Preparing Your Cat for an Emergency or Natural Disaster

by | Jun 23, 2022

Emergencies are, by their nature, unpredictable. They can occur at any time, to anyone, and the best we can do is to prepare for the unexpected. Experts recommend that each household or family have an emergency kit packed with essentials, a plan for where we might go if we have to evacuate, and ways to communicate with our loved ones. Unfortunately, pets are often forgotten when preparing emergency supply kits and pet parents can be caught off-guard during an actual emergency.

, Preparing Your Cat for an Emergency or Natural Disaster, The Comforted Kitty

A recent survey conducted by the ASPCA revealed that nearly half of the one in five pet owners that had to evacuate their homes reported leaving at least one pet behind. Almost 40% of those owners were unable to return for a minimum of four days, leaving their pets exposed to life-threatening situations, including a lack of food or water, exposure to the elements, and predation by wild animals.

Here are five critical components that will help boost your feline family member’s chances of surviving and thriving during any emergency situation.

Visibility

Although many people feel as if their cat would flee in the case of a fire or natural disaster, the sad truth is that most pets hide when they are frightened. All too often, first responders are unaware that the pets are even in the home, especially when the human residents are away. You can prevent this by prominently posting a rescue alert sticker on the front of your home. This alerts first responders to the number and type of pets that live in the home so they can check in closets and under beds.

Conditioning

Cats aren’t generally known for their trainability, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn. The VCA endorses using positive association and rewards to train cats to enter their crate on command. This step makes it easier to find your cat and get them ready to go in the event of an emergency. Cats that have developed a positive association with their carrier may even consider it a safe space to go to when frightened.

, Preparing Your Cat for an Emergency or Natural Disaster, The Comforted Kitty

Once they are familiar with their carriers, some pet parents go the extra mile by taking their favorite felines on car rides and other adventures. This helps condition their cat to be comfortable on the move as well as at home, making it easier to safely transport them under any circumstances.

Having an alternate caregiver or two that your cat is already comfortable with, such as a friend, family member, or trusted catsitter, can be invaluable during an emergency. These are the resources that can help coordinate your cat’s evacuation if you aren’t near enough to coordinate it yourself or care for your precious pet when you are unable to.

Kit Contents

A well-stocked and accessible emergency supply kit helps us to better respond to any situation, from personal injuries to natural disasters. Not only should a basic emergency or disaster supply kit have a first aid kit, as well as several days’ worth of food, water, and medications, but it should also include other supplies like flashlights, a can opener, and backup batteries for your handheld devices. Households that include a cat should add the following items to their checklist:

  • Bowls for food and water
  • Cat carrier
  • Cat food
  • Disposable litter box
  • Emergency numbers
  • Extra cat litter or paper towels
  • Extra water
  • Feline First Aid Kit
  • Leash and harness (if your cat is leash trained)
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Medical records
  • Microchip number

It’s also a good idea to keep a recent picture of you and your cat in your supply kit. This picture does double duty in a disaster. A picture of your cat can make it easier to locate them if they happen to get separated from the rest of the family. A picture of you and your cat also serves as a way to indicate ownership in a pinch, especially in the absence of a tag or microchip.

Identification

Your cat can’t tell someone who they belong to if they get separated from you, so some form of identification may be critical to your reunion. Equip your cat with a name tag, a microchip, or both to give them the best chance of returning home safely. A name tag can be easily read by anyone, but felines are notorious for slipping their collars. A microchip is helpful in that it lasts a lifetime and can’t be easily lost or removed, but it can’t be read without specialized equipment.

, Preparing Your Cat for an Emergency or Natural Disaster, The Comforted Kitty

Convenience

Whether you are evacuating your home, sheltering in place, or just need to stop a clipped claw from bleeding, having the right supplies handy can save you precious minutes. Even the most comprehensive emergency kit is useless during a disaster if it’s buried in the back of a closet somewhere. Make it as easy as possible to get to your resources in the event of an emergency. Ensure that your emergency supplies are both visible, even in low visibility situations, and easily accessible by anyone who might need to reach them.

As clever and independent as they are, our cats don’t have the skills to develop disaster plans or take care of themselves in the event of an emergency. They still need food, shelter, medical care, and companionship, despite what is happening in the world around them. It’s up to us as pet parents, to ensure that they get what they need to remain happy and healthy.

If you are looking for pet-friendly emergency sheltering or have animals besides cats or dogs, the following resources may help you prepare for an emergency:

Large animals and livestock in disasters by AMVA

How to Be Prepared for Emergencies With Your Parrot by PetHelpful

How to Build a Small Pet Emergency Kit

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