Pet Disaster Preparedness: Tips for Creating a Pet Emergency Kit
What would you do with your pet if you had to evacuate because of a hurricane, wildfire or some other disaster? What if disaster strikes while you’re away from your pet?
If you don’t already have a pet emergency kit and disaster preparedness plan in place, you need one. It’s not easy to think about the worst possible scenarios. Having a plan could make the difference in keeping your pet safe, though.
Here’s how to prepare you and your pet for an emergency.
Know Your Region’s Native Disasters
Is your region prone to hurricanes? What about tornadoes, blizzards or wildfires? Most regions have “native” disasters that occur more often than others.
Hurricanes are common on the Gulf Coast, for example, but they’re unlikely to see the wildfires or earthquakes common in California.
Identifying the most common natural disasters is a good place to start.
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, check your property's elevation level and flood history. It's also smart to get familiar with local evacuation routes.
This will help you build an effective plan for you and your pet.
Make a Pet Evacuation Plan
Every minute counts when natural disasters strike and you have to evacuate. Be sure to include your pet in your evacuation plan so you know where you can go in an emergency.
Identify pet-friendly evacuation shelters in advance, if possible, so you can stay together. If there aren’t any shelters, other options might include:
- Your veterinarian’s office
- Local animal shelters
- Pet-friendly hotels
- Boarding facilities
- A trusted relative’s or friend’s house
The important thing is to have several options outlined in your pet evacuation plan. This way, you don’t waste time making frantic calls after disaster strikes.
Additionally, “Keeping your [pet’s] medical records on hand is vital, since some pet-friendly emergency relief centers require proof of vaccinations for your pet to stay there,” says Purina Chief Veterinary Officer, Kurt Venator.
Unfortunately, evacuating with pets isn’t always possible. Your veterinarian can help you prepare so your pet stays as safe as possible in your absence, though.
For example, you can get waterproof “Pets Inside” stickers from your veterinarian. Place them on your home’s front and back doors to alert rescuers to look for pets.
Create a Buddy System
Not only should you have a plan to evacuate with your pets, but you also need a plan if something happens while you’re away. You can prepare for this by asking a trusted neighbor, relative or friend who is willing to check in on your pet. You can do the same for theirs.
Add this caregiver to your emergency contact list as someone who’s authorized to approve emergency medical care in your absence.
“It’s also important to add emergency contacts to the call list associated with your pet’s microchip. This way, if you are out of town when disaster strikes, anyone who finds your pet will be able to reach your emergency contact in your absence,” adds Dr. Ragen McGowan, Behavior Research Scientist at Purina.
Also, alert your “buddy” to the location of your pet emergency kit should disaster hit while you’re out of town.
Pet Emergency Kit Checklist
Your pet emergency kit will vary depending on whether you have a cat or dog, but it could include:
- Bottled water
- One to two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food
- Collapsible food and water bowls
- Cat litter and pan
- Leash, collar and harness
- Pet life jacket and paw protectors
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Basic pet first-aid kit
- Vaccination records and medical history
- Veterinarian’s contact information
- List of medications
- Emergency contacts
- Photos of your pet in case of separation
Dr. Venator also recommends pets wear a secure collar with current identification tags in case of separation. “Pet owners can also consider having their pet microchipped to ensure the pet can be identified and found via an electronic device as well.”
“It can also be helpful to pack a few of your pet’s favorite toys or even a T-shirt that smells like a family member, so they have something familiar to help them feel secure when boarding in an unfamiliar setting,” adds Dr. McGowan.
Keep Your Pet Emergency Kit Up to Date
Once you have a pet disaster preparedness plan and a cat or dog emergency kit in place, it’s crucial to keep the contents current.
Replace any food or water in the pet emergency kit every six months. Write the date you prepared or checked on all food and water containers so you know when to replace them.
Keep all other items in your pet emergency kit up to date as well, particularly the emergency contacts and vaccination records.
Purina believes pets and people are better together. By preparing for the worst, you can better ensure you and your pets stay together, no matter what happens. For more pet care tips from our experts, visit our pet expertise page.