensure your pet’s behavior is understood.
If you have pet insurance, be sure to keep hard copies as well as online records of your insurance information.
Identifying a shelter or place where you can stay with your pets is incredibly important. Not every shelter accepts pets for various reasons, and that’s the same with hotels. If you don’t have family and friends you can stay with, it’s important to make sure you have a place where your entire family—pets included—can stay together during times of uncertainty and tragedy.
There’s a valid reason to consistently post photos of you and your pets on Instagram! By keeping updated photos of your pets, it could help them be identified if they become separated from you for any reason.
Additionally, descriptions of your pets (e.g. male black dog with a white circular spot on his ear or white female cat with three black fur spots on her back left foot) could help prove your lost pet is yours and make the reconciliation process quicker.
Due to climate change, severe storms and natural disasters are going to continue and worsen. While we continually strive to fight climate change, it’s also important to be prepared for the worst. During times of personal uncertainty, it’s a relief to know you have everything needed to survive and keep your entire family safe.