Image via lavizzara/Shutterstock
By Nicole Pajer
Hurricane season can be a scary time. In the face of an impending storm, it’s important that you take all the proper precautions necessary to keep your family safe—both human and furry family members.
So whether you are stocking up on essential items to weather the storm or packing up to evacuate, it’s crucial to keep pet safety in mind when creating your hurricane kit checklist.
Having the right pet supplies can help to ease the stress of hurricane season and ensure that you and your family have what you need.
Here are some tips for dealing with a hurricane when you have pets, as well a hurricane kit checklist for pet supplies.
The key to keeping both yourself and your pet safe before, during and after a hurricane is being prepared and remaining calm. “A disaster is a chaotic time for humans; just imagine how your pet may feel! Your dog or cat or any companion animal is bound to be stressed and/or scared,” says Meg Burke, emergency response technician with Best Friends Animal Society. This US-based rescue and animal advocacy organization has been at the forefront of helping to locate stranded pets during past hurricanes and natural disasters.
Burke tells pet owners to keep in mind that animals sense our stress, so the calmer you remain, the less stress your animal will feel. “During a disaster, your pet may act differently. They may hide even if they are normally friendly and outgoing; they may try to escape, so make sure doors and windows are secure. An animal may become defensive trying to protect itself during a high-stress situation. So be alert when trying to handle your pet during times of high stress,” she suggests.
Using a pet calming aid such as HomeoPet Storm Stress drops or Vetriscience Composure Behavioral Health bite-sized cat chews can help to reduce anxiety for your furry family during an emergency situation.
When a hurricane is looming, it’s important that you stay up to date on the situation. “Keep informed by watching your local TV station as well as your local radio stations,” says Burke. This will help you to make an informed decision on whether or not you will need to temporarily evacuate your area.
Prepare for Evacuation
Dr. Dick Green, senior director of ASPCA Disaster Response, explains, “If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, it’s imperative that you follow instructions and evacuate from your home. And you should always bring your pets with you if you do so.”
He adds that it’s important to never leave your pets behind or tether them to poles or trees, which prevents them from escaping high waters and getting to safe areas. “If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet,” says Dr. Green.
Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, stresses the importance of making sure that the place where you are seeking shelter is pet-friendly, and if not, to make other arrangements.
"When evacuating with your pet, the most important thing you can do is ensure they are safely secured in a pet carrier and that you have handling equipment, including a collar and leash. This will help prevent your pet from escaping and getting lost,” says Dr. Green.
If you are evacuating with your pets, bring your disaster kit with you. Make sure to bring copies of your pet’s medical and vaccination records with you, as many evacuation shelters will not accept your pet without proof that they are properly vaccinated, notes Burke. She adds that when traveling, it’s important to ensure your pet is safely contained—"Remember, your pet may not act like him- or herself during a disaster.”
Because disaster situations are stressful, animals may become skittish, which increases the likelihood they will escape and get lost. “To prepare your pet for a potential evacuation, get them comfortable with a travel carrier in advance,” says Dr. Green.
Stock Up on Necessary Supplies
An evacuation could leave you away from your home for days or even weeks, depending on the severity of the storm. Thus it’s important to have enough essentials on hand to keep your pets safe and cared for throughout your duration away from your home.
"All pet owners should have an emergency go-bag prepared with necessary supplies to care for your pet for at least 5-7 days, whether you evacuate and bring them with you, or are sheltering in place and unable to leave your home," says Dr. Green.
Here are some essential items to have on your hurricane kit checklist for your pets:
- Five to seven days’ worth of nonperishable pet food in a sealed container.
- At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months if not used)
- Photocopies and/or USB copies of each pet’s medical records, or keep copies online or in a pet health tracker app in your phone
- A waterproof container with a two-week supply of prescription pet medications. Be sure to fill these prescriptions well in advance, or at the first notice of a hurricane approaching.
