Yesterday was FEMA’s National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. By disaster, they don’t mean when your cat knocks over a vase; they’re talking about when an emergency strikes that causes you to have to be ready to leave your home with your cats.
You probably know whether your house is in an especially disaster-prone area, but as the terrible fires in Canada this past week have reminded us, emergencies can happen anywhere, to anyone. Not only do we live in Florida where we need to be ready for hurricane season, but part of the cost of having our beautiful view from our back windows is also living in a 100-year flood plain. So we try to be ready for disasters.
Even cats who are normally safe indoors are at a higher risk of being displaced during an evacuation. Making sure they have ID can help you be reunited if you are separated during an evacuation. A visible collar with a tag that includes a contact number that isn’t your home phone number is important, since you won’t be at home during an evacuation.
Making sure your cat has a microchip with up-to-date information is important, too, since collars can be lost, but a cat can’t drop their microchip. Think about what information is registered with the microchip company and be sure that they will be able to reach you during an evacuation if you and your kitty get separated.
Your Disaster Kit
We totally redid our disaster kit this year. Last year, I stored everything in a plastic bin, but I got to thinking about the last time I did anything like an evacuation: a cross-country move. Carrying supplies for the cats while I was also carrying cat carriers up and down motel stairways at midnight isn’t something I wanted to try to do with a big bin, so instead, I have shifted to a bag for most of the supplies. I had messenger-style bag that Solv-It had sent me last year during a miscommunication in which they thought I was a dog blogger, so I grabbed it and started to restock.
Since both Ashton and Newton eat raw food, the emergency kit includes freeze-dried raw food for them. It also upgrades Pierre’s food from cans as I had in the emergency kit last year to pouches, which weigh less. They all fit inside the bag. This bag has pockets for things like a thumb drive that is of photos of the cats and critical veterinary information like proof of recent vaccines that might be necessary if the cats have to be boarded unexpectedly. My thumb drive also includes written instructions on meals, but you could include that information about medications, too.
Dividers inside that let me to organize the enough pouches, freeze-dried food, and paper plates separately for at least five days. Having them in nicely divided sections is fun, but but you could put them in any kind of bag that you can carry hands-free.
The cats’ Torus travel bowl fits perfectly into the mesh outside pocket on the back of the bag. Again, if you had another type of bag, like a backpack, you could keep you water bowl inside.
Don’t forget the water! FEMA recommends having five days’ worth on hand for every human and cat. We keep enough on hand that we do store in a bin because one of our stored gallons sprung a leak in the spare bedroom closet last year. I didn’t include a photo of the water bin because it’s too heavy for me to move by myself, and I’m not letting anyone see the inside of that closet!
Cat litter and disposable litter tray stay outside the bag. I use a big, disposable turkey broiler pan for a travel litterbox. Check the sale aisle of your grocery store the week after the big family-eating holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas to stock up on these aluminum pans for your emergency kit.
I shared this pet emergency kit checklist a while back, but I am including it here again to help with your planning.
Not everywhere you might go in an evacuation is pet friendly, so it’s a good idea to ask around before you need to find a place to go in an emergency.
Local Evacuation Centers
Do the evacuation centers in your area allow pets? More shelters are making arrangements for them than used to, but be sure to check rather than assume your cat will be welcome there. Your local emergency management agency will have contact information so that you can plan ahead.
Friends or Family Members
Do you have a friend or family member in a nearby region or state who might accommodate you? It’s always better to ask now rather than showing up in their driveway in an emergency!
Pet Friendly Hotels
Did you know that some hotels and motels welcome pets while others don’t allow them? Our friends at GoPetFriendly have a great listing of pet-friendly accommodations you can use to find a a place to stay during an evacuation. Lodging fills up fast when evacuations start, so knowing how to find a place and calling ahead may make a big difference.
What if You Aren’t at Home?
One of the most unthinkable scenarios is an emergency happening when you aren’t around to get your cats out to safety. Talk to a trusted friend or neighbor in advance about helping evacuate and meet you with your pets in a safe location away from the disaster. If they are willing to help you and you are willing to help them in this scenario, both of you have a backup plan for disasters.
We all hope that disaster won’t strike us, but it’s best to be prepared and not need the plan than need a plan and have no idea what to do!