Preparing for emergencies with your pet

SALT LAKE CITY – When preparing for emergencies, don’t forget about your furry, feathered, and scaly pet! They will need food, water, medications, and shelter, just as we do. What follows will help you make sure you have what your pets will need after an emergency.

Find several articles, ranging for preparedness at work, in your car, and in your wallet at our Be Ready Utah link.

Transporting your pet in emergencies

If you need to leave your house for an emergency, it’s important to keep your pets safe during the journey.

Whether you have a cat, dog, bird or lizard, you will need to safely transport them. Carrying them in your arms is not safe, especially during emergencies. So, ensure you have an appropriately-sized carrier.

Believing your pet would not run off is a recipe for disaster. When I worked for a veterinary clinic, we had a client who swore her cat was very calm and never tried to squirm out of her arms. We sent the cat home with aa catheter implanted in its leg. The cat was nervous about being in the vet and when the woman got to her car and opened the door, the cat jumped out of her arms and ran away.

The pet was never located.

Imagine tensions being high in the car during an emergency and then stopping somewhere to get gas. Pets will look for an escape from stressful situations, so it’s critical to keep them safely contained in your vehicle.

If you have exotic birds, they are susceptible to the cold, so make sure you have a warm covering to cover the bird cage. And reptiles should have access to some type of insulated shelter inside their carriers; and remember, you most likely won’t be able to plug in heat lamps while traveling.

emergencies pet

Photo credit: Heather Kelly

I keep the doors to my pet carriers open at all times. Not only does it allow my cats to sleep inside the carriers if they want, it also provides a faster way to get them in the carriers if I need to quickly leave the house. Inside the carriers is also where I keep the emergency food and medications for my fur-babies.

Packing medications for yourself and your pets

If you have younger pets, this probably isn’t an issue, unless you give regular heartworm medications or some type of supplement. But those of us with older animals can sometimes fill up an entire medicine cabinet just for our pets.

I vacuum seal five days worth of medications and write the name of pet, the medication and dosage on each bag. Then, the bag lives inside the pet carrier. This keeps me from having to remember to grab the drugs during an emergency.

emergencies pet

Photo credit: Heather Kelly

Don’t forget to write the expiration date of the meds on the bag. While most drugs will be safe for a month or so after that date, they can lose their effectiveness as time passes. So be sure to update your emergency medicine supply on a yearly basis.

The same is true for pet food. On the outside of the bag I write the ‘best by’ date from the original food container as well as the date I sealed the bag. Then, each time I get a new bag of food, I double check the emergency supply. If it’s about to expire, I feed that to the cats and then seal up a new bag to store in the cat carrier.

Not all emergencies force you to leave home with your pet

Sometimes an emergency keeps you stuck in your home. Or, the loss of electricity during a winter storm or a flash flood may force everyone to the upper floors of your house.

Staying warm and dry is critical for both you and your pets. It could take days or even weeks to get power restored, which means you may be without heat.

I have multiple fleece pet blankets scattered throughout the house. Not only does it keep pet hair mostly to those blankets, they are easy to wash and it keeps the cats warm on cold nights.

It’s even more critical for birds and reptiles to have warm places in order to stay alive. I have transformed styrofoam containers of various sizes into emergency shelters which work well in winter months.

Styrofoam is a very good insulator, but not safe for birds as they will try to eat it. However, you can tightly wrap the styrofoam with soft fabric which will also help with insulation. Reptiles should do okay with normal bedding inside smaller-sized styrofoam boxes placed inside their regular terrariums.

Your pets will need extra food to stay warm if you are stuck in a home without electricity during winter months for more than a day. Their bodies burn extra calories trying to stay warm so having extra food on hand during emergencies is important.

Emergency contact information

Emergencies can happen when we are not at home with our pets. That’s another reason to have food and meds ready inside a carrier for rescue personnel.

I also have stickers on my windows that advise firefighters to “Save my Pets.” The stickers have room to list the number of my veterinarian so they can be taken there if I am not able to do so.

Photo credit: Heather Kelly

I also have cards in my car and wallet with information about my cats if I am ever in an accident. The card lists the name, address, and phone number of someone I trust to take care of my pets when I cannot.

emergencies pet

The takeaway I hope to impart is to treat your pets like we do our children. Animals we bring into our homes cannot fend for themselves once they are domesticated; they need just as much protection as our human families. And even more, because they cannot speak for themselves.

So, as you plan for emergencies, both inside and outside your home, make sure to include your pets.

Find out more about preparing for any emergency at Be Ready Utah.

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