Becky works as a biological science technician in endangered species conservation, and has a passion for biology and wildlife conservation.
If the police or fire department knocked on the front door of your home at this exact moment and gave you 5–10 minutes to evacuate, what would you do? If you heard a tornado warning on the radio or if a tropical storm is suddenly elevated up to hurricane status (leaving you very little time to prepare), do you have a plan?
A disaster or other emergency situation can occur unexpectedly within hours, minutes, or even seconds. Not only should you have a preparedness plan for all the people in your family, but you should have one for your pets! What if taking a little time now means you'll be able to save your pets in the future?
Being prepared before a disaster occurs may give you the few extra minutes you need to save your beloved animal family members. Put together a Pet Emergency Kit today!
- Remember: The safety of people should always be the top priority in an emergency.
- This article isn't discussing first aid kits for pets (even though a pet owner should always have one). This article discusses pet bug-out kits, and they're a necessity if there's an emergency requiring you to evacuate your home. All you'll have to do is grab your pets and the emergency kit and then get out. Your evacuation will be quick, your animals won't need to be left behind in dangerous conditions, and you'll have everything you need to properly care for them while you wait for the disaster to pass.
Things to Consider When Making Your Kit
- Quantity and Type of Pet(s): Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, and aquatics all have different needs and you'll need to pack your pet's bug-out kit accordingly. Another, more heart-wrenching thing to consider involves some pets being easier to evacuate than others. There may be an emergency during which you can only help a couple of your pets instead of all them. It's can be a tough thing to do, but have a plan that encompasses possibilities like this.
- Type of Disaster: Different types of emergencies call for different responses. You need to hunker down in a safe spot during tornadoes and earthquakes but need to evacuate quickly when threatened by a wildfire. Think about the different disasters that could potentially happen to you and plan for them accordingly.
- Accessibility: An emergency kit should be kept somewhere handy and should be easy to access. Storing it in the back of a packed and messy shed won't help you because you may end up wasting valuable time trying to get to it.
- Storage: How much space do you have to store the emergency kit? How much space do you need in order to store all the necessary supplies? How will you be evacuating? Kits can be stored in backpacks, plastic totes/boxes, or other types of containers. Choose a container that will work for you and your family.
- Store the kit where it cannot be damaged by water or pests (like mice).
- If any of the supplies have the possibility of leaking (such as a bottle of hand sanitizer), store them in seal-able plastic baggies.
- If any of the supplies are easily damaged by water (like medical records and paper towels), also store them in seal-able baggies or containers.
- Food will expire eventually. Routinely throw out or cycle through the food kept in the emergency kit to keep it fresh and healthy for your animals.
Tips on Preparation and Budgeting
- Have travel cages ready beforehand. Keep a dog's or cat's pet carrier assembled, complete with snuggly blanket already inside. For hamsters, reptiles, and other animals, have a travel cage ready to go, including the substrate.
- Consider putting a Rescue Alert Sticker in one of your windows so emergency personnel will know there are animals inside your home (for situations when you're not home). You can order one online entirely for free or you can make one.
- Can't afford extra supplies for a kit? You'll find tons of useful stuff at your local discount or dollar store. Or recycle old things you were going to throw out anyway (old ratty towels make good dog blankets in an emergency). Having anything is better than having nothing. You can also budget $5 a month towards getting supplies and put your kit together over a several months or more.
Suggested Supplies Checklist
Important paperwork (medical records, veterinarian phone numbers, list of boarding kennels or hotels that allow pets, etc)
Photos of your pets (used to prove ownership in the event you are separated)
3-7 days of food (consider including wet canned food for dogs and cats because it has higher moisture content)
Toys & treats
Food and water dishes
Restraint supplies such as extra collars, harnesses, leashes, pet carriers/crates, a pillowcase (used to hold a pet secure while checking it for health issues)
Animal waste disposal: dog poo bags, disposable litter box (an aluminum roasting pan works), litter
Basic first aid supplies
Miscellaneous items such as garbage bags, blankets, paper towels, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, flashlight
Reptile/Amphibian/Invertebrate-specific supplies: travel cage, extra substrate, misting bottle for tropical species, water dish, food, water dechlorinator, heating pad or spare basking light, extension cords
Small mammal-specific supplies: travel cage, extra drinking bottles, food, chew toys, toilet paper tube or box for a hide, extra bedding, nesting material
Bird-specific supplies: travel cage, misting bottle (for hot weather), bedding, net, food, water dish, a towel or other sort of cage cover
Example: My Own Pet Emergency Kit
I myself have quite the menagerie of pets, and I love them all dearly. I can't even imagine leaving any one of them behind during an evacuation, which is why I've done my best to prepare beforehand.
In my climate, disasters can include tornadoes, wildfires, flash flooding, blizzards, and perhaps a few others I haven't even thought of. In addition to these, as a kid I lived in hurricane territory, and I can distinctly remember all the steps my parents went through to prepare for those vicious storms.
With those in mind, this is the thought process behind preparing my pets' kit:
- Not only do I have two dogs and a cat, but I also have several turtles, tortoises, tarantulas, hermit crabs, a salamander, a betta fish, and a snail. I planned for all of them, and it wasn't even too difficult!
- My reptiles/amphibians/hermit crabs: Supplies I included in the kit are a couple extension cords (because outlets in hotels are notoriously always out-of-reach), heat lamps, thermostats, moss for maintaining humidity, a misting bottle, dishes, and some freeze-dried food. I also chose appropriately-sized storage containers and tupperware dishes as travel cages because they were a good balance between the most basic needs of the animals and the ease of being able to carry and evacuate them out.
- Example: My tortoises are accustomed to large indoor tortoise tables and huge outdoor pens. But for the sake of being able to save their lives quickly and easily, I opted for stackable plastic drawers which, although a bit small, are still several times the width and length of my pets. The drawers are sturdy, hold substrate well, and maintain a good humidity while still providing ventilation. And because they stack, I can fit them into my car quite easily. Each travel cage is stored out-of-sight in the same room the animals' indoor enclosures are in, ensuring they are quickly accessible.
- My tarantulas: They're already kept in lightweight, easy-to-move, and secure cages. To evacuate them, I only need to stack their enclosures carefully into a box (which I keep nearby).
- My dogs and cat: I packed important paperwork, blankets, treats, one toy each, leashes, a litterbox, dog poo bags, and travel carriers.
- Miscellaneous items: zip ties, trash bags, spare dishes and tupperware containers, a couple bottles of water, anti-bacterial ointment, a saline wound wash, a few paper plates, and hand sanitizer. You never know what might be useful, and they all fit in the kit, so why not?
I appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I would absolutely love to hear from you! Do you have any fun stories to share about your pets? Are there any articles you'd like to see in the future? Please leave a comment or contact me. And if you have a moment, browse through my other articles.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Leah25 on March 30, 2018:
Thanks for this, best I have seen for evacuating non-mammal pets so far. I have a cat, 2 rabbits, 2 RES turtles and a large fish. I have been trying to start prepping for them and don't think the mammals will be too difficult, but I am wondering if you have any ideas on keeping water turtles and fish going for a few days to a week in plastic totes without electricity... Turtles require there heat and UV lamps and the fish requires oxygenated water...plus I'd have to move them and all our human evacuation gear in my small SUV. Any ideas would be appreciated, thanks.