Natural disasters routinely grab the headlines, yet most of us don't prepare for them -- even though a fire, hurricane, or hazardous spill can send you and your pets fleeing. Have you taken steps to safeguard your cat or dog in an emergency?
"Think about the weather and geological hazards in your area as well as technological things, like blackouts," says Cheryl Eia, JD, DVM, MPH. Then prepare without delay. Eia is a veterinarian and coordinator of emergency preparedness and response for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Lay the groundwork. Be sure your cat or dog has some ID, whether it's an implanted microchip, tattoo, or waterproof pouch with your contact information attached to their collar. Before a crisis strikes, figure out who can take your pet in an emergency. Ask your veterinarian for boarding recommendations or a nearby animal care center if it provides emergency shelter.
Prepare a pet emergency kit. Include pet food and water in secure bottles and no-spill bowls. "For an evacuation, you want to have about 2 weeks of food and water," Eia says.
Add all pet medications, along with a pet first-aid kit. Record the dose and frequency for each drug. Provide a contact list that includes your veterinarian.
Add toys, treats, and blankets -- things "that are familiar to your pet," Eia says. Pack a leash, collar, or harness as well as a muzzle to prevent your pet from biting strangers who handle them. To transport your pet, get a collapsible cage with bedding. Label all carriers with your identification and contact information.
Your pet evacuation kit should also contain proof of ownership: pet registration information, adoption papers, proof of purchase, microchip information, and a description of your pet, Eia says. Write down breed, age, gender, color, and any distinguishing characteristics.
Finally, for easy reunions, Eia says, "take photographs of you and your animals and put them in your kit."