If you have a pet, you likely spend a considerable amount of time taking care of it during the week. You feed it, you give it fresh water, you provide it with a shelter of some sort, and you clean up after it. This is a universal truth regardless of whether your pet is a cat, dog, lizard, hamster, fish, pig, etc. However, it is easy to overlook the needs of our animal companions when thinking about emergency preparedness for your family. In this article I’ll touch on a few key topics to make sure that your pets are prepared too.
*Note: our family has a cat, Dr. Mildred von Kittypants, ESQ. (yes, she did complete kitty medical school and kitty law school). The strategies and ideas discussed in this article originated from our preparedness for our cat, but can be applied to any other animal with certain modifications.
When we think about storing water, we usually think about the guideline of 1 gallon, per person, per day. If you have a pet you have to add additional water into that equation, otherwise you’ll have to give them water that was initially set aside for the human members of the family. There are a few ways to determine how much to add for your animals. The easiest way is to take a gallon jug of water and use that to supply your animal with fresh water. See how long you are able fill their bowl or container until it is empty. If it lasts 2 days, and your goal is to have 14 days of water for your family, you need to add 7 gallons to supply your animal. Another way to do this is just to add one gallon, per animal, per day. This may be overkill, but you can always use the extra water for your humans.
Your animals have a specific diet that they need, so you need to store food for them just like you store food for your human family. A few things to keep in mind when thinking about storing pet food:
- Pet food may have different storage lengths than your human food (freeze dried, dehydrated, canned), so you may not be able to buy a bunch and store it for 25 years.
- Pet food is heavy, so you’ll need a sturdy place to hold it.
- How will you transport it if you have to leave your home?
Taking all of this into consideration we have slowly built up a stockpile of 8 pound bags of food. Our cat eats about one bag every month or so. We are slowly building a 6 month stockpile by adding an extra bag whenever it is on sale. We then rotate through our stores bags so we are constantly replenishing our stockpile with fresh food and using it before it goes bad. The 8 pound bags are small enough to store easily and if we need to leave we can grab a bag or 2 without much additional thought.
As the book says, “everybody poops”, and this is obviously true for your pet(s). You’ll need to plan for this so your pet remains happy and healthy, and your living area remains pleasant and sanitary. Many dog are used to using the outdoors as a bathroom, but you’ll need to make sure you either have a stockpile of bags to pickup the waste and/or a place away from your living space for them to use. Animals that are used to using a litter box, like cats and rabbits, will need some sort of litter material to become comfortable with their new setup – otherwise they will use areas of your living space that you would prefer they not. In our case, we have several (at least 3 at the moment) Costco size bags of our cat’s litter in the garage. While we don’t anticipate her needing that much litter, kitty litter can also be used as a traction device in the winter time, so it’s a good thing to stock up on in general. Finally on this point, make sure you are able to keep your pet’s waste away from your living space and dispose of it safely.
- Don’t put it anywhere near your food or water supplies.
- Don’t put it in or near any water sources like creeks, ponds, etc.
- Plan to either bury it or burn it.
You will need to think about where your animal will “live” in an emergency. If you have an outdoor structure like a dog run, it may become damaged and be rendered unusable. Also, if you rely on a fence around your yard to keep your pet in and other animals out, that may not be viable either (fence panels may be broken or fall over).
You’ll want to consider the size of your animal and their energy level to determine the best solution here. We have two small carriers for our cat: A hard-sided carrier and a soft-sided bag. The soft-sided bag is our usual method to transport Millie, so she’s familiar with it and it has her scent so she knows it’s “hers”. The hard sided case is slightly larger but is really just a backup. We have a harness leash, that we can easily put her in, to allow her safe movement outside. At the moment we would likely keep her in one of our smaller tents so she has a safe place to move around and a we have a single place to setup her food, water, and litter box. Ideally I would like to get a dedicated pet play yard so we can better utilize the tent space, but that’s on the “want list” and not the “need list”.
Many pet owners will consider this to be close to a worst case scenario, but there is a good chance your pet may become lost after a disaster. They can be startled and scared by the noises and if there are openings in walls or fences, they may runaway on instinct. Without GPS or Google Maps, they may become disoriented and not know how to get back home. This is why identification is so critically important.
Make sure that your pet has a microchip with (and this is probably the most important thing) up-to-date contact information. During disasters many pets are found and taken to local shelters. The shelter will be able to scan the microchip and contact you (or if you call them in a panic because you cat or dog is missing, they will be able to verify if they are there or not) unless you haven’t updated the contact information associated with the chip and your phone number has changed. In addition to the chip, it is good to have a collar with your contact information on it. Someone may actually find your pet and be able to reunite you sooner, if they can read the contact information, than if they have to take them to the shelter for scanning.
There are a couple additional things to keep in mind when you’re planning for your pet. First is equipment. Make sure you have a bowl or container to hold their food, water, and litter. It is possible that you won’t be able to access their normal containers (inaccessible in a collapsed structure or if you’re on the move). Make sure you have an extra set of containers in your Pet Prep Kit (where you keep your pet supplies). Second is comfort. Just like with small children, your pet isn’t going to understand what is happening and will likely be under stress. Having a couple of toys stashed with your supplies will help entertain them and lower their stress level.
As I said initially, I hope this provides a general enough frame work for you to apply it to your pet and their needs. Just like when we think about prepping for humans, there are always nuances based on the particular humans your are preparing for. I’m definitely not familiar with the needs of every type of animal and haven’t spent time strategizing for each type of animal (for example, how will you handle a situation that involves your fish tank breaking? Do you have things for your rabbit to chew on? Is a bowl the way that your pet drinks water or do they need a bottle of some kind?) so that’s where you come in. Hopefully this gives you enough of the broad strokes to fill in some of the details. The most important idea in this article is that most of us with pets think of them as members of our family, so we need to treat them the same way when it comes to prepping.