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Disaster Preparedness for Cats in Emergencies

Disaster Preparedness for Cats in Emergencies

Nobody wants to think about the worst-case scenarios in our lives but when it comes to making sure our animal family members are safely (and sanely) evacuated, there’s no time like the present to prepare! Here are my tips for evacuating with your cats during an emergency.

How to get your cat into a carrier during an emergency

One of the most important things when it comes to getting out of your home quickly with your cats is having a good carrier for each cat - I’m partial to this convertible backpack carrier. Get your cat comfortable with their carrier ahead of time by leaving it out in the open and using treats and scent soakers to create positive associations (more on that here). You’ll thank me later! 

Additionally, you’ll want to cat-proof your home ahead of time to allow for an easy evacuation. If you have cats, you should never have “unders” - space under your bed, under the chair, under anything that helps them disappear. Block these spaces as soon as possible because you don’t want the added stress of trying to find your cat during an emergency.

The importance of ritual

The 3 R’s are routine, ritual, and rhythm. It’s that way of repeating things over and over again until your cat starts to bank on them. That’s why I tell everyone to stop free-feeding your cats and feed them meals! Sticking to these routines will help you manage your cat’s stress even in times of great upheaval. 

Keep microchip and veterinary information up to date 

Please microchip your cat if you haven’t already - it’s the one surefire way that will reunite you and your cat if they are separated from you. Even if they have a collar, there’s a good chance that collar will get lost. If they wind up in a vet clinic or shelter, their microchip will be scanned the moment they get there - so make sure that information is up to date!

Keep a folder of hard copies of your cat’s vet records. This can come in handy if you need to leave really quickly and in situations where there is no internet or power. 

Have a good picture of your cat in case they get lost

Make sure you have a good, clear picture of your cat that highlights their features. Take a close-up photo of your cat looking directly into the camera so you can see all the subtleties of their face. If you need to make a lost cat poster, this will make it much easier for others to identify your cat.

What to put in your cat’s emergency kit

Now I’d like to introduce you to the concept of your cat “go bag.” You want to have this bag at the ready so when it’s time to go, you can just grab it and go! Here are the things you want to include in the go bag:

Scent soakers

These are things around the home that have been infused with your cat’s scent. Have your cat lay on something like a blanket or a Chill Pad for a while, and put it in your go bag once it’s nice and marinated with their scent. I also recommend including an article of your clothing - for example, a t-shirt you’ve worn for a couple of days. Cats define their world through scent, so these scent-soakers will help your cat feel secure in times of high insecurity. For more information, check out my video on Basecamp.

Jackpot foods and treats

Cats sometimes stop eating when they’re stressed, and that can be very dangerous. Make sure your Go Bag has some of their favorite “jackpots” - their absolute favorite foods and treats that you know they’ll be excited to eat no matter what the circumstances.

Toys

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: play with your cat, play with your cat, PLAY WITH YOUR CAT! Play is absolutely crucial for building your cat’s mojo in any situation so make sure you have a selection of their favorite toys to keep them happy, confident, and engaged!

Holistic remedies

My holistic solution Stress Stopper was formulated to provide cats with a sense of safety and groundedness in times of stress. This would also make a fantastic addition to any go bag - I know I wouldn’t leave the house without it!

How to manage your cat’s stress during an evacuation

When it comes to managing your cat’s stress during an emergency, the first thing you need to do is manage your OWN stress! Practice your “fire drill” ahead of time so you know exactly what to do when you need to evacuate.

When you’re in transit, restrict your cat’s vision by placing a blanket over their carrier. This will help them feel safe and prevent overstimulation. You may be tempted to let them out of the carrier to roam free in the car, but this is very dangerous and may stress out your cat even more. Think of their carrier like a dog crate: it’s a nice, enclosed space where they feel safe.

Setting up Basecamp

Once you arrive at your destination, reset your cat’s life in a predictable way. This is where the 3 R’s and your go bag come in handy. Sticking to your cat’s rituals and surrounding them with toys, foods, and scents they recognize will help them feel secure no matter what four walls are surrounding them. Establishing a basecamp is the quickest shortcut to a sane life with your cats!

Emergencies can be traumatic for cats and humans alike. If your cat develops a sensitivity to certain sounds, situations, or other similar triggers, please see my video on desensitization

I hope these tips help you feel empowered and equipped to deal with anything life throws at you! Share your own disaster preparedness tips and go bag recommendations by commenting on YouTube.

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