No matter where you live, there is likely some form of natural disaster that could potentially threaten your home and your family. Whether the disaster is a widespread event (such as a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, or flood) or a more focused threat (such as a house fire or gas leak), being prepared could mean the difference between life and death.

Make a plan ahead of time. Don’t wait for a disaster to strike. By then, it may be too late. Be sure to include your cat in your emergency plan as well. Here are some pointers.

  • Never leave your cat behind if you need to evacuate your home, even if you believe you will only be gone for a short period of time. Sometimes unforeseen complications occur. Once you are out of the area, you may not be allowed to go back for your cat.
  • Pack an emergency kit and keep it handy. You should have a carrier large enough to house your cat if necessary. A collapsible carrier is acceptable and can make storage easier. Be sure to mark the carrier clearly with your cat’s name, your name, and your contact information. Include pertinent medical records in your emergency kit, including a list of any medications your cat needs to receive as well as vaccine certificates and licenses, if applicable. Pack food and water, enough to last for at least a few days for your cat. Don’t forget to include food and water dishes as well as a litter box. If your cat requires medication, keep at least enough to last for a few days on hand in your emergency kit. Keeping a first aid kit in your emergency kit is a good idea also. You can prepare your own or purchase a commercial pet first aid kit. Include a list of important phone numbers in your emergency kit also, including your veterinarian and an emergency veterinary facility, if available.
  • Be sure your cat has identification. Ideally, your cat should be wearing an identification tag or collar of some type that includes your contact information. Consider including a mobile phone number where you can be reached at all times. A microchip is also a good idea and can be essential if your cat gets lost in the confusion. The microchip may be the only link back to you if the identification tag/collar is lost. Be sure your cat’s microchip is registered and that your contact information is up-to-date.
  • Know where you will go in the event of an emergency. Whether the plan is to stay with a friend or family member, or in a hotel, be sure your cat is welcome. Remember that shelters such as those sponsored by the Red Cross frequently do not allow pets. Another option may be to board your cat at a local kennel facility or veterinary hospital. Keep in mind though that, in the event of a widespread disaster, local businesses may be affected as well. The veterinary hospital, kennel, hotel, or even the friend/family member you included in your plan may not be available to help. Consider formulating a plan that includes a local solution for housing as well as an alternative plan for housing further away, hopefully outside of the danger area.
  • Make sure all of your family members know the plan. Designate an area outside of your home to meet if you become separated. Consider asking a neighbor or someone else nearby to rescue and look after your cat if an emergency occurs while you are away from home.
  • Place stickers on your windows, doors, and other entrances into your home notifying emergency personnel entering your home that you have pets. You can usually obtain stickers from your local fire department.

We would all like to believe that emergencies happen only to others, that we will never be faced with such a situation. And I hope that’s true for all of you. But, if the worst does happen, taking the time beforehand to be prepared can save precious moments. Those moments just might be responsible for saving your life or the life of your cat.

Do you have an emergency plan in place? What important points have I forgotten to mention?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: John Morton / via Flickr