Hurricane and Pets 101

It doesn’t matter if you are sheltering in place or going to a pet-friendly evacuation center, your pets have special considerations.

Don’t get caught by surprise during the hurricane season and use my handy checklist to make sure you have everything you need to keep your pets happy and safe during hurricane situations.

The official hurricane season is June 1 through November 30.  Mid-August until late October is the peak of the season.

The time to prepare for a hurricane is long before there is a tropical depression in the Atlantic basin.

Oftentimes, pets and their safety are overlooked until it is just too late to properly prepare.  Please don’t let your pet be one of those sad faces we all see on the news after a natural disaster!

Just prepare early, I’m even leaving you a handy checklist to make preparations super easy.

A few months ago I relocated from New York to Florida, and I have to say, I am super excited to not have to see below-freezing temperatures or snow this winter. But now I have a new challenge. Hurricanes.

PREPARE EARLY

Being prepared for hurricanes is invaluable. I’m sure you have seen the news reports where a hurricane has been announced, and the next thing you know, every gallon of water, loaf of bread, flashlight, box of matches, you name it, is gone from the shelves.

That is why at the beginning of every hurricane season, residents are encouraged to be ready and start stocking up on the necessities early.

First and foremost, when it comes to dealing with any type of natural disaster, please follow all local city and state recommendations.

EVACUATION ORDER

If you should be placed under an evacuation order, please do not leave your furry family members behind!

If you cannot take them with you, contact a local animal shelter and inquire about emergency housing.

Almost all animal shelters and city municipalities will have evacuation centers for both people and animals in place. In fact, a lot of the evacuation centers for people will house your pets with you.

LARGE ANIMALS

In areas with large animals, often there will be housing set up for horses and small ruminants as well.

Think fairgrounds, horse race tracks, or other similar facilities.  These places fill up fast so I recommend you figure this one out early in the season.

If your large animals will be riding out the storm in a pasture you are going to need to have some grease markers designed for marking identification on farm animals.  Do not put any halters or other items on your animals that could get caught on anything.

Instead, you can get a pet ID tag, attach it to a string and braid it into a mane or a tail.  But don’t use anything long enough to get caught up in fences, limbs, or other debris.

It’s common practice to cut horses and cattle loose during these storms with the thoughts that the animals know how to protect themselves during storms.  I’ve personally had to deal with this when I couldn’t get my horse out of the Tampa area.  It’s a hard choice to make, but they don’t allow farm animals at the shelters……

EVACUATION CENTER

Not all evacuation centers accept pets, check with the center first.

If you are going to be evacuating or going to an evacuation center with your pets, there are a few things that are a must.

VACCINATIONS REQUIRED

Firstly, your pets should absolutely be up to date on all of their vaccinations, if they are not already.

At the minimum, they should be vaccinated for Rabies, as is required by law, so long as they are over the age of 3-4 months.

Make sure you have a copy of these records with you as well (keep them in a ziplock baggie for water protection), that way you will have everything necessary for proof of vaccinations.

CARRIERS AND CRATES

You will also need carriers and crates for your pets. When going into a shelter, typically all pets will be required to remain confined. Safety first, always.

This is when crate training really comes in to play, but that is for another post. Remember, crate training, if done appropriately, creates a safe space for your pet, and they will be more comfortable when in a scary or new environment.

Realistically, you should also use cages and crates at home during an emergency. For example, when I rode out Hurricane Irma, I put my two cats into their carriers during the most severe part of the storm.

This allowed me to know where they were at all times, and I didn’t have to run around frantically trying to find them if things got worse.

COLLARS AND IDENTIFICATION

Collars and identification tags are a MUST!!! Please, please, please make sure your pet has a collar on at all times with an identification tag. Ideally, these tags will have your pet’s name, your most current phone number, and your address.

Some people even put the name of their veterinarian or the clinic they use regularly. This will make it so much easier to reunite you with your furry friend should you be separated at any time. This goes for cats too!

If you have your pet microchipped make sure your information on file with the microchip company is up to date.

That is the number one problem I have discovered with microchips; either the information is outdated and not working, or worse, the chip was never registered to begin with!

Another good practice would be to have photos of you with your pets in case you become separated.  A photo makes it easier for animal aid workers to verify that the pet is yours.

SANITATION NEEDS

You’re going to need waste bags for cleaning up behind dogs.

Cats and kittens will need a litter box.

Paper towels and a bottle of bleach water that is 1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts of water for cleaning up accidents.

Trash bag for collecting pet waste.

HEARTWORM, FLEA & TICK PREVENTION

I would also strongly encourage everyone to have their pets on heartworm and flea/tick prevention if they are not on it already.

This means that you will need to see your local veterinarian to have a heartworm test performed and to purchase prevention.

If you are on a tight budget, your vet may be willing to write you a prescription to purchase medications through an online vendor, such as Chewy.com or 1-800-PetMeds.

This, of course, is at their discretion. Hurricane Katrina really opened everyone’s eyes to how quickly heartworm disease can spread, and I’m not just talking about in the deep south.

A lot of the dogs recovered from New Orleans and Mississippi were transported to other states, and heartworm disease quickly spread to all 50 states.

FOOD AND WATER

Whether or not you are going to an evacuation center, you will need to have enough food and water on hand, not just for yourself, but for your pets.

I recommend a minimum of 3-5 days worth of food and water for each pet in the home.

For water, I would have no less than 2 gallons of water per pet. Of course, this number will be lower for smaller animals, and higher for larger animals.

PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS

If your pets are on any medications for previous medical conditions, make sure you have enough stock to last for several days to weeks.

If you have a diabetic animal, make sure you have a way to keep insulin refrigerated. One time I used a thermal container with ice to keep my cat’s insulin cool for several days.

OTHER COMFORT ITEMS

Other things to have on hand; bedding/blankets for pets to sleep on (these things also smell like home and familiar should you have to take them to an evacuation center), toys, extra leashes, and food/water dishes.

HURRICANE PET SAFETY CHECKLIST

Just to recap everything from above, I made ya’ll a handy checklist for when you’re getting your hurricane/disaster preparedness kit together.

  • Make sure all vaccinations are up to date and have official documentation
  • Heartworm, flea and tick prevention
  • Keep all records in a ziplock baggie or other waterproof containers
  • Collars for all pets with identification tags that have the most current and up to date contact information for you
  • Leashes
  • Crates, carriers or cages for your pets
  • Waste bags and litter if appropriate
  • A 3-5 day food and water supply, no less than 2 gallons of water, but remember this can be more or less depending on the number of pets and the size of each pet
  • Food and water dishes
  • Medications, don’t forget if your pet is on a medication that needs to be refrigerated, you will need to consider what items you may need to keep the medication cool.
  • Bedding/Blankets
  • Toys
Photo by Hannah Reding

I know this post pertains mostly to dogs and cats, but don’t forget about your small pocket pets, birds and fish too!

And remember, the best way to deal with natural disasters is to be prepared and to do it early! I hope this post helps ya’ll and it was a great reminder to me that there are some things I also need to prepare in my own home