Evacuation Time? Don’t Forget Your Pets!

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Make plans now to evacuate your pets and their supplies in an emergency. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comMy heart just about broke when I saw all of the abandoned pets in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  How could someone just leave behind a beloved pet?  Not only were the abandoned animals in jeopardy, but as days and weeks went by, they added to the already insurmountable problems faced by workers trying to clean up and restore the city.

Preparation for Pet Evacuation

What plans have you made and put into place for your animals should an emergency of some type strike your area?

First, make sure your pets are up to date with their vaccines and that you have copies of the vaccine records.  If you have no other choice but to hand your dog or cat over to a shelter, these records will become invaluable, and it will bring peace of mind to know that your beloved animal is in a safe, temporary environment.

Cats and dogs should be microchipped. A tag on their collars from the microchip company will facilitate their return to you, and be sure that your contact information with that company is up to date. You can usually do that on the company’s website.

Next, consider how you will contain your pet, if necessary.  Our two aggressive turtles can’t be in the same enclosure, unless we want to rename one of them, “Ole Two-Toes,” so we’ve looked at small, portable enclosures for each.  If you will be using a dog or cat kennel, place small food and water dishes inside them now, along with a leash, muzzle, maybe a harness.  With these already pre-positioned, you’ll only need to grab your pets and be on your way!

Transportation and Feeding

Transporting a cat? Unless your cat goes into a carrier willingly, believe me, it’s worth the time, trouble, and scratches to help her get accustomed to being contained before it becomes a matter of life and death.  Portable litter boxes can make travel easier, but, really, a collapsed cardboard box and a small bag of litter will help your feline feel almost at home. We used disposable litter boxes for the 2 weeks we spent in a hotel with our four cats. They worked out beautifully.

Small bags of dog and cat food can easily be tucked into a back corner in the trunk of your vehicle. Protect the food from moisture and pests by storing it in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. It will be a good idea to feed your pet a little less than they are used to.  In an evacuation situation, they will probably not be getting as much exercise, and less food means less poop.

Many reptiles eat fresh vegetables and fruit.  You could keep them fed and happy for weeks just by feeding them veggies from your Big Mac or fast food salad.

Transporting fish?  Not quite so easy because you’ll need a container that is spill-proof.  I’ve seen suggestions of large Tupperware containers to coolers with air holes drilled in the lids.  Fish don’t need to eat as much or as often as your dogs and cats, so that’s a bonus.

Advance Planning is Critical to Success

If you have livestock and other large animals, probably the best solution is to make prior arrangements with the owner of a nearby farm or other rural property for emergency boarding.   Plan on transporting large animals out of harm’s way long before the situation becomes perilous.  I found some great tips for evacuating horses here, and many of the tips are relevant to other large animals.

You know your pets and their temperaments better than anyone.  Take steps now to get them accustomed to car travel, spending time in a kennel, or whatever might be foreign to them in an emergency situation.

Remember, that often terrified animals will run away.  More than anything, they will need you to be calm.  (Our animals are such sensitive babies!)  With just a little pre-planning and preparation, evacuating your animals will be the least of your worries.

This post was updated from the original posting on June 16, 2009.

23 thoughts on “Evacuation Time? Don’t Forget Your Pets!”

  1. thesurvivalmom

    You know what I like about plastic grocery bags? You can shove them into every possible nook and cranny in your vehicle! We’ve been known to call them, “vomit bags.” Enough said!


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  5. Not sure if anyone can help on this, but can anyone recommend a good quality dry dog food that would be vacuum packed , not real expensive, and easy to store for a year? We love SOLID GOLD Wolf King for our two shepherds and it has worked well for them, especially since the female German Shepherd has lots of skin allergies. Good quality kibble, unfortunately , costly. I just would like to have emergency bags on hands.

  6. Good for you starting this topic. I have not seen any sites talking about planning for animals.

    I have been through several emergencies: ice storms knocking out power for a week, hurricanes and the aftermath, and even an embassy seige in a foreign country. During people’s rush to buy last minute items you notice the regular items in short supply like food, batteries, bottled water, candles, flashlights, etc,….but among the first things to be sold out is dog food. Imagine that.

    It would be a good idea to know what you animals can eat once you run out of prepared food for them. My dogs will be eating rice and rabbits among other things.

