When a natural disaster hits, some animals know what to do. Raccoons know how to search for food amid the upheaval. Black bears and ground-dwelling birds seek shelter under the tree limbs and trunks suddenly uprooted.
Yet, typically, these animals, especially domesticated house pets, are just as shaken by the conditions as we are.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria, many are wondering how to care for cats, dogs, rabbits and more as thousands of pets have become displaced. There are a few key ways you can make sure to protect your furry loved ones when nature strikes. It just takes some preparation.
Depending on your location, you may decide to either evacuate the storm or stay put. There are ways to care for animals in both scenarios.
Having emergency lighting is the first thing. Just like their owners, when they can see, they will feel more in control of their situation.
Care for animals while you wait out the storm
It’s important to know how to care for animals during a natural disaster. If you opt to seek shelter inside your home, bring your animals in with you. Don’t wait until it’s beginning to storm outside, but rather take caution plenty ahead of time.
If you typically allow your pets to roam freely in your home, consider their usual favorite hiding spots. This might be under a bed or in the corner of a room. Consider if these areas might prove hazardous during a natural disaster.
In this case, it’s best to keep your animals in a carrier if possible. Doing so provides an added sense of security and protection. Find a spot in your home that’s safe to wait out the storm and bring the carrier in there with you. Owning a pet carrier is also a good idea should disaster strike, and you do need to pack up and leave.
Caring for animals when you evacuate
If a natural disaster is heading directly your way, you may choose to evacuate. If this is the case, there are other preventative measures to take as you care for animals.
As soon as you decide to head out of town, check and see if there are any pet-friendly evacuation centers in the city where you’re headed. For the most part, general population shelters have a no-pet policy, so doing a little research beforehand is a great way to keep your pets with you if possible.
In the same vein, if you’re looking to board a horse, look to see if emergency stabling is available.
If you locate a shelter that accepts pets, be sure to have the following on hand as you evacuate:
- A copy of their medical records and vaccinations
- Proof of your residency in a disaster zone
- Pet food and supplies (enough to last for two weeks)
You can also check to see if local hotels or motels allow pets. Though most have a no-pet policy, some will defer that rule in the event of an emergency situation.
During the disaster: easing the impact
When you’re in the thick of a natural disaster, you don’t want to have to scramble around trying to find your pet’s medicines or litter scooper.
Create a survival kit full of things you and your pet will need to ride out the storm. You’ll have everything you need, even if you lose power. Here are a few essentials to remember:
- Collapsible feeding bowls
- Cat litter box and accessories
- Pet medications
- Animal first-aid items
- While typically for dogs and cats, a pet evacuation kit is handy. An added benefit is everything is already in a bag, ready to grab and go.
In general, it’s also smart to have a hand crank or solar radio to keep up with important news.
Prepare in advance for a power outage. You will be that much calmer for your animals when you do lose power.
Updating Identification Tags
At the same time, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and update your pet’s identification tags. In the event that your furry friend gets separated from the rest of your family, these can prove invaluable in helping facilitate a reunion.
This step is especially important for large-breed animals such as cows and horses. As necessary, make sure your animals are identifiable. Measures to take might include:
- Taking a picture of your pet
Aiding in recovery efforts
There are steps you can take now to make the post-storm recovery effort go as smoothly and successfully as possible.
Especially if you’re riding out the storm from home, it’s wise to invest in a few “Pet Inside” stickers, available online. Place these waterproof stickers on the outside of your home’s exterior doors and windows.
That way, rescue workers can easily identify that you have an animal inside and take proper precautions to ensure the safety of your entire family, Fido included.
Updating your buddy system
One of the best ways you can care for animals during a natural disaster is to establish a buddy system.
Do you have a family member who’s great with animals? What about a few friends, co-workers, or neighbors? Bring them into your circle so there’s always someone around to give your pet care, even when you’re not available.
Even if you don’t expect a natural disaster to occur, it’s important to set this system up now. That way, if something out of the ordinary happens while you’re away, your trusted buddies will make sure your pets are taken care of.
To help in recovery efforts, add the name of one or two buddies to your veterinary’s approved emergency contact list. Then, if your pet is found without you and requires medical treatment, those confidants can speak on your behalf to him the care he needs.
Stick to the plan
Nothing upsets an already-anxious animal quite like switching up a routine last-minute. Though it’s understandable that plans change, especially in the wake of a storm, it’s important to create a route ahead of time and adhere to it as closely as possible.
Why? Doing so will make you calmer, which in turn will make your dog or cat more relaxed.
If you’re scurrying to find your keys or rushing or locate your dog’s water bowl as a natural disaster is impending, you’ll undoubtedly feel stressed and anxious yourself. These are emotions that your pet can easily sense.
Being prepared is essential to your well being and your pet’s safety. To prevent delays and secure your well-being, lay out your plans as soon as possible, and practice any escape routes well in advance. That way, when the time comes, you’ll know just what to do, and how to help your pet navigate as well.
Rural living involves caring for your animals and learning homesteading best practices to embrace nature and be more self-sufficient. We have resources for emergency preparedness, including the importance of getting a generator, and more.