Emergency Planning Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe During a Crisis or Natural Disaster

Updated on August 6, 2019
Room of My Own profile image

Sadie Holloway, a proud cat parent, is a strong advocate for adopting pets from animal shelters and rescue organizations.

What would you do if you and your pet had to evacuate your home in the middle of an emergency? Would you have your pet's supplies ready to go on short notice? These tips will help you be prepared.

"Wait! Don't leave without me!"  If your pets could talk, what would they want you to know about planning for an emergency?
"Wait! Don't leave without me!" If your pets could talk, what would they want you to know about planning for an emergency?

Few pet lovers would ever consider leaving their beloved pets behind in the middle of a natural disaster or emergency, such as a house fire. Pets are family members too, and their safety and well-being should be at the forefront of your mind, especially when disaster strikes. But keeping pets safe in an emergency involves more than just whisking them away in a pet carrier as you quickly evacuate your home. How will you take care of them when you and your family get to a safe place?

In a recent issue of AnimalSense1 magazine, Bob Busch from the BC SPCA said, "People don't necessarily think about their pets in an emergency situation until it's too late. You don't have time to gather up everything you need if you have to get out of your home right away."

If you had to evacuate your home because of a flood or forest fire, having an emergency kit for your pet can save your precious time so that you, your family, and your pets can get away safely.
If you had to evacuate your home because of a flood or forest fire, having an emergency kit for your pet can save your precious time so that you, your family, and your pets can get away safely.

Emergency Kit Checklist

Have you got an emergency kit packed up and ready to go in the event of a natural disaster or crisis? Here's a checklist of supplies you'll need to take with you to care for your pet in the middle of a crisis, natural disaster, or other critical emergency:

  • 3–7 day supply of food
  • Fresh water (one gallon per animal per day)
  • Manual can opener
  • Food dishes and water bowls
  • Comfort items such as a favorite toy or ball
  • Identification tags and collars for each of your pets
  • Copies of veterinary records (vaccination history and clinic contact information)
  • Copies of pet insurance policies (if applicable)
  • Any special medications or specialized care instructions
  • An up-to-date color photo of your pet and current weight and age
  • Durable pet carrier
  • Pet first-aid kit
  • Leashes and harnesses for each animal
  • Muzzles for dogs (If your dog is distressed, he could bite strangers including other evacuees or emergency volunteers.)
  • Plastic bags
  • Pet safe cleansers
  • Blankets
  • Newspaper to line pet crates and carriers
  • Any cold-weather clothing that your pet normally wears outdoors
  • Litter box and litter
  • Grooming items (brush, clippers, old towels for drying your pet off in extreme weather)
  • Emergency phone numbers including vet clinic, pet-friendly hotels, and motels, local animal shelters, boarding kennels and relatives who can take your pet in an emergency)

Is there anything that you would add to this list of emergency supplies for pets? Please be sure to leave a comment and help your fellow pet lover be prepared!

Also, review this list of emergency supplies for other pets (i.e., birds, reptiles, rodents) and livestock and stay safe.

Having to evacuate your home in a crisis can be scary for your pet, but there are a few extra supplies you can bring along to help keep them calm. Thunder shirts are designed to reduce anxiety in cats and dogs facing high-stress situations.

Bring along a small toy or favorite comfort item for your pet can provide a helpful distraction from the chaos and uncertainty of a natural disaster. Playing with your pet and engaging in normal daily activities such as grooming and walks can also help reduce your stress levels, too.

"Mom! Here are some of the things I want you to bring with us in an emergency! Don't forget my favorite toy mouse!"
"Mom! Here are some of the things I want you to bring with us in an emergency! Don't forget my favorite toy mouse!"

What Else Should You Do to Plan for an Emergency?

Even if you have a pet emergency kit packed and ready to go should you ever need to evacuate your home, there are a few additional steps you need to take to ensure your pet's safety. For example, you may not even be home when disaster strikes, and you may not be able to get back to your pets if emergency crews have blocked off the area around your home. That's why it's important to make sure your animals have proper identification (tattoos, microchips, and/or tags) before disaster strikes. If your animals are found and rescued by emergency personnel and brought to a shelter, reuniting you and your pet will be much easier.

If your pets have been frightened by the emergency and have run away or hidden and you can't get them before you leave your home, the BC SPCA advises pet owners to leave food and water behind and post a highly visible notice on your door letting search and rescue volunteers know how many pets were left behind, a description of each pet. their names, and your cellular number and/or a relative's phone number.

It's also a good idea to keep some sort of emergency kit for your pet in your car, your vacation home, your office, or anywhere else where you and your pet might be when a crisis happens.

Creating a pet preparedness kit doesn't take long, nor does it have to be expensive. Losing a furry friend can be devastating. Get your emergency kit together this weekend!

And while you've got pet safety and security on your mind, why not make a donation to your local animal shelter or animal welfare agency? During natural disasters such as floods and forest fires, local animal shelters and rescue agencies will likely be inundated with distressed and lost animals who have been recovered by caring emergency personnel. Let's hope that you may never need to call on your community humane society in a crisis, but why not give your financial support ahead of time when things are calm. No one can predict when a disaster will strike, so wouldn't it be nice to know your local animal rescue center has the resources it needs?

If organizing an emergency preparedness kit so that you can take your pets with you in a crisis or natural disaster isn't on your immediate to-do list, the heartbreaking video from the Humane Society of America (below) shows what can happen when animals get left behind.

Have you ever had to flee your home in an emergency? What type of emergency did you and your pet have to face?

See results

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.

© 2014 Sadie Holloway


Submit a Comment
  • Room of My Own profile imageAUTHOR

    Sadie Holloway 

    6 years ago

    Thanks Ann! That's a great suggestion about having a list of emergency shelters that will let you bring your pet with you. Pets are so important to our mental and emotional well-being and having them close-by in a crisis can make a huge difference.

  • Ann1Az2 profile image


    6 years ago from Orange, Texas

    I was glad to see that after Hurricane Rita, awareness was increased about leaving pets in a disaster. I was sorry that a disaster such as a hurricane had to happen to raise awareness, but at least now there are shelters that do take pets. That might be something to add to your list - shelters for people that also take pets.

  • Room of My Own profile imageAUTHOR

    Sadie Holloway 

    6 years ago

    Thanks Peggy W! Let's hope that none of us ever have to leave our homes with our pets in the middle of a crisis, but being prepared in advance can bring extra peace of mind.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Disasters can happen in the blink of an eye sometimes and other times we have some warning such as is the case with hurricanes. This is a well thought out hub regarding being prepared for emergencies with regard to our beloved pets. Up and useful votes.


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