When disaster strikes, the same rules that apply to people apply to pets: Preparation makes all the difference, and if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.
Take a few minutes to make a plan and use our mobile-friendly checklist to assemble an emergency kit for yourself and your pet. See our disaster and pets checklist below to get started.
1. Start getting ready now
Make sure that your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and visible at all times. You’ll increase your chances of being reunited with a lost pet by having him or her microchipped. If your pet is adopted from a shelter or rescue organization, make sure the registration has been transferred to you and is not still with the adoption group.
2. If you evacuate, take your pet
Rule number one: If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. Even if you think you will only be gone for a few hours, take your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able—or allowed—to go back for your pets.
Rule number two: Evacuate early. Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind.
3. If you stay home, do it safely
If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Make that safe area animal friendly:
- Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.
- Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.
4. Keep taking care even after the disaster
Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.
- Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
- While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.
- Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
- If your community has been flooded, search your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Stressed wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.
5. Be ready for everyday emergencies
There may be times that you can’t get home to take care of your pets. Icy roads may trap you at the office overnight, an accident may send you to the hospital—things happen. But you can make sure your pets get the care they need by making arrangements now:
- Find a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member and give him or her a key to your house or barn. Make sure this back-up caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa).
- Make sure your back-up caretaker knows your pets’ whereabouts and habits.
- Let your back-up caretaker know where your pets’ food is and where you normally feed them and keep their water bowl, and if they need any medication.
- If you use a pet sitting service, find out in advance if they will be able to help in case of an emergency.