The first time my husband and I were evacuated was due to a wildfire. My husband was called in to fight the fire, so two German Shepherds, one unhappy cat, two domestic rats, a six-foot-long iguana, and I all lived out of my truck at a campground by the beach. It was an interesting several days until we were allowed back home, but we all made it.
Since then, I’ve had an emergency evacuation plan for our pets, as well as for ourselves, and it’s come in handy several times. Emergency preparedness for storms, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and more is important when you have pets in your home. It takes time to put an emergency kit together but it’s worth it.
Pet Emergency Kit Supply List
I use a clean plastic trash can with a locking lid to house my pet emergency kit. If you only have one pet, you may be able to simply use a back-pack. I have two dogs and three cats, so I need to store more. I use a trash can with wheels so I can wheel it to my car and it fits in the back seat area (I measured the spot in the car before buying the trash can).
As you load your emergency kit, create a supply list of contents so you know exactly what you have, and pack it neatly. Keep this posted inside the kit for easy reference. Here’s what I recommend:
Bottled water- Put this at the bottom of the kit. Some places recommend 72 hours’ worth for each person/pet included
Towels- Pack towels on top of or beside the water. One can never have too many towels when staying with pets
Several blankets- Fold blankets tightly for dog or cat beds, and comfort for yourself
One week’s worth of pet food- Pack food that won’t spoil rapidly in your emergency kit – canned or dehydrated foods work best
Pet bowls for food and water- If you’ve packed canned food, don’t forget a can opener too, and spoons for serving it. A package or two of wet wipes are also nice
Extra leashes and collars-Make sure the identification tags are already on them and up to date
Grooming supplies- Brushes, combs, scissors, non-rinse shampoo, and other grooming supplies will come in handy
Poop bags- Remember to properly dispose of pet wastes
Copies of pet vaccination records, prescriptions, and licenses- Store in a clear plastic bag to prevent damage. If your pet is on medication, have copies of prescriptions, just in case the veterinarian isn’t available. Also keep printed photographs of each pet in case of separation. Jot down important phone numbers and addresses; stuff you have stored in your phone but have them written down in case your phone doesn’t work.
For cats: folded cardboard boxes for use as litter boxes- Don’t forget trash bags in the evacuation kit to dispose of used litter. I don’t include clean litter in the evacuation kit as it’s so heavy, but I carry it separately.
Cat and Dog First Aid Kit
My first aid kit contains supplies for both people and pets. Bandaging materials, for example, and first aid ointments can be used for pets and people. However, if you aren’t confident about who can use what, feel free to make two kits and mark them appropriately. Make sure medications for cats are well marked as cats are extremely sensitive to many medications.
Your pet first aid kit should include:
Lots of bandaging materials (it’s used the most)
Antibiotic pain relief ointment
Vet or cling wrap
Adhesive bandages in various sizes are also packed for me
Allergy supplies including eye wash, ointment, and Benadryl™
Medications for upset tummies
Eye wash, and anything else my pets need on a regular basis like prescription medications. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend you carry.
Additional Helpful Items in an Evacuation Kit
When you plan to evacuate ahead of time, there are a few other items you can put in your evacuation kit, including:
Flashlights (at least two)
Small tool kit
Once your kit is together, mark your calendar to refresh it each spring and summer when the time changes. Replace the food, check for expired supplies (especially first aid stuff), and replace anything that has been used.
Disaster Preparedness Plan with Pets
Now that your kits are packed and ready to go, figure out how to get out of town. Pets can certainly complicate where you’ll stay and how you’ll get to your evacuation location. Consider these additional logistics when planning your evacuation with pets:
1. Where can you stay with your pets in an emergency situation?
Research your options about where to stay in advance if you live in an area prone to disaster evacuation. Look into the pet policies of emergency shelters that are set up in your area to see if you and your furry family are welcome.
Figure out now if you have family, friends, and pet-friendly hotels available to you. Consider setting up temporary housing options that are five, then, or even twenty miles or more from your home.
2. Is veterinary boarding or kennel boarding an option?
If a disaster is somewhat localized, your veterinary hospital or your usual boarding kennel may be able to help with short-term, emergency boarding. Spots will likely fill up fast or be greatly limited if the disaster affects a large area or happens during peak vacation season, but it helps to know in advance if this is even an option.
3. What are the local vaccination policies for evacuated pets?
Emergency animal shelters provide a tremendous service during disasters if you need to evacuate but cannot find a place to stay that accepts pets. However, find out in advance what vaccination policies will be in place at these shelters.
4. Do all of your pets fit in one car (with or without crates)?
It doesn’t hurt to load up your vehicle with all of your evacuation gear, pets, and family members to ensure that you can make everything fit. You may look silly to your neighbors, but you’ll be thankful you took the time to do it when you’re running out in an emergency situation without time to play Tetris.
Last December, my pets and I were evacuated due to another wildfire. Without much notice, I appreciated my emergency evacuation kit and was able to lift it into the car and drive away. Thankfully, we were only gone a couple of days and the fire never hit our neighborhood, but having the kit stocked and ready meant there was less for me to worry about as I loaded the car. Less to worry about in an emergency is a big deal!