For all you animal lovers out there (myself included), here is number 2 in my promised series of pet emergency preparedness posts. If you are new to my blog, PPP – Puss and Pooch Preparedness #1 was on November 16, 2012.

Animal Lovers of the World, Unite and Fight

Even if I didn’t love pets, there is a hidden benefit for the entire community in pet preparedness. It is easier to convince people to plan for pets than for themselves, and once you get them in the habit, it may spill over to personal and community planning as well. Worries about pet care in disaster might even lead to community activism, a positive thing in my mind. For example, is your local Red Cross (or whoever’s in charge of shelters) ready to shelter pets? If so, what types, and how many? What will you need to bring with your pet? I think every person with pets should call and ask these questions. Insist on knowing your local pet shelter plans. The greater (and louder) the interest, the more likely your city will take pet planning seriously.

In the meantime, here are a few more things to consider in your personal PPP – puss and pooch preparedness!

Pet Preparedness Tips 6-10

Where's Oly? Black cats make hide and seek even more exciting!Photo by Sheila Sund.

Where’s Oly? Black cats make hide and seek even more exciting!
Photo by Sheila Sund.

6. Play hide and seek with Fluffy – now. Most cats, and even some dogs, are very good at hiding. I once spent over 2 hours searching the house for my cat (indoor cat). After I called my family in a panic, Oly finally wandered out from somewhere, tail in the air, acting like nothing was wrong (we later discovered a rip in the covering over the chair bottom, allowing him to climb inside). In a stressful situation like an emergency, pets usually retreat to their favorite hiding spots. Use today’s opportunities – vacuuming, having company, or other distasteful cat activities – to spy on Fluffy and identify where those hiding spaces might be before a disaster occurs.

7. Wet vs dry food? You should have 1 week’s worth of pet food stored and ready to bring with you in case of evacuation, but do you store wet or dry food?  Here are a few things to consider:  Everyone should choose the pet food that works best for their situation. I’m feeding a Great Dane, so I will be carrying dry food (and even that will be difficult). If you are using wet food, make sure that you use up each can in one serving. Without refrigeration, wet food can’t be saved open, yet you hate to waste anything that you had to carry.  Most importantly, don’t change Fido’s diet during a disaster situation. This is not the time to try a new food (but is another reason for bringing your own). Fido will be stressed and looking for familiarity. Different food just adds to the anxiety. In addition, food allergies are common, but not something you or Fido want to discover in a disaster. Choose food that is practical given the amount needed, and something that Fido knows and loves now.

Wet vs Dry Food

8. Crate sooner than later if a possible emergency is predicted (e.g. tornado watch). Crating a pet once the wind is howling or the water is rising can be dangerous (even gentle pets scratch and bite), and may not even be possible, risking the need to leave Fluffy behind. Better yet, practice crating and evacuating Fluffy now. The more familiar both the pet and you become with the routine (perhaps with a generous sprinkling of treats), the less stressful the situation will be in a real disaster. So start a Saturday routine of crating Fluffy, carrying her to the car, and taking her on a ride. We often do this with the Fidos of the world, but rarely with the Fluffys.

9. Is Fido anxious to start with? Does he have problems with other animals or people? You might want to  talk to your vet about  a mild sedative to give in case of disaster. Disasters are stressful for pets as well as people. Fido is forced to be around more animals and people than usual. He may be out of his familiar environment. And he is quite likely to pick up on your distress. In some pets, stress decreases eating, causes bowel upset, or even leads to aggression – behavior that will not be tolerated in a shelter or hotel. Don’t forget other comfort measures like packing a familiar toy and a blanket. A large tarp or towel over his crate provides some shelter from the elements, as well as a sense of a more secure closed environment.

Anxious and agressive? How about just puppy play!Photo by Sheila Sund.

Anxious and aggressive? How about just puppy play!
Photo by Sheila Sund.

10. Do your homework now. If community shelters will not allow pets (remember to ask this in advance), where else can you evacuate? A lot depends on the type of disaster to hit your community. If evacuating from a tornado or fire, the next city over might be far enough. In a hurricane, travel is longer and lodging scarcer. After an earthquake, damaged roads and bridges may make it impossible to leave. If you know where you might go, then let your fingers do the walking now and find names of hotels and motels that will accept pets in an emergency (some do so in evacuation even if not allowed at other times). You can also check out vets and pet boarding facilities. AAA publishes Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA Petbook,  with over 14,000 listings of pet-friendly lodging, campgrounds, and other pet locations, updated annually. It is a good place to start and makes an easy carry along reference.

I hope these tips help you on your journey to keeping Fido and Fluffy (or whoever your pets may be) safe in a disaster.

Stay safe,

Sheila Sund, M.D.

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