Preparing your domestic pets for a hurricane
Your pets should be treated as part of the family during a hurricane, tropical storm, or flood. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Like many homes, we consider our pets to be one of the family, and we treat them as such. We watch after their health, feed them premium food, and ensure they get the best of care. Therefore, it only makes sense to carefully consider they safety and well-being during a hurricane.
The first step to preparing your pet for a hurricane should begin well before hurricane season, and this includes a trip to your veterinarian. Have your pet checked out to ensure they have no underlying serious health conditions that should be addressed before the onset of a hurricane. Also, ask your vet for the appropriate prescription sedative for your pet. Then, whether your shelter in place or have to evacuate, your pet will be more relaxed and comfortable during the experience.
You should also ensure you have an adequate supply of any important prescription medications, food and water for your pet. This is especially important for life-sustaining medications such as insulin, since your vet's office may be closed and supplies limited on important medications for days or weeks after the passing of a hurricane. In my community, after hurricane Harvey several of the local veterinarian hospitals were flooded and closed for months after the storm.
Hurricane Safety For Your Pets
Perhaps the most important point I should emphasize regarding pet care during a hurricane is to NEVER leave your pet unattended! The dangers to a pet having to fend for themselves are too numerous to name. As part of your hurricane preparedness planning, you should make plans for their care, safety and well-being during a hurricane, tropical storm, or flood.
It is generally accepted among many animal behavioral experts that they can sense an approaching storm, and there's a chance your pet will instinctively panic and flee for shelter. Though this makes no sense to humans, it's a part of their innate behavior, and we need to plan for this eventuality. Therefore, you should keep your pets indoors or safety secured in the days before a strong storm or hurricane approaches. Cats are especially worrisome due to their ability to climb and jump so easily. But both cats and dogs should be carefully contained to prevent them from escaping before the storm.
During the hurricane, obviously, your pets should be in an indoor location, safe from the wind, rain or flood waters. A hurricane can be very frightening and traumatic for a pet, and they should be allowed to remain close to you and sleep in the same room, if practical. Some extra time and attention with your pet may go a long way toward helping them feel more secure and alleviate their stress during this difficult time.
Evacuating With A Pet
During the massive evacuation of the Harris County, Texas region before Hurricane Rita made landfall, an estimate 2.5 million people took to the roads in what was the largest evacuation in US history. During my conversations with numerous evacuees afterward, I heard many harrowing stories of people who where stuck in their vehicles for as long as 24 hours or more with one or more of the family pets. Hopefully, we will never see an evacuation like this one again, but even a much smaller and more orderly evacuation from a coastal region can be long and tedious for both man and animal!
As mentioned above, I strongly recommend a visit to your veterinarian before hurricane season begins and obtain a sedative for your pet. For most animals, this will allow them to sleep most of the time, which will hopefully result in a much less stressful trip for you and your pet.
You should also take along a pet carrier for all of your pets so they can be confined within your vehicle. For many pets, they feel much more secure in an enclosed area, and this will also help them to relax and sleep. Be sure to bring along their favorite toy and soft bedding (our dog prefers a fluffy pillow).
Obviously, you should bring plenty of food, fresh water, a water and food dish, and a can opener if you are bring canned foods. Also, remember to pack treats and any other comfort items to make your pet feel more at home.
A good sturdy leash is strongly recommended for each pet. During the Hurricane Rita evacuation, we were moving so slow that we were able to let the kids walk the dogs along the side of the road every hour or so to let them relieve themselves and stretch their legs. Just remember to always keep your pet on a leash during these times as they will be in a strange place and could easily get spooked and run away in the all of the commotion.
It's also a very good idea to pack your pet's medical records and vaccination papers. If you have to stay in a shelter, you will probably need to board your pet at a kennel, and they will need to have see this paperwork before doing so.
For cats, be sure to bring kitty litter, a litter box, and anything else needed for the care of your cat. All animals should have a collar with your name and contact information on an ID tag.
Finally, a list of pet friendly hotels along the route may prove to be very useful if you have to spend the night along the way. You can find the links to pet friendly hotel finders and other useful information on this site by clicking here.