Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins on June 1 and ends on November 30 — meaning that right now, we nearly to the middle of the season. Although this year has been calmer than others (knock on wood that it stays that way), having a hurricane preparedness plan for your pet is vital. As they say: prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
I live in the Tampa area of Florida, and last August, Hurricane Irma was a category five storm barreling straight toward my city. The whole city was in a state of panic. The families who lived along the coast headed inland or traveled north, mandatory evacuations and shelters were set up, and pets could feel the anxious energy in the air. Even more troubling — there were not nearly enough shelters that accepted pets.
Thankfully for my city (but woefully for others), the hurricane took a sudden turn and my city was not directly hit. However, it was clear that we needed an evacuation plan and ways keep pets calm.
Step One: Make a Pet Plan
Leaving your pets out of your evacuation plan can put you, first responders, and your pets at risk. Although hurricanes often come with fair warning, disaster can strike at any time and without a plan in place, you may not remember everything you need to do when acting in a panic.
Before a hurricane hits, sit down with a pen and paper and make a plan. My family has two plans: the evacuation plan, and the plan to ride the storm out at home. For example: if a storm is a category four or higher and we are in the direct path, we will evacuate. This takes the “should we? Shouldn’t we?” level of anxiety away. If the storm is lower than a category three, I know my home will be structurally sound and we will be safe to stay.
When making the evacuation plan, start by researching pet-friendly hotels where you can stay, or locate a pet-friendly shelter in your area. A full list of pet-friendly shelters can be found here: https://www.bringfido.com.
Remember: pet-friendly shelters and hotels will fill-up fast, so plan two or three backup locations. If there is no way that you can take your pet with you, boarding your pet at a safe facility (like Beautify the Beast or Fire Flake Farm) may be your best option. Although it may seem a last resort, never leave your pets home alone during an evacuation.
If you will be evacuating out of the area, make a list of the veterinarians and emergency veterinarians nearby where you will be staying. Storms and evacuation can cause pets to suffer extreme anxiety and may cause them to act out, so knowing where to take them in an emergency can be a huge help.
Step Two: Make a List of Supplies
No matter what you choose, it is important that you and your family know your plan and remember the small details including:
- Food and water bowls
- Extra blankets
- Enough food and water to last two weeks per pet
- Cat litter
- Piddle Pads (in case your pet cannot go outside for several hours)
- Prescriptions for two weeks
- CBD oil and other supplements your pet normally takes
- A photo of your pet
- A description of your pet
- Veterinary paperwork and vaccination records
- Collars with up-to-date tags
- Rescue alert stickers
- Special toys and beds for your pet
Step Two: Jump Into Action
Before a hurricane ever hits, make sure that your pets have up-to-date collars and tags. If you become separated with your pet, this may be the only way to find them. If your pet is microchipped, make sure to update your contact information. It is also helpful to make sure that any pet carriers, leashes, or harnesses are easy to find and still in usable condition. Make sure that any and all rescue alert stickers on your home are up-to-date as well.
As a Floridian, I know to keep a reserve of the supplies I made on my list during step one at all times. Stores will quickly sell out of many supplies that you might not think of (like dog and cat food, bottles of water, etc.) so during the summer I know to keep extras of those items. If a storm is coming and you haven’t had time to stock up, make sure to start as soon as you can. Fill any prescriptions for your pet and make sure that you have any supplements they may need during and after the storm. It is also recommended that you keep a current photo of your pet, as well as a description of your pet, and any of your pet’s medical records, to help in the event that you and your pet become separated.
If you plan to shelter at home, choose a safe room away from windows or outer doors, and remove anything potentially hazardous to pets. This includes plants that might be toxic or anything your pet might find on the floor. If you have a small dog or cats, make sure that air vents are closed and small spaces where they may become trapped are concealed. Your pet may become panicked during the storm and might try to hide, so knowing everywhere they could possible hide or get stuck can save time and energy later.
Step Three: Remain CALM
Hurricanes are enough to rattle even the most stoic human’s nerves, so it is important for you and your pet to remain calm. Remain patient with your pets during and after the storm — the shakeup in their routine can cause stress, and when coupled with the loud sounds of a storm or the stress of evacuating, can cause behavioral issues.
Using CALM from CBD Dog Health can be helpful in soothing anxiety (especially noise anxiety associated with storms). If you still have electricity, playing soothing music can also help relieve some of the stress for both yourself and your pet. It is also important that you try to keep their routine stable as much as possible.
After the hurricane has passed, make sure to remain calm when you take your dog outside, and do not unleash them until you have completely surveyed the damage. Although the damage may be stressful, staying safe is the most important and keeping yourself and your dog calm will help you recover from the storm.