Include Pets in Your Emergency Readiness Plans

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Disaster can strike at any moment, and it’s important to develop an emergency evacuation plan and kit in case of flood, fire, tornado, hurricane or other disasters for you and your family. As you prepare your emergency plans, don’t forget to include your furry felines as well! It’s important to have a location planned out and a disaster preparedness kit ready to go in the event of an emergency to keep your family and furry friends safe.

Due to local and state regulations, evacuation shelters often cannot take pets when families in the surrounding area are evacuated from their homes, with the exception of service animals. Make sure to have a list with phone numbers and directions of any shelters that will accept pets during emergencies, any surrounding hotels that will house pets, any family members or friends outside the area that would be willing to house you and your pets, and any boarding facilities.  Frequently when emergency shelters do allow pets, they need to be housed in a crate, so you’ll want to be sure to have a crate large enough to fit your cat, a litter box, and food/water.

Next, you’ll want to have a disaster preparedness kit for your pets. The kit should include the following items stored in waterproof pouches or bags:

  • Prepared list of pet friendly evacuation locations with phone numbers and directions
  • Complete medical and vaccination records, including current microchip numbers (if applicable)
  • Any medications that your cat is taking and a prescription from your veterinarian in case your evacuation goes on longer than anticipated (including any prescription diets)
  • A basic pet first-aid kit available from the Red Cross or you can create your own. Make sure it includes the following items as recommended by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States: latex gloves, gauze sponges, roll of gauze, elastic cling bandage, material to make a split, adhesive tape, sterile pads, small scissors, tweezers, grooming clipper or safety razor, magnifying glass, nylon leash, towel, muzzle, emergency blanket, water-based sterile lubricant, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes, insect sting stop pads, cotton tipped swabs, instant cold pack, Epsom salt, baby dose syringe or eye dropper, sterile eye lubricant, sterile saline wash, safety pins, tongue depressor, children’s Benedryl with dosing instructions from your veterinarian, glucose syrup or caro syrup, styptic powder, plastic card to scrape away stingers, petroleum jelly, penlight with batteries, clean cloth, needle nose pliers, and a thermometer
  • With your first aid kit, it’s a good idea to have the book, Pet First Aid, by Barbara Mammato, DVM, MPH to let you know how to handle certain emergency situations. The book is endorsed by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States
  • Litter box, litter box scoop, bags to dispose of used litter, food and water dishes, bedding
  • Enough food, water, and litter to last for 10 days
  • 1 or 2 toys to help keep your pet comfortable
  • Recent photo of your cat and the microchip number in the event he/she becomes lost
  • For cats, Feliway spray or wipes is a great idea. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that mimics a cat’s natural facial pheromone used to mark their territory.  By spraying or wiping down their carriers or crates, you can help decrease their stress level and make them more comfortable.
  • Sturdy Carrier or Crate and/or leash/harness

One of the biggest concerns when evacuating with your pet or in an emergency disaster situation is the risk of them escaping. Even when you are fully prepared, evacuation is still a stressful and uncertain process for your cat. The best prevention against losing your cat is a microchip and a break-away collar with tag.  Make sure to keep an updated photo of your cat and the phone number for the microchip company so you can report your cat missing as soon as it happens.

Make sure that each side of your house, on a window or door, is a sticker stating how many pets and what type are in your home and a contact number to be reached at if needed. This can be lifesaving information during an evacuation, or even if there is a house fire when you are not home. If you evacuate your home with your pets, make sure to put a sticker or identifying label on your front door and any ground level windows that says “EVACUATED”, which indicates to rescuers that you and your pet are already safe.

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