How to help your pet survive an emergency or disaster

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Pets are often overlooked when people think about preparing for an emergency.  But pets suffer from disasters just like their owners. Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and fires often result in lost or displaced pets. Pet shelters are still overflowing with rescued animals from last year’s hurricanes, and many pet owners are still searching for their lost dogs and cats.

Additionally, a power outage or snowstorm can be nerve-wracking if you are not prepared. Just imagine if you ran out of dog or cat food in the middle of a hurricane! Simply planning ahead will help you and your pet be ready before an emergency happens.

How to build a pet emergency kit

You can build a pet emergency kit with very little money. You may already have most of the items available in your home — it’s just a matter of storing them in one place, like a backpack or plastic bin.

Water and food

Set aside three to five days worth of water for your pet, in addition to what you are storing for your family. That means 1/2 gallon to a gallon per pet per day, depending on your pet’s size.

Store three to five days worth of kibble in an airtight container. If you store canned pet food, choose easy-open cans, or pack a can opener, as well. Don’t forget the feeding dish and water bowl!

First aid kit, including prescriptions

Include items like antibiotic ointment, bandage and scissors, tweezers, cotton, flea and tick prevention meds, and alcohol wipes. Have medicines on hand if your pet is on prescription medication.

Pet Accessories

You should have a leash, harness, muzzle and collar, along with the pet carrier in a convenient spot. Adding a favorite toy, pillow or blanket in the carrier will help comfort your pet.


Keep copies of your pet’s adoption papers, immunization and medical records in a watertight plastic bag, along with your other important documents.


Set aside sanitation items as applicable, including cat litter, newspapers, disposable gloves, plastic garbage bags, and paper towels.

What if you have to evacuate your pet?

Evacuations are more common than most people think — they result from natural disasters, hazardous spills, fires and other perils.


According to, most evacuation shelters only allow service animals. Before you get that emergency evacuation announcement, it’s a good idea to make a plan on where you will go with your pet.

  • Call pet boarding services or animal hospitals in the area to find out if they take pets in the event of an emergency. You may be asked to provide immunization records, so keep records current.
  • Know where your pet hides when agitated.
  • Learn which hotels or motels accept pets in case you decide to evacuate on your own.
  • Consider having your pet micro-chipped for identification. If your pet is already micro-chipped, make sure your current information is updated in the pet contact database.
  • Talk to your vet or the local animal shelter to get ideas on emergency planning.
  • Keep a current photo of you and your pet to help establish ownership and help searchers assist you if you get separated.

In case you are not at home with your pet when an emergency happens

There’s a chance you may not be home when an emergency occurs, so the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends that pet owners display a window decal or sticker indicating a pet lives in the home to help emergency personnel during rescues. You can get a free window decal by ordering the ASPCA’s pet safety pack.

You should also make arrangements with a friend or relative who can collect and look after your pet in case you are not home.

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