Pet care during a disaster is made much easier when you plan ahead and prepare yourself for any possible contingency. Having a disaster plan that you can put into action will help you quickly and safely evacuate your pets.
Make a Pet Survival Kit
The most basic principal of pet care during emergencies is to have supplies on hand to take care of your pet’s needs during this disaster. This kit should be stored in an easy-to-carry bin with a handle, in a location that’s out of the way but easy to access in a hurry, such as a closet or under your bed. In this kit, you should include:
- Bottles of water
- Two dishes
- A week’s worth of canned or dry food (be sure to swap it out for fresher food every so often)
- An extra leash (if applicable)
- Vaccination papers (in case rescue workers must handle your pet)
- A collar and/or ID tag with your information
- Recent photos of the pets (in case they get lost and you must put out an ad)
- Small, lightweight toys (for distraction when your pet is scared)
- Plastic bags, scooper, bedding and/or small amount of litter for waste removal
What to Do During a Disaster
As soon as you’re aware of the potential disaster on its way, remember your pet care disaster plan. If your pet is a dog or larger animal, get her on a leash as soon as possible. If you don’t have time, carry her away (if you can do so easily). If your pet is a cat or smaller animal, put her into carrier, which you should keep near your pet survival kit so you can grab both at once. If your animal is in a cage, just grab the cage and go. (If the cage is too heavy, scoop out your pet and put her into a smaller container with air holes, which you should keep near your pet survival kit.)
Pet Evacuation During a Fire
With your pet and pet survival kit on hand, what kind of pet care is next needed depends on the disaster in question and the progression of this disaster.
If it’s a fire, you’ll need to guide or carry your pet out the nearest escape. The front door may be easiest, but it could be blocked off because of flames. If so, you’ll have to head to one of your windows. If you’re on the first floor, open the window, get the pet outside and then escape. If you’re on the second floor or higher, shut the door to the room, stuff blankets and pillows underneath (to impede some of the smoke), open the window and try calling for help from the window. Only toss out your pet and jump out yourself when the flames or smoke seem too much for you to handle, as you could both be injured in a fall.
Pet Evacuation During a Tornado or Hurricane
During a tornado or hurricane, you’ll want to know ahead of time if your apartment complex has a shared basement shelter for such events. Once you get your pet ready, head for the basement as soon as possible and cover your pet and yourself with blankets and pillows as you crouch down with your stomach facing the floor. If you don’t have time to get to the shelter or there isn’t one, take your pet and hide in a place without windows—such as a closet or bathroom—preferably near the center of your apartment. If you’re not on the first floor, you may want to ask ahead of time if your downstairs neighbor would be willing to let you in during such a disaster.
Pet care during emergencies isn’t just about evacuating your pets—it’s about planning ahead and knowing what to do to make sure your pet’s needs are met. Knowing your disaster plan ahead of time can help you accomplish this.