How To Pack A Pet Evacuation Kit To Protect Your Animals In An Emergency

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Do you own one (or more) of the 69 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in America? Or the 8 million pet birds, 4 million horses, or 2 million pet turtles? If you have pets then you need a pet evacuation kit.

Some preppers only keep animals if they can protect the family, protect the food, or be food themselves. For 60% of Americans, however, they’re beloved furry (or feathery, or scaly) family members. For some families that decide not to have children or to postpone having children, the pet is the child.

I think animals serve a broader function as companions. A disaster is by definition a stressful event, and an animal companion can relieve stress and provide comfort, especially for children. However, you need to be able to care for them in emergencies also.

image: family with dad holding white bunny, mom holding boy that is feeding bunny a lettuce leaf, and girl watching

Why You Need an Emergency Pet Kit

Let’s just answer this with some statistics from Hurricane Katrina that led to the successful passage of the Pet Evacuation Bill:

  • “It’s estimated that roughly 259,400 families owned pets in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. There was no formal evacuation plan for those needing assistance or for those with pets. As many as 104,000 pets were left behind to weather the storm and its aftermath.”
  • “Based on a poll conducted by the Fritz Institute, 44% of people did not evacuate for Katrina because they refused to leave their pets behindFor those that chose not to evacuate and were rescued by first responders during the aftermath, they were not permitted to take their pets either.”
  • Of the 15,500 animals rescued, only 15%-20% were ever reunited with their owners.

While you can’t know the exact disaster that you might face, you do know that building an emergency kit for your pets increases the chances they’ll survive and that you won’t be permanently separated from them.

Think Through What Is Specific And/Or Unique To Your Pet

Plan ahead for the logistics of evacuating with your pet. Think about what your pet will need but also think about specific issues your pet has and how you’ll address them. For example:

  • Does your dog get carsick?
  • Does your pet experience social anxiety?
  • Do you have a secure carrier for your cat?
  • Does your pet have medical issues?
  • Do you have a trailer for your horse or can you borrow a neighbor’s?
  • How will you clean up the droppings from your pet goat?
  • Does your pet iguana attack people it doesn’t know?

In general, shelters for people do not accept animals except for service dogs. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was enacted after Hurricane Katrina and mandates that communities include animals in their disaster planning, but that doesn’t guarantee that there will be housing for your pet.

Local animal organizations may set up animal shelters adjacent to human shelters (called “co-sheltering”) but you will be responsible for feeding, watering, and walking your pet.

What You Should Include In A Pet Evacuation Kit

Each pet evacuating with your family should have its own 72-hour kit. In it you should include:


Dry kibble in labeled zip-top bags, or cans (check the expiration date and don’t forget a can opener). A few companies even make pet energy bars; these aren’t nutritionally balanced for long-term feeding but for the short-term they provide calories and nutrients.

For a horse or other large animals, you’ll need to transport hay and grain or know a source to buy them at your destination. This article can help you prepare for evacuating horses and other large livestock.


Just as you plan one gallon per person per day, you should also plan one gallon per pet per day for dogs and cats. If you have a large animal like a horse, they will need a much larger amount. Industrial garbage cans can be used to hold water for large animals.

Important papers

  • Description of the animal (name, species, breed, color, sex, age, distinguishing features)
  • Proof of vaccinations. Shelters typically require vaccinations, and immunizations help keep your pet safe from contagious diseases. Talk to your veterinarian about recommended vaccinations for your pet; these may include distemper, parvo, and rabies for dogs, distemper and rabies for cats, and West Nile and rabies for horses.
  • Proof of a Coggin’s test for horses (a test for equine infectious anemia, a contagious blood disease)
  • Registration and licensing papers
  • List of facilities, such as shelters, boarding facilities, equestrian centers, stables, and pet-friendly hotels within a 50-mile radius
  • Current photos of the pet. Ideally, include photos taken from both sides (see photo), the front and the back, with the animal standing in good lighting. Also include photos that show you and your pet together, to help establish ownership.
  • Bedding, towels, blankets
  • Bowls for food and water (light-weight, collapsible bowls are available in pet and camping stores)
  • Cage, carrier, or kennel for each pet. Collapsible kennels might be easier to store, or you can use the carrier to hold the pet’s 72-hour kit until you need it.
  • Litter box and kitty litter for cats. Look for a small plastic litter box that can fit in the cat’s carrier/kennel.
  • Trash bags, paper towels
  • Can opener
  • Muzzle. Even gentle pets can become aggressive if they are stressed or in pain. Soft cloth muzzles are available at pet stores.
  • Brushes for longer-haired pets
  • Leash, extra collar, harness, etc.
  • For large animals: hoof care tools, fly spray, halters, lead ropes, pans, buckets, twitch, leg wraps.
image: example of pet photos for pet emergency kit

Take photos of your pet as part of your evacuation prep. Image by Laura McLain Madsen.

First aid kit

Remember to customize the first aid kit for the specific needs of your pets.

