The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

What to Pack in an Emergency Evacuation Kit for Your Pets

By Liz Palika

dog in car for emergency evacuation

The first time my husband and I were evacuated was due to a wildfire; unfortunately, not an unusual occurrence in some parts of California. While my husband was called in to fight the fire, I loaded our pets and important papers into my pickup truck. Two German Shepherds, one unhappy cat, two domestic rats, a six-foot-long iguana, and I all lived out of the 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 that time, I’ve had an emergency evacuation plan for our pets, as well as for ourselves, and it’s come in handy several times. Storms, wildfires, and even a police emergency in our neighborhood have all been cause for using the kit. It takes time to put together but it’s worth it.

Let’s Get Started

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 get away with using a back pack. Since I have two dogs and three cats, though, I want to carry more. Plus, since I use a trash can with wheels, I can wheel it to my car. It then fits in the back seat area (I measured the spot in the car before buying the trash can).

As you load your emergency kit trash can (or back pack) create a list of contents or a checklist so you know exactly what you have. This can be posted inside the kit.

  • Put some bottled water at the bottom of the trash can. Although some places recommend three days’ worth, after several hurricanes and a few California wildfires, experts know now that isn’t enough. Plan on potentially being without much support or resupply for a week.
  • On top of or beside the water, stuff some towels. These can be for you, drying off wet pets, or cleaning up messes so pack several. I have found one can never have too many towels.
  • Then folded tightly, put in a couple of blankets as well as a dog bed or cat bed.
  • You will also need a week’s worth of dog and cat food. Use food that isn’t going to spoil rapidly in your emergency kit – canned or dehydrated foods work best.
  • Don’t forget bowls for food and water, a can opener, and a couple of spoons.
  • A package or two of wet wipes are also nice.
  • Put extra leashes and collars in the kit with identification tags already on them.
  • Some dog toys, cat toys, food dispensing toys, and other things to alleviate boredom are great and don’t take up too much space.
  • Grooming supplies are important too. Brushes, combs, scissors, and some non-rinse shampoo will all come in handy.
  • Don’t forget poop bags for disposing of pet wastes.
  • In a zip lock bag, I put copies of my pets’ vaccination records and licenses. If anyone is on medication, I have copies of those prescriptions just in case my veterinarian isn’t available. I also have a few printed photographs of each pet to use if we get separated. Jot down important phone numbers and addresses; stuff you have stored in your phone but have them written down in case your phone isn’t working.
  • For my cats, I have several folded cardboard boxes that I can use as litter boxes. A few trash bags in the evacuation kit can be used to dispose of used litter. I don’t put clean litter in the evacuation kit as it’s so heavy; I carry that separately.

The 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.

I include a lot of bandaging materials as this is what seems to be used the most. That includes cleaning wipes, antiseptic wash, gauze pads, antibiotic pain relief ointment, gauze wrap, vet or cling wrap, tape, and scissors. Adhesive bandages in various sizes are also packed for me. Allergy supplies are included: allergy eye wash, ointment, and Benadryl™.

I also have a muzzle, tweezers, heat packs, cold packs, medications for upset tummies, eye wash, or anything else my pets need on a regular basis. Include all prescription medications your pet might need. Ask your veterinarian what he recommends you carry. After all, he knows your pets’ health histories.

What Else?

When you are planning to evacuate ahead of time, there are a few other things you can put in your evacuation kit. Duct tape, for one. You can always use duct tape. A flashlight or two, with extra batteries, plus an emergency radio.

A small tool kit is helpful – have one of each of the basic tools, including pliers, screwdrivers, hammer, and wrench set. You may already have a tool kit in your car and if you do, that’s great. Having a few tools in your pet evacuation kit can still come in handy.

Once you have your kit put 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. Replace anything that may have been used.

Last December my pets and I were evacuated due to a wildfire heading our way. We didn’t have much notice and I appreciated my emergency evacuation kit. Once my pets were crated in my car, I rolled the kit out, lifted it in the car, and we drove 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. One thing less to worry about is a big deal!

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