Do it for your furry buddy: Emergency preparedness and pets

nonplussed cat
Quinn couldn’t care less about preparing for a disaster. Cats can’t be bothered. That’s why she needs a human buddy to look out for her.

We get it. You’re busy, and getting ready for a disaster is not at the top of your priorities. But pet-owners, just take a look at those big trusting eyes of your furry (or scaly or feathered) friends and think about doing it for them. Recent disasters in the U.S. show that people will endanger themselves in order to make sure their pets are OK. As we close out National Preparedness Month, why not make sure you and your pet can weather through whatever comes our way–a severe storm, prolonged power outage, or earthquake, for instance? We’re here to show you how, with the help of our own furry buddies, the pets of Public Health!

Keep a collar on your cat or dog

Have a collar for each pet with an ID tag that has your cell phone number(s). Do this for your cats, too, even if they’re indoor cats. During disasters, or even just when fireworks go off on July 4th,  pets sometimes escape the house.

Mookie and collar
Your pet doesn’t need to have a fancy fleur-de-lis collar like the one sported by Mookie the Magnificent (he IS a Frenchie after all). But it should have ID tags.

Plan a pet-friendly place to stay

hotel Luke
Luke likes a pet-friendly hotel as a back-up place to stay. His human buddy draws the line at room service.

Talk with out-or-area friends or families about the possibility of you and your pet staying with them in an emergency. Or save a list of pet-friendly hotels to your phone ( has several suggested lists) in case you have to evacuate or if conditions make it difficult to stay in your home.

Microchip your pet

A microchip is the most effective way to reunite with your pet if you become separated. Keep your microchip registration information up-to-date and include an emergency contact who lives out of the area.

Get to know your neighbors and make a plan together

Bronson and Swayze take getting to know your neighbor to an extreme. Find a nearby buddy who can check on your pet, and vice versa.

Getting to know your neighbors and being ready to help one another is the one of the best things you can do to prepare for emergencies. Exchange pet information, evacuation plans, and house keys with a trusted neighbor or friend who lives nearby so that you can help each other out if an emergency happens and one of you is not at home, including checking on pets.

Stay up to date with your pet’s vaccinations

You may need to put your pet in a shelter during a major disaster and many shelters require your pet to be up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent the spread of disease. Keep a copy of your pet’s vaccination record where you can find it in an emergency, like in your pet’s emergency kit. And speaking of that…

Make a pet emergency kit

Pets can get freaked out during disasters. Now imagine that your pet has not eaten and how much more challenging that situation becomes. Put together some items in a grab-and-go container so that you’re ready. Here are some items to include:

  • Pet food: Try to have at least a week’s supply on hand. You can feed your pet from that supply in an non-emergency if you need to, but just remember to replace it when you’re down to less than a week’s worth. If your pet eats canned food, don’t forget a manual can-opener. And if you don’t like eating pet food, start putting together a human food supply, too.




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  • Water: If there’s a water contamination issue, pets and their humans may not be able to drink tap water. Store a week’s worth of water just for your pet, and then add more for other members of your family.
  • Carrier, crate, and/or leash to transport pets safely and make sure that they can’t escape.
  • Medications and medical records: Include your vet’s contact info and vaccinations records, and keep it all in a ziplock bag to protect from water damage.
  • Litter and litter pan for your feline friends.
  • Pet toys and other comfort items to help your pet have something to do, especially when anxious. If your pet’s bed is easy to transport, consider putting it in the crate or carrier.
  • Photograph of you with your pet: As much as we’d like to say that this is to comfort your pet when you’re not around, it’s actually to help with identification. Many pets look similar, so this will help eliminate mistaken identity if you have to pick your pet up from a shelter, and could help if your pet becomes lost.
Tigger and laptop
Tigger is downloading the Red Cross’ Pet First Aid app from Clever Tigger!

Learn pet first aid

Paws and wings are tender and they could get cut on debris or get otherwise injured in a disaster environment. Keep some first aid items for your pet, as well as for yourself, in your kit. And maybe you’d like to take a pet first-aid class, handy for those everyday emergencies, not just the disasters.

Fido is ready. Are you?

If you’ve put this kit together, kudos! And now, how are you taking care of yourself and your non-furry family? Many of the same steps apply, and your pet will be grateful if you stay safe, too.

Find more information on pet disaster preparedness from the Red Cross. For more on disaster survival tips for people and households, check out or Thank you to all the staff who shared the photos of their adorable furry buddies!

backpack Luke
Luke is ready. Are you?

Originally posted on September 28, 2017.

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.