  • This American Red Cross pet first aid app loaded on your phone
  • Bandage material and nonstick wound dressings
  • Scissors
  • Claw clipper
  • Styptic powder to stop bleeding (e.g., from a torn claw)
  • Diphenhydramine for allergic reactions (liquid or tablets)
  • Eyewash (sterile saline, not contact lens solution)
  • Cortisone cream
  • Triple antibiotic cream
  • A syringe with tsp and ml markings
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting in case of poisoning
  • Any current prescription medications (such as for pain, inflammation, seizures, heart, etc.)
  • Probiotic. Many dogs get diarrhea from stressful events and a probiotic (the “good” intestinal bacteria) can prevent this. You can use a probiotic meant for humans, such as Lactobacillus (1 billion cells per day for dogs).
  • Pepto Bismol for diarrhea
  • Meclizine for motion sickness
  • Flea/tick preventative medication
image: items for pet first aid kit in pet evacuation kit
image by Laura McLain Madsen


It’s also important to make sure your pet has positive identification at all times. This helps ensure your pet is returned to you if you get separated and is proof of ownership if the animal is stolen. Identification might include:

  • Tags on the collar for dogs and cats.
  • Tags on the halter for horses or other large animals.
  • Microchip: A microchip is a tiny RFID chip that transmits a number when scanned with a radio frequency scanner. The ID number links in a database to your contact information. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted with a syringe and needle (under the skin on the back of the shoulders in cats and dogs, in the breast muscle in birds, and in the neck muscle in horses). Any species of animal can be microchipped.
  • Ear tags for cattle, which also utilize RFID technology.
  • Permanent marker on the shell or scales of a turtle or other reptile.
  • Spray paint on the hooves of large animals.
  • Leg band on birds.
  • Tattoos.
  • Brands for large animals.

Identify a Backup Caretaker

Once you’ve assembled all this, give yourself a pat on the back. Well done!

However, there is one last, important detail of your pet evacuation kit to address. What will happen to your pets if you’re not at home to execute the plan? Or you’re not around to evacuate your pets for some other reason?

Your animals need a buddy, someone who can care for your pets in your absence and evacuate them, if needed. This person needs to know all the ins and outs of your pets’ needs and the emergency pet kit you’ve assembled. They will also need access, so be sure it’s someone you can trust with a key.

One Final Thought About Pet Evacuation Kits

It should go without saying that the reason you’re creating a kit for your pets is that you’re going to take them with you in an emergency. But to be clear, you should take your pets with you any time you have to evacuate.

Even a small-scale, supposedly short-term evacuation, such as a gas leak in your neighborhood, could turn into a larger scale or longer-term incident. You may not be allowed by authorities to return to your home to collect your pets if the evacuation is prolonged. And you may not have time to assemble a pet evacuation kit. You may also want to consider creating a last-minute packing list of things in use on a regular basis.

Do it ahead of time. Your pets will thank you for it.

Have you created an emergency kit for pets? What do you include in it that isn’t on this list?

This guest post by Laura McLain Madsen, DVM was originally published on June 15, 2013, and has been updated.

11 thoughts on “How To Pack A Pet Evacuation Kit To Protect Your Animals In An Emergency”

  1. Great tips. We run a parrot training website, and found this information very helpful. If only more people would take this advice and act on it.

  2. Thank you for such a comprehensive list!! Since I live in a hurricane zone and many places will not take large dogs during adverse times, I have things put aside for my Wolf Shepard and my Black Lab, but this is so much more than I realized I might need. I will be sharing this with my neighbor who has 5 Belgian Shepards and my all my other friends with large dogs or horses.

  3. Trish Councell

    I am with an Amateur Radio Emergency Services group and also have a Service Dog and have worked in Red Cross Shelters. Can’t find fault with your advice and there are things I haven’t thought of. One thing I have brought up in the past is to put a blanket over a wire crate for privacy and stress relief.
    Although I don’t have to put Cara in a cage I take her collapsable cloth crate with me just so she has someplace to feel safe. Cudos and I plan to share!

  4. While you can , talk to your vet about EVERYTHING . Animal biology does not react to things the way ours does . Example , hydrogen peroxide , its good for us to clean out cuts and minor wounds ………dont do it to a dog or cat , it may in fact make things worse , their tissue is different than ours . Things like that ,

  5. Stealth Spaniel

    Great article that is comprehensive and thorough. I have tried to get everything into one place in the house, so if I have a limited time to vacate, I am not any crazier than normal getting things together.

  6. Pingback: Bug-Out-Bags for Your Pets | Prepanation

  7. I know this comment might be late, but look into Vetricyn, it is an incredible antimicrobial wound and skin care product that can be used on all animals, even around eyes and ears.
    It does have an expiration date, so keep checking it
    We have used on our livestock, even for horrific wounds and it is incredible and while you do have ” vet wrap” pictured, I highly recommend this also for people first aid kit, I have used it on myself with a sprained ankle until I was able to get to a proper wrap

  8. This is a terrible thing to mention, and as a last resort only, but if you truly love your pet, you must consider, however unlikely, the rare chance you may have to consider euthanasia for your loved companion.
    In a truly traumatic situation it could be the best way to protect it from suffering.
    I shudder at the thought, but have given consideration to the possibility of this being the best way to go, and I have loved my animal friends for over 60 years. I never had to make that choice but realized years ago it COULD happen. It just might be your duty as a good pet parent.
    So sorry for even bringing this up, but,,,,,,,,,sometimes situations dictate hard choices. I get choked up just writing this.

  9. What about shelters for pets without vaccinations? For indoor cats, vaccinations are not as necessary. Putting those chemicals in an animal can be very harmful, and owners shouldn’t have to make that call based on subjective veterinary data. How can those people prepare?

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