Caring for Your Pet: Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster

Dog in storm

This blog is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, who lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, as well as any animal guardian who has/is/or will experience the stress and fear of a natural disaster.  Hurricane Matthew (now a large category 3 hurricane) is currently moving in on Florida (and other areas of the east coast), and I am inspired to write this blog after Cameron messaged me this:

“Hi Claire, many of us in Florida are currently evacuated or hunkering down for a major hurricane.  Any advice on what we can do for our pets?  Relaxation techniques, after the storm, etc.  Thank you for your concern and expertise.  Many of my friends and family have pets and will need advice.  Thank you for your dedication to our furry loved ones”. 

My ears perked, and I though “I’m so involved in my own life here in Colorado that this responsibility completely evaded me”.  The responsibility and passion that I feel, to empower pet parents around the world in whatever what means possible.

I remember growing up in Florida, and feeling terrified as large hurricanes blew over our house – with my family and pets inside.  Which leads me here, this morning, writing an sharing a few of my recommendations on how to care for your pet – before and after a natural disaster.  Now, some of these recommendations will be hard if you are in the midst of the storm.  However, they can and should be utilized after the storm, during clean up, and definitely for future natural disasters.

  1. Have identification on your pet:  Meaning they are either microchipped, or have a collar and ID.  I recommend breakaway collars only for feline companions.  This seems simple, but if your pet darts and gets away during the commotion, this gives you a higher probability of being reunited.  I also recommend carrying a photo of your animal for this same reason!
  2. Have an emergency kit for your pet:  I recommend all animal guardians have an emergency kit prepared, at any given time.  This should include at least the following: 3-4 days of food and water, doggie bags for waste, extra leashes, medications, medical records (if possible), identification, emergency contact information.
  3. Find a small area for your pet to stay during the time of the event:  This means a bathroom, small room, or even a crate.  Both dogs and cats feel more comfortable in smaller areas, especially when they are nervous.  If you have a crate, offer this area as a sanctuary.  Cover it with a towel or blanket so that it’s as cozy as possible.  Put their favorite bed, toys and treats inside.  This will not only allow your animal to feel safer, but it’s also keeping them in a closed and secure area, where they have less ability to dart.  Close curtains and doors help to block any noise or visual stimuli that may cause further stress.  Play classical or other calming music.
  4. Dog or cat appeasing pheromones- These come in ways of collars, sprays and diffusers.  Synthetic pheromones help to mimic naturally produced pheromones that our animals release when comfortable and relaxed, and therefore act as a natural stress reliever.  I almost always recommend having diffusers going in multi-cat households, and it’s something you may consider stashing away in your emergency kit as well.  This is an excellent option for after the natural disaster, if you are traveling and on the road, or if there will be a lot of commotion in your house (people staying with you, construction, remodels, etc).
  5. Thundershirt- Thundershirts are awesome!  These are sold specifically for dogs with thunder or noise phobia, and sort of act like a “constant hug”.  This may be something you utilize, in addition to the other recommendations mentioned.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help- I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but if you’re in a  jam – ask for help!  Usually friends and family WANT to do something, if  and when they can.  If you’re unsure where to go because you have pets, reach out!  Others will help.  There is nothing like a major natural disaster or life event to strengthen your tribe. It really does take a village.
  7. Touch- There is nothing more comforting than the power of touch.  Touch is a natural way to adjust brain chemistry, and stimulate happy and calming feelings.  With a slightly cupped hand, start at the top of your pet’s head and stroke down the body and off the tail.

Use both hands to do this, and don’t remove your hand until you’ve stroked the whole body.   Rub the base of their ears and knead (think bread!) the sides of their neck.  Breath while your doing this, and talk softly.  If you’re busy with cleaning up and getting life back together after the natural disaster, find a professional in your area that specializes in animal bodywork.

All of these suggestions are meant to help before, during, and after a natural disaster.  Please comment below with any questions, or how you and your pet survived (or are surviving) a natural disaster.

Sending you all love, warmth and safety.

cat in storm

Wags and Kisses,

Claire

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