- Recent photos of your pets—either printed or saved on your phone (in case you are separated and need to make “lost pet” posters)
- Pet-safe cleaning and potty supplies: disinfectant, garbage bags, dog potty pads or indoor potty options like the Prevue Pet Products Tinkle Turf System for dogs, cat litter such as Frisco Unscented Odor Defense Clumping cat litter, a travel disposable litter box and paper towels
- Pet food dishes and water bowls
- A pet first aid kit, like the Kurgo pet first aid kit
- Cat collars, dog collars to attach ID tags with your information, and leashes to keep dogs safely by your side
- Dog ID tags and cat ID tags with up-to-date contact information. Even if your pets are microchipped, ID tags offer a quick and easy way for pets to be identified during an emergency situation and reunited with you if you become separated.
- A travel crate for dogs, such as the GoPetClub soft portable pet home, and sturdy dog kennels and cat kennels, like the Frisco two door top load plastic kennel or Petmate soft sided pet kennel (ideally one for each pet)
- Comfort items for your pet, including a blanket, bed, dog treats and cat treats, and dog toys and cat toys
Be sure to include any other items that are tailored to your pet. “Pet owners should partner with your veterinarian to talk about emergency planning. Discuss what to include in a kit for your pet based on their specific needs,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Schrock, DVM at Banfield Pet Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Fill Out a Pet Emergency Sticker for Your Home
It is a good idea to have an pet emergency sticker, such as the Imagine This Company “Rescue Our Pets” decal and wallet card, filled out with all your contact information and the information of your pets. This will help to alert local rescue personnel to which animals may be trapped in the home in the event that a storm hits before you can safely evacuate your furry friends.
Microchip Your Pets
Dog ID tags and cat ID tags are definitely a smart idea for providing quick identification without having to scan for a microchip. But the ASPCA also recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification, should collars or tags become lost.
Choose a Designated Caregiver
If something happens and you are unable to care for your pets, you need to have a plan in place to make sure they are cared for. Talk with your friends and family members—whether they live near or far from you—to establish a hurricane emergency action plan for pet care.
Download the Free ASPCA Mobile App
The ASPCA mobile app allows pet owners to store crucial pet records needed for boarding pets at evacuation shelters. It also includes a disaster preparedness checklist and other and features that can be beneficial after a hurricane.
Keep Your Pet on Year-Round Heartworm Preventive Medicine
Always keep up with your pet’s prescription heartworm medication. “In the event of heavy rains and flooding, mosquitos multiply, increasing the likelihood of the spread of heartworm disease to your pet,” says Dr. Schrock. It is especially important in the aftermath of a hurricane because there is usually quite a bit of flooding, which is ideal for mosquito colonies.
Make Sure Your Pet Is Current on Vaccinations
Since more wild animals will be out and in places they normally wouldn’t be due to the storm, get your pet up to date on all vaccinations. Your pet can also encounter bacteria in puddles and flood waters. Rabies, distemper and leptospirosis are some of the most concerning viruses that can spread quickly in these situations.
Don’t Give Up Hope if You Get Separated From Your Pet
“Go to your local shelter to look for your missing pet every day. There are many lost and found websites that you should post on. Social media sites are a good way to look for your pet,” says Silk.
Prepare for Possible Injuries
If your pet becomes injured during a hurricane or evacuation, again, remain calm. You should first make sure that you and your pet are out of harm’s way. “Assess your pet’s situation—is it something you can take care of with your first aid kit? Or is it a serious injury?” says Burke.
She recommends storing at least three different veterinarians’ numbers in your phone in case your regular vet is out of reach or cannot accommodate your animal due to the disaster. If you are sheltering in place, the vet may be willing to assist you over the phone in caring for your pet. If you are evacuating, store vet info of clinics outside the evacuation zone.
Have a Plan in Place
“Disaster can strike anywhere, anytime. And there’s no doubt that whether natural or man-made, disasters are devastating. But those with a plan before disaster strikes are likely to encounter fewer challenges, especially as it relates to taking care of themselves and their beloved pets,” says Dr. Schrock.
A 2018 survey conducted by Banfield revealed 91 percent of pet owners are not prepared for the next natural disaster. Following these simple preparation tips and using this hurricane checklist can help assure that you and your four-legged family members have everything you need in the event of a hurricane.