Heres Everything You Need To Know To Protect Your Pet During A Natural Disaster

Do you know what you need in your survival backpack? Have you practiced your evacuation route? Here is a reminder (and tips) of the things you need know and do to be prepared if a natural disaster happens.

No one knows how to react under unexpected circumstances. Though we might be informed and prepared to handle natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, or floods, the truth is that when they happen, we might not always think clearly. So, the first thing we need to do is to calm ourselves down in order to know how to act. Each situation requires its own proceedings; should I stay home or should I get away as soon as possible? Do I have time to grab the things I may need? Should I protect myself first or try to carry my pets? There are some general rules you should keep in mind, so you and your four-legged loved ones are safe, and you should come up with an evacuation plan for each scenario. However, here are the basic things you need to do and have in order to be prepared to handle disasters with a pet.

Picture by @pets

Make A Plan

Being prepared will save you time and can make a difference in these situations. You need to remain calm and get your belongings ready in case you need to leave. Here are the basic steps you must consider:

Leash: Always keep it on hand since it is the most important thing when evacuating. If your pet gets stressed out easily or tends to be aggressive with strangers, tie a yellow ribbon to the leash, so people know that your pet needs space.

Evacuation: Create an evacuation plan or follow the one authorities give you. Practice the evacuation route every once in a while or whenever there’s a drift so you and your pet get acquainted to space and movement and can successfully coordinate your easy way out (keep in mind that cats tend to run away at the moment of the event since they look for their own shelter. When the event happens, be ready to grab your cat before anything else).

Shelters: Some of these may not accept pets because of health regulations. So, before the event, make a list of hotels or pet-friendly shelters that can work for you.

Pet Care Buddy: You should also consider that any of these events can happen while you’re at work. Talk to a neighbor or close friend that lives nearby, so that they help your pet, if you can't make it home. Show them your evacuation routine, where you’ve placed the “survival backpack” and the peculiarities of your pet (so they know how to handle them).


This step is crucial since your dog or cat may run away looking for shelter on their own. In order to prevent your pet from getting lost or any further complications after leaving your house, this is the documentation you need to keep on hand so you can put it quickly in your survival backpack. Remember to always store important documents in waterproof containers.

Tags: Your pet's tag should include your cell phone number, address, and name. If your pets get lost, this information will quite crucial for them to come back to you. If possible, also place a microchip in your pet, since tags can fall off.

Vaccination: If your pet is allowed to go to a shelters, they will require for you to have their vaccination documents in order and updated.

Pictures (printed): It’s important to carry recent printed pictures of your pet and to remember their particular traits or characteristics.

Picture by @madfluffs

The Survival Backpack

The best thing to do would be to have two backpacks: one for you and one for your pet. However, for practical purposes, it may be more convenient to pack for both in one single backpack. These are the following items you must pack in advance:

Food and Water: Place at least a five day's supply for each. DO NOT allow your pet to drink tap water after a disaster since it may be contaminated. Canned food is the best choice because it’s wet and can reduce your pet's thirst, just don’t forget to take a can opener (it is essential). And check the expiration dates.

First Aid Kit: Self-adhesive and regular bandages, tape, alcohol, scissors, cotton wool and gauze are the basics. You can also include medications, if your pet is on a specific treatment, and you should pack a five-day supply of these too. Also, check their expiration date.

Favorite Toy: Carry toys or items that do not take up a lot of space and that are not too heavy. This will be very useful for your pooch to handle stress.


Picture by @amevipix

If you have time, consider grabbing your pet’s carrier. Your pet should be able to stand, turn around, and lie down without difficulties. It’d be great if you could try the carrier as soon as you buy it, so your pooch or cat can get used to it. If they are not used to it, they will feel constrained and their stress levels will increase.

Stress Relievers

Anxiety changes the way pets behave. Some may turn aggressive if they find themselves surrounded by strangers or other pets. Keep them leashed and away until they calm down. If you’re permitted into a shelter, you might want to take them for a walk within the space so they get familiar with their surroundings. Some might need a few hours to relax, while others will only interact successfully after a few days. Your vet should know about products that help with anxiety; there are some meds or sprays that'll do the trick, and you can spray them inside the carrier.


Pack litter, a litter box, and plastic bags (they will be needed eventually).

Rescue Alert Sticker

You should place this near your front door. This way, when aid comes, people will know there are pets inside. If you are able to take your pets with you, cross out the sticker as a sign of “evacuated.”

Picture by FEMA

Unfortunately, pets are susceptible to suffer the consequences of these disasters (1 in 3 owners do not know what to do in case of a disaster according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA]). We may be taken by surprise by any of these disasters, that is why it’s so important to know how to act. At the of the day, our pets are our family and the key is to be prepared. Remember that you are their source of comfort, so try to remain calm and focused, so they don’t get upset. Also, don’t forget that you should be ready to improvise, according to your circumstances.

Cover image by @zachallia

Special thanks for the information to Dr. Astrid Gonzalez Cadena, veterinarian specializing in evacuation and care of pets during disasters.


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