My 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.