Planning for a natural disaster can be the difference between life and death for your pet cat. Don’t assume your pet will be okay for a few days without you. If she’s left behind, she can get lost, become malnourished, or get hurt from the disaster. Although emergencies are not always foreseen – especially evacuations due to a terrorist attack or sudden fire – having a pre-planned course of action can help reduce the risk of your pet being left alone to fend for herself.
Disaster plans aren’t only necessary for the safety of dogs and cats. Pet guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, snakes, feral and outdoor cats, horses, animals on farms all need help when disaster strikes. While an easy-to-see sticker on or near your front door will let rescue workers know your home includes pets who need help during a fire or other emergency, let’s talk about choosing a safe-haven for your cat should you have to leave.
If you’re home, city, or state isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your cat. She may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Find a few safe places to go should disaster strike and identify ahead of time local veterinarians and hotels that will accept your cat. Be especially aware of the social-distancing rules that may apply and ask a lot of questions. It will be a lot easier on you if you get all of this out of the way now before you are under the stress of having to evacuate.
If you decide to stay home, be sure to keep your cat safe, and that means to keep her with you. Close doors and block off unsafe areas in your house so she can’t roam around and get trapped. Cats will often search for a cozy, little cubby hole to hide when they are frightened. This can have dire consequences. Be aware this can happen and keep a close eye on her at the first sign of dangerous weather.
A flashlight and plenty of water in case the power goes out is one of those common-sense things we all know we should do but somehow never get around to. Think about the welfare of yourself and your cat and do it.
Bring your cat with you if a natural disaster strikes and identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accepts cats. Prepare an emergency kit for you and your cat. Pack for your cat as you would for yourself.
An ID tag on your cat is essential. Whether she is microchipped or has ID and updated tags around her collar, she must always have proper identification in case you get separated. In addition to her name on the collar, add YOUR name, plus your telephone number and microchip number, so someone can easily contact you when she is found. The fact is most people who find your cat will simply look at the collar and call you. Why make them go the extra step of having to find out how to find you via the microchip? While the chip is a good idea, your phone number is key. If your cat has medical needs, add those to the tag too.
This next suggestion is one of those annoying paperwork things no one likes to do, but make the calls and check that her tag and microchip and records are updated. It won’t do much good if someone finds your cat and calls an old phone number to let you know the good news.
Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. If you do, there’s a greater risk that not only will you be hurt, but that emergency officials will tell you that you must leave your cat behind. Waiting until the last minute also increases the possibility of smoke or the sound of high winds, thunder, or sirens to make your cat fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuate before conditions become severe and save you and your cat from undue stress.
Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust. Don’t allow your cat to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and she can easily get disoriented and lost. She can also get hurt by debris like roofing nails and broken glass. While you assess the damage, keep your cat in her carrier inside the house.
Be patient with your cat. If the disaster stressed you, imagine what it did to your cat. Be prepared for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. Try to get her back into her normal routine as soon as possible but if behavioral problems persist, discuss it with your vet.
Every cat is different. Different personalities, different emotional preferences. Give your cat whatever you think she needs as soon as you return home. After you’ve checked your home and yard that no harmful objects are lying around, let her out of her carrier, and begin the journey back to normalcy. If she enjoys affection, be sure to make yourself available. If she “needs her space,” go ahead and give it to her but keep an eye on her safety first. If you know your cat well enough, that playtime with you cheers her up, go ahead and spend that extra time with her. Notice her. Care about her. That’s often the only thing she’ll need to get her feeling safe and happy at home with you again.
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