    UrbanMan @ urbansurvivalskills.com

  7. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. My dog is a valuable watch dog and hunting dog. I would take care of him like my kids and my rifle. In a pinch he eats rice/potatos, mixed with meat. I've also been known to cook fish for him and he catches frogs, mice, etc. on his own. Taking care of him in an emergency would be well worth it for the peace of mind it is to have him around.

  8. Ah, the comment I wanted to make, low fat dry dog food stores best, in a mylar bag and a bucket you would be able to store this a year or more. Keep it dry. I'm sure this goes the same for cat food. I live in a rural area and store pet food and chicken feed for a year routienely and it usually is fine, unless it has gotten moist.

  9. I have seen BOB for pets – it goes over the backs of, in my case, the dog. It can hold the dog’s water & food just like the 72 hour BOBs.
    This is a great article. I love my dog, Princess Leia, she has been with me since my college days! I am prepping for her along with my other prepping supplies.

    1. thesurvivalmom

      In a day or two I’m going to post a short review of freeze dried dog treats. Don’t miss it. Our dogs give them four paws up!

  10. My dog’s Bob is a total pamper set up, I even have a grooming kit, as well as the usual. The contents all fit in a carry on bag with space for water.

  11. I keep 6 35# bags of dog food in my store-room for my two border collies. I rotate them more than my own stocks. 1 bag seems to last them about 2 weeks, so that gives me a 3 month supply. If things really go belly-up, then they’ll be eating whatever I can shoot. I’ve caught them eating some fairly suspicious “meat” before!

  12. I also have BO plans for dogs, cats and horses. Thankfully, the only time I would have to leave my house and load everything up is in the event of a forest fire, and we would at least have some notice for that.

  13. If I’m not mistaken, people during Katrina actually wanted to bring their pets but rescuers told them they couldn’t bring them to the shelter. They told them to leave them behind.

    1. The Survival Mom

      That happened, too, and it was heartbreaking. Some people abandoned their pets with no thought to their welfare, others had no choice.

  14. My husband & I feel that this is of utmost importance to us. Our ‘puppy’ is our child and we have tried to be as prepared as possible for an emergency with him. We have an emergency suitcase just for him in the car…it includes pet first aid supplies, pet first aid book, dog food split in daily amounts and vacuum packed (so we don’t have to open a big bag of dog food and possibly ‘waste’ the rest that is open. It also includes extra leads/collars/ID with pertinent info; Emergency contact info; his shot records, copies of his license; Muzzle; blanket and much more. Because we live in the North, we can’t leave water in it, but always have extra water available to grab and go…. oh.. and I forgot.. the most important thing to him… TOYS!!! Please take care to be prepared for an emergency with your pets…

  15. How to get a cat in a cat carrier:
    -Put a safety cat collar with bell on the cat as soon as you know that you will have to transport them, up to 24 hours in advance. This may help in locating them (although some can still be very quiet even with a bell on!)
    -Don’t wait until the last moment to locate and load the cat before bugging out. You’ll be loading cars, opening doors, etc., making lots of opportunities for cats to escape outdoors. On the other hand don’t confine them to a carrier for very long before leaving, as they will have to be in their for some time while you travel. Maybe they can be confined to the room where their litter box is kept until time to get in the carrier and leave.
    -Put a clean towel/rag in the carrier for comfort, and, yeck, to help absorb liquids expelled during the cat’s distress. Bonus points for your sleeping with the towel at least one night so that it smells like home for your cat.
    -Close all doors in the house to limit where the cat can go to hide.
    -DO NOT bring the carrier into the house until all the above is done and ready to load. They recognize the sound of the cage 🙂 Place the carrier on the floor.
    -Try to relax; cats ‘catch’ stress from you.
    -When you have the cat on the floor in front of the carrier door, hold the cat by the scruff of the neck with one hand. I don’t mean that you are holding them up in the air or anything, just that you are lightly pinching them on the scruff, where their mother would have held them when transporting them as a kitten. Use fingertips, not nails, to pinch. You’re only going to have to do this literally for a second or two. Almost all cats instantly sort of freeze, for lack of a better term, and can be walked half way into the carrier. You may use your other hand to life the front paws and place just inside the carrier to give them the hint to walk ahead. Release your pinching hand, then gently push on the back end to finish. The key: firm but not painful pinch and SPEED. (I learned this move from my veterinarian.)
    -Practice this before you need to do it. Much less traumatic for you and the cat than the old style battle with yelling, hissing, scratching. This move is easy but if you have to escape your house with short notice you’ll be glad you know one thing you can do easily.

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