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Have you thought about pets in your preparedness planning?

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Guest post by Heather Laurie who blogs at Prudent Pantry.
When thinking about preparedness, you think food, structure, transportation, and protection. I bet you don’t think of pets. I would like you to do just that today!
Here’s my rule for pets for a prepper: If it can’t protect the food, house, people OR can be food itself there is no reason to have it.
Protection for the Family
I have read several articles about using dogs to help defend the homestead. Absolutely! Dogs come in all sizes and have all sorts of different specialties. Terriers are great at dealing with little rodent-like creatures, such as gophers, rats, or moles. Shepherd dogs can help with livestock rounding up and protecting, and might even help in herding kids!  The down size is the larger the dog the more they eat and the shorter their life span. Think long and hard about exactly why and what type of dog would help in your prepping.
“Sure enough, in the morning a mouse lay dead by the bedroom wall where Pa had thrown it. And Pa appeared at breakfast with an almost bare spot on the back of his head, where the mouse had shorn his hair away.” -From Little House of the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The family had no cat and during the night a mouse had chewed hair right off Pa’s head! Pests can move into your food storage and take over. Thankfully, nowadays we have great things like mylar bags, and plastic buckets, although those do need to be guarded when it comes to rodents. I guarantee you don’t want mice looking for food in your home. Even if they find nothing, they leave behind bacteria and feces. To stay a healthy prepper you need a good mouser!
image by Eric Begin.

My suburban neighbors consider rabbits cute, fuzzy pets. I consider them hasenpfeffer that will be a continuous source of meat if needed. I can even easily move the huts into my garage to prevent theft. Hubby wants a Giant Flemish Rabbit but he hasn’t talked me into that yet, though that is a nice chunk of meat!

Indoor fish are actually very soothing to have. The biggest problem I see with them in a long term no electricity problem would be no aeration of the water, or heating of the water if you have tropical fish. Perhaps an outdoor Koi pond would be a better choice if you want fish but there would problems with them surviving inside.  I can see a reason for owning Koi because they are great algae cleaners and don’t eat very much fish food. You could just grind up a handful of corn and toss it to them.
I had a friend put a couple of Koi in a horse trough that hadn’t been used for awhile and had water with lots of algae. She ran a hose in it for a bit to keep the water aerated and the Koi filled their bellies. Problem solved.
This is my no-no pet. If you have indoor birds you are more likely to have asthma attacks and have worse bronchitis. The dander on birds is very irritating to the lungs. (Dear in-laws, sorry but your bird house is a lung danger zone!) If SHTF then you can’t afford an asthma attack or a nasty bout of bronchitis!
Mice/Rats/Guinea Pigs:
Call me girlie, better yet, practical! There is no reason to have an animal in the house that I would have to call an exterminator for if my kids hadn’t already named it!  No.
image by Stuck in Customs

Reptiles are still on my no-no list. My son loved his Green Anole and I admit it was cool to see him eat crickets. My problem is reptiles can carry bacteria. You can’t use them to help the homestead unless you let them go to kill insects. The big problem with that is you then have no control over their population growth, and again, you are back to having a pest control problem.

Pets have a definite, needed place in your prepping. Think it through, and think long term. Pets live for years. You will also need to think through whether or not you are going to neuter/spay your dog or cat.
One last thought is pets are trade-able. They are a commodity. You can trade a breeding pair of rabbits for work boots. There is worth in having something in hand and everyone understands it’s worth.
Remember the Rule: If it can’t protect the food, house, people OR be food itself there is no reason to have it.
Read more of Heather’s great advice at Prudent Pantry.
Which pets are best for the prepper lifestyle?  Cast your vote on The Survival Mom Facebook page now!

17 thoughts on “Have you thought about pets in your preparedness planning?”

  1. I completely agree that cats & dogs especially have valued places in preparedness – and wise owners plan to be able to care for them! It's worth keeping in mind that your vet or local PetSmart won't be around if the SHTF, so you'll want to either have stocked up ahead of time on basics like Frontline/Advantage and pet food or done the research into realistic, holistic alternatives.

    If you tend to get your pet professionally groomed, it's also wise to start learning now how to take care of minor injuries and routine tasks like nail clipping. Your pet is going to be a vital part of your plan – so make sure you're prepared to maintain them just as you would anything else!

  2. Guinea pigs are a major food staple in parts of South America. If you think of them as short-eared rabbits, it's really easy to see how they could be a fast-breeding, low maintenance food supply. You dispatch & dress them out the same way as rabbits, too. (This is the sort of thing I learn from watching "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," which is a great show for preppers in my opinion, as it gets you thinking about food sources you might otherwise never have considered!)

