How to evacuate safely with cats
How do you safely evacuate with cats?
Every now and then I see stories in the press about abandoned pets or people being turned away from shelters for having pets with them and I think, "I don't want to be these people". I live in an area that is not prone to disaster, but that doesn't mean I will never find myself in this situation.
I know that just like for humans, one must have emergency equipment with food, water (cat waste), anything medical, supplies, and so on. I do not ask about the contents of the emergency equipment. Rather, what I want to know is, suppose disaster strikes and I load the cats (in porters) and gear into a car and get as far away as possible. What now? How do I find emergency shelters for me and record them? Or is my best choice to go as far as possible and look for friends / relatives / internet people? After all, when it's freezing winter or very hot summer, we can't just live in the car for long periods of time.
So my question is, what do I need to do (a) in advance and (b) in an emergency to ensure a safe place for my pets?
The first thing to consider is planning. It is recommended that the supplies of supplies you need for your pets be kept in or near your shelter for at least a week. In an emergency, you should plan how you will handle your pets. You should also be aware that your pet is likely to react differently in an emergency than it would during normal quiet times. If you have an animal that is normally caged and are taking it out of the cage, make sure you have a shipping container or cage ready to keep the animal safe.
If you have more than one pet, make sure everyone knows what to do with each of your pets in an emergency and identify who is primarily responsible for each animal. In this way, the animals can be brought to safety instead of figuring out which animals still need to be rescued.
Finally as sad as it is to lose a pet, your life is far more precious than your pet's. Don't take great chances to save your pet. Running into a burning building to look for a loose pet is a losing bet. If the animal was loose, it may have already fled and run away. If you don't know exactly what is in danger of your pet being rescued, you are more likely to be injured than you can save it. Tell the firefighters where the pet is, if they can save it, they will.
Recently, an area about 10 miles from my home lost over 1,000 homes to an F4 tornado. The local veterinary clinics have been offering a free animal boarding facility for a week so that their families have the opportunity to get on their feet. This is quite common as a friend of mine offered them the same thing when they lost their home in a fire. So I would recommend you call your vet and see if they can help you or if they can refer you to someone who can help you.
There are also some families who offer to care for animals until the families are able to care for their animals again. This is a risk, but if you can't afford to have your animals on board for the months it will take to rebuild, this might be an option. I assume that most of the people who provide this service do so in good faith. But I would still want to examine them before turning any of my animals over.
This is also something to plan for. Talk to your family and friends and find out if someone is ready to help you with your pets if necessary. This is also something to keep in mind if you need someone to look after your animals if you and your family are unable to do so. We have an arrangement for our dogs with one friend and our rabbits with another. So if anything should happen, we know they would be taken care of.
In addition to Chad's suggestions, I would recommend looking for places within reach that can accommodate pets and have a list in each direction that you are likely to need, sorted by distance (the probable evacuation distance for a hurricane is very different than for example for an earthquake).
I would also list the distance of the pet friendly places, as a mass evacuation usually involves congested highways and much slower than normal traffic - a place an hour away in normal travel conditions can take 8 hours to complete a mass evacuation.
You should also make sure the list is up to date so that you can call ahead to say that the hotels are pet friendly and that you can book emergency accommodation. If necessary, get ready to camp in the car with your pets - in cold weather it costs fuel but is doable.
A list of people with whom you have made arrangements, including phone numbers, directions, and distances, is also a good idea, as many animal shelters do not accept pets.
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