Natural disaster or Act of God, call them what you want, but some events are beyond the control of man. Be it earthquake, hurricane, flood, severe storm, or bushfire — occasionally the elements threaten our homes and the lives of those we hold dear.
Keeping everyone safe is of paramount importance, which may mean securing the house or even evacuating your property. But in this event, what provision have you made for your cats? Key to understanding a natural disaster is knowing that things happen suddenly and to lots of people at the same time. Thinking time is a luxury you won’t have and it’s not an option to investigate catteries as the floodwaters are rising. It’s essential to be prepared and plan ahead.
Plan Ahead! One of life’s little ironies is that if you plan ahead, you’ll (hopefully) never need to act on those plans: A win-win situation!
A good start is to consider what to do with your cats if you are evacuated.
It’s better and safer to take the pet with you, rather than leave them behind. House pets rarely do well on their own and are too dependent on their guardians to survive “in the wild”.
Do you know a cat-friendly family member who would take you all in, or is a cattery a better option? If you opt for a cattery, consider finding one located near your emergency accommodation – away from the crisis and therefore more likely to have power and water.
Plan, plan, plan. Get a phone number and speak to the cattery owner way ahead of disaster striking. Build the relationship early so you stick in their mind when their phone starts ringing off the hook because a hurricane is due.
Options for emergency cat accommodation include:
- Pet-friendly family members
- A cattery
- Board the cat at a vet clinic
- A hotel that accepts cats during a disaster
Unfortunately, in an emergency scenario some authorities insist on evacuating people only and leaving pets behind. If this is the case make sure you have a “Pet Inside” sticker on the window, so disaster-workers know to check on them from time to time. (Of course, if you take the pet with you, remove the sticker from the window.)
In the event of your cat staying behind, keep them secure in an upstairs room (away from potential flooding). Provide ensuite facilities (litter trays!), buckets and bowls of water, and at least four to five days’ worth of dry food, plus a place for kitty to hide.
In the chaos of a crisis, your cat could take fright and run off. At the first sign of a storm, keep your cat indoors. But also prepare for the worst by making them identifiable. This includes a collar and tag, microchipping (a permanent means of identification), and keep a recent photo on your phone.
Keep a cat carrier handy at all times. You don’t want to be tracking down the last person you lent it too or searching in a dusty attic with a bush fire scorching a path towards the neighbourhood.
It’s also a great tip to train your cat to be happy in the carrier. Keep it in a cosy corner with her favourite blanket inside and sprinkle it with must-have treats, so she thinks it’s a great place to be.
Put together a pack of emergency supplies, kept together in one grab-and-go bag. Again, don’t assume you’ll have time to collect food from the kitchen and a litter tray from the garage when you’re under pressure to leave.
Items to keep in an emergency bag include:
- At least 2 weeks’ worth of any medication your cat needs
- Your cat’s medical records (on a USB stick) and vaccination certificate (in case of a cattery stay)
- First aid kit
- Food (dry is easiest, but if you prefer canned don’t forget a tin opener.)
- Litter tray and litter
- Plastic bags for waste
- A cat harness and lead
The harness is useful for when giving your cat a comfort break out of the carrier in an unfamiliar place.
Teach Your Cat in Advance
If your cat is already litter-trained, harness-happy, and carrier-confident, then these things are less likely to stress them out in an emergency situation. You may also consider training your cat to come when you call their name, so you can call them out of a hiding place to take them to safety.
Also, ask your vet for a copy of your cat’s medical records and keep their vaccination certification handy, as these can help you secure a cattery place when competition for beds is fierce.
And finally, remember the peace of mind that planning ahead gives, which will help you sleep at night no matter what the weather throws at you.
Do you live in an area where extreme weather conditions are a real threat? Are you and your cats prepared for a natural disaster?