Preparing for a natural disaster
With hurricanes in the news and twisters on the big screen everyone has natural disasters on the brain these days. Memories are fresh of the run on bottled water and toilet paper during the last blizzard. We all know the routine of extra water, fresh batteries, plenty of candles, and cupboards full of canned food, but there is one aspect that is often overlooked. When and if disaster strikes, there must be provisions for all members of the family, furry ones included.
For cats, extra kitty litter is a crucial item to have. Beware that during snowstorms many “non-cat owners” gobble up the kitty litter supply to use as traction on walkways and under car tires. If you have the space, it pays to horde a few extra bags at all times. As trash pick-up may be suspended it’s also a good idea to keep extra plastic bags and cleaning agents available for waste disposal purposes. In addition, keeping a supply of canned or dry food on hand will ensure that your pet has plenty to tide them over. It’s also important to remember that water is crucial. When buying bottled water pick up an extra bottle or two for your animal. The same considerations apply for dogs and cats. In the case of small mammals try to remember to keep extra bedding around as well as all of the above.
After big storms be extremely careful of downed power lines. When taking dogs for walks be sure to keep them close if lines are near and never let cats out if you see power lines down in the neighborhood. Be prepared during large snowstorms to dig pathways out for small dogs.
Blizzards and electrical storms are the first that come to mind when thinking disaster, but there are many other events to be prepared for. As the D.C. metro area is surrounded by large roads and train lines it is hardly unthinkable that a hazardous spill could occur. In such a situation evacuation of homes would be likely. The following steps can be taken ahead of time to prepare for such an event:
- Get a sturdy pet carrier or crate for each pet that is large enough for the pet to stand up in and turn around.
- Keep your pet’s vaccinations and medical records handy and ensure that all vaccinations are up to date.
- Be sure that dogs or cats wear a properly fitted collar with license tag, rabies tag, and ID tag. Special breakaway collars are available for cats. Keep alternate identification tags as well with the name and number of a friend or relative who can be reached if you cannot be contacted.
- Have a leash on hand to maintain control of your dog.
- Decide ahead of time where you can take your pet if evacuation becomes necessary. Some options may be boarding kennels, your vet’s office, friends or relatives or motels where you can stay with your pet.
- Acquire non-spill water and food bowls. Stock up on pet food (preferably dry).
- Maintain emergency supplies of kitty litter, newspapers, plastic bags, cleaners, and disinfectants to properly handle pet waste.
With the exception of service dogs, no pets are allowed in Red Cross shelters. This means that it is crucial to plan where your pet will go in case of emergency. It is best for you and your pet if you can make your own arrangements in advance. When taking your pet to a friend’s house or motel be sure to bring all the supplies you will need.
In case of emergency evacuation you may be told to leave immediately and not take your pet with you. In such a situation the following will help ensure the safety of your pet:
- Bring the pet indoors; do not leave it outside.
- Prepare and clean the preselected site in the house.
- Leave only dry food. Use sturdy food containers.
- Do not leave treat-type vitamins or vitamin supplements. Overeating of these may cause poisoning.
- Water should be left in bathtubs or other sturdy spill proof containers. Leave toilet seats up and flush the toilet before leaving. For smaller dogs and cats, leave additional water in low, heavy containers that are as tip-proof as possible. Glass cookware and other similar containers are ideal.
- Never leave a cat with a dog even if the two are normally friendly. Keep birds, hamsters, fish, and other small pets away from cats and dogs.
Hopefully, by preparing for the worst, we will always be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.