Going through our emergency supplies is a task I try to tackle yearly. This time while replacing soon-to-expire food and refreshing our water supply, I realized we had nothing stored for our cat.

Luckily there is a lot of information out there on what an emergency supply kit for pets should contain. Ready.gov is a great place to start for a list of emergency supplies for pets. Most of the things they recommend for a pet emergency supply kit are items I already had on hand. With the list it was easy to gather most of the supplies and put them in a plastic tub.

Beyond basic supplies, Ready.gov recommends a few things that wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise, like printed copies of our pet’s medical and vaccination records. If our cat needed to be boarded, we would need to show proof of vaccination. A printed photo of our family with the cat is another item that could help us prove ownership should we become separated. A written feeding and medicine schedule can let others who may need to step in and care for our cat know what to do. These papers should be sealed in a plastic bag inside our kit.

It’s a good idea to gather the essentials to meet your pet’s daily needs in case of an emergency. Photo credit: Lauri Martin

The online tips all made great sense, but I wondered what else a pet owner could do to prepare for a disaster or emergency situation. I talked to friend and local veterinarian, Alena Cowell, DVM, of Hawks Prairie Veterinary Hospital. “The best thing you could do is get your dog or cat microchipped,” Alena says, “and include your contact information in the database.” In an emergency, pets can easily spook and run off. Vets and animal shelters check found animals for chips, so owners can be located. A microchip won’t fall off or break away like a collar or tag can. It is also important to make sure contact information is up-to-date in the database.

I had a small first aid kit in our family emergency box, and wondered if it might suffice for our cat as well. Most of the supplies it contains could work for our cat too since she is small. However, Alena thought another roll of cotton bandage could be added and she stressed to never give our pet any human pills like aspirin or acetaminophen, which are toxic for animals. For people with several pets or larger animals, a dedicated animal-oriented first aid kit would be a good idea. Ready-made kits can be found online, or you can build your own.

Pet Emergency Planning blanket
A favorite blanket and toy can be comforting to pets in stressful situations. Photo credit: Lauri Martin

The Red Cross is an excellent resource. They’ve put out a list to make your own pet first aid kit. They’ve published an inexpensive pet first aid book and have both pet and human first aid apps. These could come in very handy in any emergency.

Another item Alena thinks could be crucial if you have a dog or other large animal is a muzzle. Even the gentlest animal can bite if scared or in pain, so muzzling may be necessary. A length of string or cord can be made into an improvised muzzle by looping it over the snout and behind the ears. An illustration of temporary small animal muzzles is shown by Washington State Animal Rescue Team (WASART). WASART is a volunteer organization whose members work to aid animals in emergency and disaster situations. Their website is also an excellent resource for emergency preparation for all types of pets as well as livestock.

Pet Emergency Supply Kit

  • Carrier for each pet
  • Food/water for 3-7 days
  • Non-breakable food/water bowls
  • Flea prevention medication
  • Prescription pet medication
  • Collar/harness and ID tags
  • Leash
  • Newspaper
  • Plastic bags
  • Paper towels
  • Disinfectant
  • Litter and litter pan (cat)
  • Bedding (other small pets)
  • Blanket/Toys
  • First aid supplies
  • Webbing or muzzle
  • Map
  • Photo of family w/ pet
  • Vaccination and medical records
  • Your vet’s contact information

If evacuation is necessary, take your pets with you. As the ASPCA emphasizes, “If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets.” This is where some advance planning is important because most emergency or evacuation centers don’t allow animals. Therefore searching in advance for possible safe havens for our pets, like pet-friendly homes of friends and family, hotels, kennels or boarding options 30, 60 or even 90 miles away is a good idea.

Many agencies recommend getting a printed map and marking the locations of vet hospitals, pet-friendly hotels and boarding options on it. The map should be stored in your kit and would be an easy visual reference for where to go and how to get there. A paper map assures you will have that information even if you don’t have cell or internet service.

Animals pick up on our feelings. “If you’re fearful and stressed, they’ll know it,” Alena explains. Smaller animals may cower away in a corner or under furniture, so knowing your pet’s common hiding places is important. It can also be difficult to put a frightened or injured animal in a carrier or crate. In this instance, Alena recommends carefully wrapping the animal in a “blanket burrito,” then putting the animal, blanket and all, inside the carrier. The blanket will act as a cushion in the carrier and allow the pet to burrow and calm itself.

Being prepared, and knowing what to do to keep your family and pet safe at home during an emergency will help everyone remain calm. And in case of an evacuation, the advance preparation will help us act quickly, confident that we have the necessities.

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