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Woof Wednesday: DISASTER! Plan Ahead

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magic in paintbrush

Storm showers do bring flowers.

I’m tired of the wind and weather—how about you? I’ve written about disaster prep way too often recently but now again with fires in Western states, hurricane season upon us, and tornadoes whirling through my neighborhood, it bears repeating.  When Mother Nature throws a tantrum, you have no time to waste. Keeping your human and furry family safe can prove daunting unless you’ve made advanced preparations.

Watch weather reports. When weather turns ify, bring all pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them. Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and up-to-date identification. If you have nothing else handy, use a felt-tip marker and write your phone number and name on the pet’s tummy.

Designate a “safe room” in the house to confine pets until the all clear. Many homes in North Texas don’t have basements or storm cellars. An internal room without windows, often a bathroom without windows, can be a good option. At my house, Seren gets stuffed into her cat carrier and placed inside the pantry situated under the stairs. It’s big enough that the humans and Magical Dawg can fit inside, too.

Seren is NOT a fan of the carrier--but it's the safest spot for her.

If you must evacuate, take your pets along. It may be days before authorities allow you to return home. If you’ve got to evacuate, find a hotel, friend, or other accommodations in advance that will let you bring your dogs and cats.

Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, to the pet’s collar tags. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet’s ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen. Write directly on a flat nylon collar or halter to make it easy for a stranger to read the information.

In addition to providing for human family members, have a “pet kit” ready to take along that contains a three-day supply of all the pet essentials. If easily packed, take an extra towel or blanket for each pet. Don’t forget sturdy leashes, harnesses, carriers or X-pens for safe confinement.


Carriers for the small pets are a necessity!

Most facilities will require your cats and dogs to be under your control, and may also require proof of current vaccination. Include a favorite comfort toy or treat, the pet’s food and can opener if needed, and don’t forget water—one quart per cat-size pet per day (more for big dogs) is a good rule of paw. One of the pheromone spray products such as Comfort Zone/DAP for dogs or Feliway for cats can help relieve the stress of being in a strange environment.

Have plenty of plastic bags and newspapers as well as containers and cleaning supplies to help deal with pet waste. Puppy training pads or Depends undergarments work well.

Prepare for the unthinkable, too. Include current photos of your pets in case they get lost, and bring a first-aid kit to care for possible injuries. Include disposable latex gloves, sterile dressings, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, eyewash, thermometer, and any prescription medications your pets need. You can find more specifics in “The First-Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats.”

Your evacuation kit should also include a cell phone, flashlight, extra batteries, battery powered radio, map of area, whistle/air horn to signal for help, and matches in a waterproof container. Keep a list of emergency numbers with your phone, including a pet emergency clinic number and shelters that may temporarily house animals. Keep your car tank filled with at least half a tank at all times.


A halter and leash gives you something to grab.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides information and relief for human victims of disaster, and also offers more information about pet disaster planning. also offers great disaster preparation information for pet owners.

Have you ever had to ride out a storm with your pets? How did you manage the situation? Did you evacuate and take the fur-kids with you, or were you forced to leave them behind? That would just about kill me…I’d likely risk my life and stay with them, if it came down to it. Be ready for Mother Nature’s “what if” surprises now and prepare for the worst. Then pray that you and your pets will never need this information.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

5 responses »

  1. How helpful, Amy!

    I’ve never had to worry about this – thank Heavens! I would never leave my kids behind. That’s right; I said it. My kids are my animals! 🙂 I have taken my kids into the bathroom with me when the tornado siren has sounded….but they are usually following me around by that point anyway so it’s not hard to wrangle them up. My guy says they feed off my emotions and that I’ve ruined them with my fear of storms.

    • Hey Tiffany, pets DO reflect our emotions. But it’s not that you’ve ruined them…some pets are more stressed by storms than others (just like people) and it’s hard to know if they’d be any different. It’s a good thing they follow you and stay close–very positive!

  2. I heard the craziest story on NPR after one of the recent tornadoes about a guy who had his two dogs on leashes and they were getting sucked up into the storm and the guy held on, almost like the dogs were kites(!). I’m not sure what was keeping the guy on the ground, but they were all ok in the end.

    The harness and leash for the cats is a good idea, because I know my cats move fast even when they’re not freaked out. One does cardio at least twice a day by scampering full speed– a few laps around the house usually is enough.

  3. Oh my goodness, Tina–that’s an image I won’t get out of my mind any time soon! Poor dogs.

    My Seren-kitty also still does kitty cardio with the 5 o’clock “zooms” around the house, LOL!

  4. Pingback: Woof Wednesday: Fire Safety « Amy Shojai's Blog

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