According to the wonderful, selfless folks at the Human Society of the United States, something like 65% of American households have a pet of some sort. That’s over 163 million cats and dogs alone, and the majority of pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. The odds are good that you’re one of them.
So raise your hands—how many of you have included your pets in your family emergency plans?
It’s an easy, easy thing to miss—pets are so entwined in our lives that they become a given. However, they need as much if not more care than human family members do in an emergency. And just like preparing for humans, prepping for pets is a matter of taking their needs during an emergency into account.
Assemble an emergency kit for your pets. It’s a lot like your own emergency kit, in that it has to meet the same needs. Food, medications, medical records, and comfort items—if possible—should all be included. Pets will also need leashes or carriers for transportation. It’s probably wise to include current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
Know where the pet-friendly shelters are in your surrounding area. It’s a sad fact that not all emergency shelters take pets, so locating the ones that do can save you a lot of heartache and frustration.
Make sure your pet is wearing its ID tags and that its shots are up to date. Microchips IDs are great, but in an emergency situation the time or technology to read them might not be available. A metal tag works every time.
If you’re evacuating to a planned destination—say a friend or relative’s home—make sure they know you’re bringing your pets so that they can plan accordingly. You may want to do some advanced research and identify nearby veterinarians for when you do arrive. Knowing how you’ll meet your pets medical needs at your temporary home is another load off your mind.
You may want to make arrangements with a friend or neighbor to care for your pets if you must leave your home temporarily for a personal emergency. Having something like that set up in advance is one less thing to worry about during a hectic time.
Plan for poop. Whether you’re stuck in traffic during an evacuation or killing time in a shelter, your four-legged friends will have to go. Have plastic bags, litter boxes, etc available for when that time comes.
If you must shelter-in-place (i.e. stay home) during an emergency, make sure your plan includes your pet. In addition to food, water, medication, etc. plan for how you’ll keep your pet safe and calm. During a storm or other disaster, pets may try to hide in cramped or dangerous spaces. If they’re outdoors, they may try to run. Keeping them confined to a safe part of your home helps keep them safe overall.