The last few months have been filled with natural disasters. In my neck of the woods, we suffered through a bad summer of wildfires followed by a flood of biblical proportions. To the north, South Dakotans experienced a freakish early snowstorm (up to four feet fell in some places) that killed tens of thousands of cattle. The Midwest is just beginning to recover from powerful tornados more commonly seen in the summer … to say nothing of this month’s devastating typhoon that decimated parts of the Philippines.
All this has gotten me to thinking about how ill prepared most of us are when it comes to taking care of our pets, and especially our cats, in the event of a disaster. Cats present some unique challenges when emergencies arise. Dogs can go without food for days with no ill effects. Owners can toss a leash on their dogs and walk out of many disaster zones. Put your bird’s or guinea pig’s cage in the car and a few days worth of supplies will likely come along with them. None of this applies to most cats.
I started poking around sites that sell emergency kits for cats, and was appalled at what I found. Most appear to be repurposed human or dog kits. I had to laugh when I saw that many include a slip lead – you know the cheap leashes that loop through a ring at one end to form an all-in-one collar and leash. These will do in a pinch for dogs, but imagine the reaction of a non leash-trained cat! She would either entangle and likely choke herself in her frenzy to escape or, in fact, escape. At another site, a consumer reviewing the kit he bought mentioned that it contained dog, rather than cat food.
Putting together your own cat emergency kit really isn’t that hard. You probably have many of the items on hand already. Simply fill in the gaps and put everything together in a bag that’s easy to grab in the event of an emergency. Here’s my recommended list of what to include:
- Cat carrier (put your bag of supplies inside if you don’t use it often)
- Old towels or “pee pads” to line the bottom of the carrier
- Litter pan (a small, disposable aluminum roasting pan would work well)
- Small zip lock bag filled with cat litter. Use it sparingly so you can just dump and refill the pan rather than scooping.
- A few, small garbage bags
- Latex gloves
- Hand sanitizing wipes (can also be used to clean bowls, etc.)
- Food and water bowls (disposable food storage containers with lids are ideal)
- Canned cat food with flip top lids. Canned is best since it contains most of the water a cat will need, but if your cat is used to dry, include a zip-lock bag of that as well
- A small bottle of water (8 ounces should last a cat for 3 days)
- A week’s supply of any medications your cat takes
- An envelope (ideally waterproof) that contains the following:
- Your cat’s picture, license number, and microchip number/company (in case you get separated)
- Veterinary records including vaccinations and any pertinent health information
- Phone numbers for your regular veterinarian and a nearby 24 hour vet hospital
- Two pet-friendly places to which you could evacuate (one nearby and one further away)
Including a feline first aid kit is also a good idea. More on that tomorrow.
Dr. Jennifer Coates