How can I Protect my Pets in a Disaster?

Mary McMahon

For pet owners, disaster planning for pets is as important as it is for people, and you should make it a priority to protect your pets. Whether you have birds, pocket pets, cats, dogs, or horses, you should consider them in your disaster plans and make sure that you are prepared for hazardous weather, earthquakes, flooding, or other situations which may require evacuation to a safe area. While assembling disaster plans for the household, make sure to protect your pets as well. Livestock should also be included in disaster plans, especially if you have a lot of large animals which will require hard labor to evacuate.

All pets should be removed from a home during an evacuation.
All pets should be removed from a home during an evacuation.

The first step in disaster planning for pets is assembling disaster kits to protect your pets from running out of food and supplies. Assemble enough pet food and fresh water to last for at least five days, along with any needed medications. Secure carriers should be kept accessible for small pets, and leashes and other restraint systems should be kept handy for large pets. Also pack a litter box and litter, along with bags to clean up after bigger pets, and include medical records and current photographs of your pets. Finally, protect your pets by making sure that they are all wearing valid identification with multiple contact phone numbers.

Small pets should be kept in a carrier.
Small pets should be kept in a carrier.

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You should also do some research ahead to protect your pets. Many disaster shelters do not accept pets, but hotels outside the immediate area probably will. Keep a list of pet friendly evacuation locations including hotels, friends, and family members, and make multiple copies so that you can instantly access it if an evacuation order is issued. If you are ordered to evacuate, always take your pets with you, even if you think that they evacuation will only last a few hours. Circumstances beyond your control may prevent your return for days; protect your pets and get them well out of the disaster area.

In a disaster, dogs and cats and other pets will need supplies and water to survive, too.
In a disaster, dogs and cats and other pets will need supplies and water to survive, too.

It is also an excellent idea to make arrangements with friendly neighbors to care for your pets. If you are away from home when a disaster occurs, a neighbor can step in to protect your pets, evacuating them for you if necessary. Make sure that your neighbor knows the names and habits of all of your pets, and that he or she has ready access to pet disaster kits and evacuation supplies. By setting up a reciprocal arrangement with your neighbor, where you agree to look after his or her pets in a crisis, you can both feel more comfortable in an emergency.

It is very important to protect your pets in a disaster, but it is also important to think about what is going to happen afterwards. When you return to your home, make sure to check it for damage, and only release your pets indoors. Changes in the environment around your home can be confusing for pets, and it is better to keep them secured until the situation has stabilized. Pets also can suffer from stress and post traumatic stress disorder related to the disaster, so be patient with them in the time period directly following the disaster. After several weeks, they will start to settle back into their regular lifestyle.

A non-electric can opener is necessary to open pet food during a power outage.
A non-electric can opener is necessary to open pet food during a power outage.

Discussion Comments


Our pets are usually much more aware of their surroundings and what is happening than we give them credit for. They can sense a storm coming or know when you are packing for a trip that you will be gone for a few days.

This is no different in disaster type situations and making sure they are protected and well cared for is very important. Many times they will also react to our reactions, so if you stay calm they will stay calm also.


It is so important to make sure your pets have good identification on them at all times. You just never know when this will save your pet.

When my dog was just a puppy I hadn't got any official tags for her yet, but made a homemade one and attached it to her collar. We were working outside and I didn't even realize she was missing until a man stopped by and said he found he down the road a ways.

After that incident, I always kept a collar on her that had identification inscribed on a metal plate attached to the collar and an additional tag that hung around her neck. She never went missing again, but the peace of mind was well worth it for me.

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