    1. Jeannie great idea. I have a personal mad hate for the squeaky, biting guinea pigs. If I was in a situation where the family needed food I can get over all that in a heart beat!
      Thanks for the info!

  3. I agree and disagree. We have dogs – I LOVE them. We prep for our dogs. We have 8 months of food stored and counting for our dogs. You're are completely right in that if you can ensure their food and safety then there is no reason to have them – period.

    But not just any dog can be used for herding, protection or hunting. It takes alot of time to train a dog to hunt or even retrieve a downed duck. Like YEARS. Same with herding and protection. Untrained they can intimidate for sure! Why break into the house with 3 German Shepherd in the yard when the neighbor has no dogs? That's worth something. They can alert you to intruders and danger – AND that's worth something too! Also with no training they can become very effective mousers and provide varmint control. Also a valuable asset.

    But you can't say "well I have a Labrador so I will just use him for hunting" or "I have an Aussie so he will herd my animals" those qualities need to be trained and honed to be useful in a normal situation let alone a stressful situation like a SHTF or tragedy type of situation. Otherwise you run the risk of letting Fido (who has always rounded up the cows before with no training) get distracted or stressed and running the cows through the fence instead back to you. If you take your lab dog out hunting he may, in fact, naturally flush a bird – or he might just get spooked and take off on you, putting you and him at risk. Also proper training on both the handler and dogs part is needed so that you don't accidentally shoot your dog in your desire to shoot that bird to feed your family. It happens all the time in 'normal' conditions.

    Here is something else to chew on.

    Several months after the onset of tragedy event, most pets will be gone. The only pets that will remain will be the pets that are living with individuals and families who are not experiencing the hard times. These will be the people who not only have enough food to feed themselves, but they will also have enough extra food to keep their pet alive. This will draw attention to yourself if you have not planned accordingly.

    For example: During hard times following tragedy event many people will die, children may starve to death. How do you think someone who has lost a child due to starvation will feel if he happens to look out his window and he sees you walking your dog. He will instantly realize that you have enough food to not only keep yourself alive but also to feed your pet. He will also realize that you did not consider the life of his little child to be as important as the life of your pet. If you didn't care about the life of his child, why should he feel guilty about rounding up several of his starving friends and then attacking you and killing everyone in your household and taking everything that you own? I know this is dark but its something to think about.

    Pets make noise. Noise will attract attention to your family. It may not be possible to keep a low profile and remain out of harms way if your family has a pet, it will require forethought and planning. Eventually, your pet may get your family be attacked, starving people will also see your pet as food. People who have already decided they are going to keep and protect their pet during the coming hard times need to think very carefully about their decision.

  4. Good original post and comments. I'd like to second two comments. Guenia pigs are kept as a food source in many parts of south america, I will also remind you that hunger, true hunger is a great seasoning and will increase the appeal of eating a little critter in a cage. Also large lizards like the one in the picture are a food source in parts of central america.

    As far as a blanket statement that Cats and dogs are good to keep in a survival situation, I would say this is not usually the case. Many cats are declawed house cats who do not hunt outside and thus wouldn't probably kill a rodent inside. And many dogs would be more of a deficit then an asset in a survival situation. Dogs that would be helpful are those that have had extensive training in obedience and a working, herding, hunting field.

    We breed hunting dogs and even well breed dogs require work to develope natural tendencies, with leasiure time now we can do that but in a SHTF scenario, I don't suspect we would have much lesiure time.

  5. I'm not prepping for Doomsday so am not terribly worried about needing to eat my dog or anyone else thinking she looks like a nice meal. I will shoot anyone who tries to steal her – now or after TEOTWAWKI. She is my only dependent. It's easy to have enough kibble for a year – the expiration dates go very far out for well-packaged kibble. – everyone should at least have a few months worth of kibble on hand. Dogs are terrific alarm systems and the only reason I can sleep soundly in the city now – I know that no one is getting near my doors or windows without her hearing. More dogs have utility than some may think. Double-coated breeds (especially arctic breeds) are as valuable as sheep for fibers to make yarn. Samoyed hair, for instance, is warmer than merino and makes exceptionally warm and water resistant yarn that can be made into gloves, scarves, hats, coats, socks, etc. I get a lawn bag a year just from one Samoyed. Here's a link to a very informative resource on using dog hair in this way: http://www.potomacvalleysams.com/FiberArts.html

    If the United States becomes so bad off that children are starving to death everywhere and pets are on the menu, then you can have a mountain of Mountain House #10 but without an army to defend it you'll be losing that before dogs are being eaten en masse. The hungry hordes are going to be raiding neighbors' pantries before they're raiding kennels.

