Pet Disaster Preparedness

Natural disasters and everyday emergencies can strike anytime, any place. Warnings and evacuation notices often come with little to no time to prepare, so it’s best to always be aware of any potential situations that could threaten you and your loved ones – including your pets. Expect the unexpected and keep these tips in mind in order to keep your furbabies safe during a disaster. 

Start Your Evacuation Plan Today – ID Your Pet

Cats and dogs that are micro-chipped have a greater chance of being returned to their owner. Make sure your pet’s microchip information is up-to-date and that the microchip is registered properly in your name. Keep in mind: the average person won’t be able to scan your pet’s microchip. Updated name tags and collars are your best bet.

Put your cell phone number on your pet’s tag. It may also help to have the number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area listed on the tag in the event of an evacuation.

In the Event of an Evacuation, Take Your Pet

If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them. Pets left behind in a disaster area can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Remember to make plans for all kinds of pets including feral or outdoor cats, horses, and other farm animals, as well. 

Evacuate early. Do not wait for mandatory evacuation orders. Some people who wait to evacuate are ordered by officials to leave pets behind. High winds, thunder or changes in atmospheric pressure, and the smell of smoke can make your furbaby more fearful and difficult to crate. Evacuating before conditions worsen can keep everyone safe and stress-free. 

Find a Safe Place to Stay Ahead of Time

In the event of a disaster, animals are not always welcome at emergency shelters. Check the website of your local emergency management office before a disaster hits. This will help verify a safe place for you and your pets to stay.

Contact lodgings, like motels and hotels, outside of your immediate area. Ask if a “pet-free” location will be made pet-friendly in the event of a disaster. Ask about any restrictions, such as size, number, and species. Keep a list of animal-friendly places available. Call ahead and make reservations as soon as you think you might have to leave your home. For pet-friendly lodgings, check out these websites:

Make arrangements with friends or family outside of your immediate area. Ask if they’d be able to shelter you and your pets or – if necessary –  just your pets. Consider local boarding facilities or veterinarian offices that could shelter your pet in a disaster emergency. Local animal shelters may be able to provide temporary foster care or shelter for pets, but keep in mind that they have limited resources.

Make a Plan for When You Aren’t Home

Make arrangements well in advance for someone you trust to take care of your pets. Designate a place to meet. Make sure your emergency contact is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with them.

If You Must Stay Home, Do It Safely

If you and your furbabies must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, designate a safe area of the home where you can all stay together. 

  • Eliminate any unsafe nooks where frightened animals may hide
  • Remove dangerous or toxic items, such as tools or chemicals
  • Bring all pets indoors and secure them in carriers if needed

Put all emergency items in your safe room ahead of time. This includes an emergency kit for your pet, as well as one for humans. Flashlights, radios, and extra food and water should also be included.

Your pet’s emergency kit should include:

  1. Food. Keep several days’ supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
  2. Water. Store a water bowl and several days’ supply of water.
  3. Medicine. Keep an extra supply of the medicine your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
  4. First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs.
  5. Collar with ID tag and a harness or leash. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag. Have copies of your pet’s registration information and other relevant documents in a waterproof container and available electronically.
  6. Traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet.
  7. Grooming items. Pet shampoo, conditioner and other items, in case your pet needs some cleaning up.
  8. Sanitation needs. Include pet litter and litter box (if appropriate), newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs.
  9. A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet.
  10. Familiar items. Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.

After the Disaster

Once the emergency is over, your home may look and feel very different. It can be difficult for pets to feel safe and adjust. 

Don’t allow your pet to roam loose. Always keep them leashed or in carriers. Familiar landmarks and scents may be gone, and it’s easy for pets to get disoriented. Debris, such as nails or broken glass, could cause injuries. 

Keep all pets secured by leash or in crates when you asses home damage. 

Be patient with your pets. They are adjusting too. Be ready for any behavioral problems due to the stress of the situation. Try to get them back into their routine as soon as possible. 

Check your home and/or property for any wildlife. Wild animals that have been displaced due to disasters can pose potential threats to you and your pet. Click here for tips on how to humanely remove wildlife.

Disaster plans are for everyone, not just house pets. Planning for natural disasters ahead of time helps ensure everyone’s safety and cooperation. It can make all the difference by making a stressful, scary situation less intimidating. 

Download the FEMA app here.