Preparing your cat for an emergency

An emergency can strike anyplace, anytime, and may mean you have to evacuate your home. Do you have a disaster plan in place for your cat?

At any time, for many reasons, and sometimes without much warning, you and your cats may experience an emergency situation. It could be anything from a flood, tornado or hurricane to a wildfire, earthquake, prolonged blackout or even a chemical spill. If the situation isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your cat. If you have to evacuate, take him with you because you can’t know for sure when you’ll be able to return.

1. Have emergency supplies ready

Keep cat food, water, a litter box (and litter), and blankets in your vehicle, or in an easily accessible plastic tote. In any stressful event, you can help keep your cat calm, warm and dry by draping a blanket over his carrier. Also make sure to have an animal first aid kit on hand, as well as veterinarian contact info and pictures of your cat, just in case you get separated. Put individual items in Ziploc bags for best protection. since I do not put collars on my cats, I keep their ID tags attached to the carriers I plan to put them in.

2. Teach your cat a good consistent recall

This is very important, so practice it often, make it fun, and reward him each time he comes to you. If your cat does not respond to calling, try a clicker, shaker, whistling or clapping, or her favorite toy or treat.

3. Figure out your cat’s hiding spots

Observe how your cat reacts to stressful and unpleasant situations and where he goes to hide when scared. Under the bed is a very common hiding place. You don’t want to be searching the house for him if you have to evacuate in a hurry. I want my cats to come to me, and not hide from the unpleasant experience. and when they do, I put them in their carriers.

4. Get your cat used to his carrier

I keep a large cat carrier in the bedroom and it’s always open, accessible and inviting, with a soft foam cushion and blanket inside. That way, the cats are used to carriers and it isn’t such a hassle to get them inside.

5. Have an animal-friendly place to go

It could be the home of a family member or friend, a boarding kennel or motel that allows animals.

6. Conduct an evacuation drill

Have a trial run and make it fun for your cat. This will give you a good idea of what to expect in the event of a real emergency, and what you need to do so you are both prepared.

Chances are, you may never have to deal with an emergency and evacuation. But making sure you and your cat are prepared anyhow will ensure things go as smoothly and comfortably as possible if it ever does happen.

During Hurricane Sandy, I had to evacuate my own cat Magellan, as well as four strays that lived half a mile away. That meant I had to use five adequate cat carriers. A carrier is very important in getting your cat out of harm’s way, and keeping multiple felines separated and calm. Here’s what my own experience has taught me:

  • Smaller carriers made for cats are convenient to transport but not always easy to get a cat into. A medium dog carrier might be better.
  • I prefer carriers with a hard shell and secure door closures.
  • Netted cages are lightweight, but keep in mind they don’t offer as much of a protective barrier. As well, zippers can be undone by many cats, including mine.
  • A backpack cat carrier can be a good idea for some people – I don’t use one because I have a regular backpack I use for supplies.
  • If you have to evacuate on foot, pet strollers, backpacks or lightweight carriers might be your best bet. But evacuating in a vehicle equipped with five solid-shell carriers was most comfortable for myself and the cats when fleeing sandy.