    Something every pet owner should do now is have a current veterinarian health record, photos and a "go kit" for them in case you need to evacuate for any reason and may want to stay in a shelter. More shelters are taking pets since Hurricane Katrina. Also helps to have the pets crate-trained.

  6. It is so sad, I heard in Greece that many tame, tagged dogs are roaming the streets as their families had to let them go to fend for themselves as many can not afford to feed them. Hope it does not get that bad here.

    1. I noticed that very thing in a recent article about Greece. The caption mentioned a "stray dog" and I thought it was odd that the dog was wearing a collar. Yes, it is sad when pets have to be abandoned for whatever reason.

    2. A lot of dogs and cats have been abandoned in the U.S. because of the housing crash. Animal shelters and breed rescues are full of pets left behind when homes were foreclosed on. I met a woman a couple years ago walking a magnificent Newfoundland and she said she adopted him from a Newfie rescue group — he'd been left behind in a foreclosed house. Just left behind. People with more integrity make arrangements ahead of time when their housing situation changes – friends adopted a Schnauzer who was given to rescue because of foreclosure.

      U.S. animal shelters can do a lot of good with donations of cash, blankets and other items to help them care for all the dogs and cats that are dumped in this country every day. God bless those who work full-time and volunteer to help these animals.

    3. You are absolutely right about people abandoning their dogs. It has already started here in America. Large dog breeders no longer have waiting lists. Large dog breed rescues are backed up. The larger the dog the more likely it is to be thrown out.
      The other issue that is happening today in America is people are losing their homes and having to move to apartments and rentals. Many rentals don’t allow dogs or more than one cat. That means the extra animals are either left behind or given to the local shelters.
      Definately something we need to keep in mind when prepping… a big dog, especially one whelping will eat LOTS of food. Over prep and seal the food for long shelve life!

  7. *indignant look*
    just kidding 🙂
    But I do believe my chickens certainly qualify as birds! And some of them are even pets! (the layers anyway)

    Rabbits are my next project, and since I already feed my pets a raw diet (raw bones and raw meat mixed with a vitamin mix made for that purpose) I fully intend to save money by feeding them rabbit meat instead of chicken/beef later on when I get it all up and running.
    Cats are more of a pain because I have to take the time to cut up the meat for them (mostly so none gets wasted) but the dog will be much easier: chop off Thumper's leg and hand it to him. (yes yes I know, skin them first!)

    As for eating dog meat, I have read that carnivore meat is nowhere near as tasty or as nutritious as herbivore/omnivore meats. I am sure there's a pretty good reason why we evolved to eat the grazers instead…

  8. The website for the Humane Soicety of America (www.humanesociety.org) has an informative page on how to prepare your pets for disaster including what to do if you need to take them with you to a shelter. I have looked at many commercial websites of businesses that sell long-term storage food for humans but have found only one that sells long-tem storage dog and cat food (dry food) that purports to have a five-year shelf life (www.quakecare.com). This could be an alternative to canned pet food. I have not yet found any source for shelf stable dry pet food that is designed for pets with special health conditions (senior, kitten/puppy, kidney health, urinary tract health, etc.) similar to the specialized food sold through my vet’s office. I’m thinking I’ll just have to package up some specialized dry food in vacumn-sealed bags and store it in the freezer to make sure my two senior cats have two weeks worth of food in case of a short-term disaster.

  9. im so glad to see someone think about the pets we all seem to have and love. i retired and moved from my house to an apartment with just one kitty. he is a great mouser and hunter of lizards here in florida. i would not give him up for a second. we have lots of citrus fruit trees here and with that come the fruit rats. they are over 2 feet long – head to tail – and i prefer when my boy, malachi, brings them to me as a gift. i think he’s worth prepping for and keeping around.

  10. Was glad to see the review on the dehydrated dog food. Even samples of some of the different pet foods being offered for storage are expensive. (t’s nice to know it was a good option. Wish the article mentioned if the dogs suffered any digestive upset after. We know we need to increase our stock of pet food. But we also make sure to put up 3 liters of water for the pets for every 6 liters we put up for us. They may have more resistance with waterborne illness, but we won’t be drinking water without having made allowance for them as well.

  11. Oh, BTW, our daughter had a guinea pig or “cuy” dinner in Ecuador. She said while it was nothing special, she would eat it again if she was hungry. There are actually guinea pig recipes on the internet. Mostly, you just season and grill the meat, and serve with pico de gallo and tortillas.

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