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Earthquake preparedness tips — for your pets: How to keep them safe

terrier dog hiding under a bed.
Need an incentive to get prepared? Do it for your animal companions.
(Vanessa Van Ryzin, Mindful Motio / Getty Images)

Are you and your pet prepared for earthquakes or other emergency evacuations?

If you aren’t prepared, your animal companions aren’t prepared.

We turned to Ready.gov, FEMA, the American Red Cross and two veterinarians for their tips on making sure your pet is ready to go — or, perhaps, to stay put for an extended period of time — in case of an emergency.

Packing an emergency kit? Think about using your camping gear »

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Gary Weitzman, chief executive of the San Diego Humane Society and author of National Geographic’s “Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior and Happiness,” which has a Disaster Preparedness chapter, and veterinarian Lynn Bahr, founder of the cat enrichment toy company Dezi & Roo, urged California residents to spend time thinking about what pets would need if an emergency required owners to leave an area because of fire or flood, or required them to hunker down at home without outside assistance if they were somehow cut off from help.

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1. Create a disaster plan for your family, pets included. Think through various scenarios. Pets add a layer of complexity: “Specifically with earthquakes, pet owners should keep their pets secured — leashed or in carriers — until they are calm. When they are scared, they may try to run away after an earthquake or during aftershocks,” Weitzman said.

2. Microchip and license your pet, and keep all contact information current. Make sure you are listed as the contact, not the rescue organization where you got your pet, Weitzman said. “In the hustle and bustle of an emergency, it is easy for them to get lost.” Bahr said that any time you’re going out of town or on a trip is a great time to make sure all the info on the microchip is correct. “You’re already setting up a pet sitter or boarding — that’s the time to check.” Same goes with your license.

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3. Make sure your animal companion is wearing a collar. Obvious, but true. Even if your pet is microchipped, a collar with tags and contact info is helpful in case someone finds him or her at off hours.

4. Keep vaccine records, tag and microchip contact info and I.D. numbers, and vet info handy. Keep a copy in your smartphone, but also consider a hard copy in your house and car. Why a hard copy? In case you lose cell services. Or in case you need to hand your furry guy off to a friend or relative who can take your pet during dire circumstances. Consider signing up for social media options for locating lost pets in your area too such as Nextdoor and Finding Rover.

5. Make sure you have a recent picture of you and your pet. This is important if you get separated from your animals and need proof of “ownership.”

6. An up-close and clear picture of your pet, especially any distinctive markings. Important in case you need to identify your pet, or put up “missing” posts or signs.

7. Weitzman recommends keeping an extra leash on hand if possible. Your leash can go missing. Or you might find another pet that needs corralling in a hectic situation.

8. Muzzle. Important, especially if your dog doesn’t get along well with other pets or may be aggressive if frightened during a disaster. And, in some cases, a shelter might require a muzzle.

9. Crate or pet carrier. The Centers for Disease Control recommends practicing putting your pet into the carrier prior to an emergency evacuation

10. Three to seven days’ worth of food — in addition to regular supplies. Yes, this requires you to have extra food on hand, but if you are evacuated, you won’t have time to replenish stores. Keep your dry food fresh by rotating new food into the “back” of your stash, and then taking your current food from the “front.” Weitzman recommends small cans of food for your pet’s “go” bag. Perhaps not always the most economical, but if you’re on the go, you might not have a place to store half-eaten cans.

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11. You need bottled water for your pet too. Weitzman recommends one gallon per day per pet, for three to seven days.

12. Food and water bowls

13. Can opener. Important, even if your pet doesn’t normally eat wet food. In an emergency, he or she might have to, and it might not be the pop-top variety.

14. Medical records. Photocopies and/or USB of medical records.

15. A waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. Just like food, medications need to be “rotated” so they do not expire and become useless.

16. Familiar blanket, towel or shirt. These can become a bed or line a cage in a pinch.

17. Toys. Playthings containing silver vine have been shown to attract cats more than catnip, and it is said to have a calming effect, Bahr said. A toy that allows them to hide also is helpful: Dezi & Roo makes a collapsible, eco-friendly Hide and Sneak toy.

18. First-aid supplies. Including cotton gauze squares, chlorhexidine rinse (not soap), triple antibiotic ointment, bandage tape, and two rolls of vet wrap (ask your vet how to use this). All items you might need if your pet has an injury.

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19. Cat litter, disposable litter boxes. Bahr said: “Aluminum roasting pans are perfect.”

20. Waste bags. Poop bags for dogs, and plastic trash bags to dispose of kitty litter.

21. Alerts. The ASPCA recommends posting a Rescue Alert Sticker on your front door to alert emergency responders that you have pets on the premises. If you evacuate, mark the “evacuated” box on the sticker so time is not wasted. Get a free sticker here.

22. Breathable pillowcase. In a fast-moving disaster, such as a fire, it might be hard to wrangle cats into their carrier. “Have some cotton breathable pillow cases that you use,” Bahr said, so if you must evacuate quickly, toss the carrier in the car, grab your cat, put him or her into the pillowcase and run. But before disaster strikes, test the pillowcase: “Put it over your own head to see if you can see through it and breathe through it.”

Did we miss a tip that you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments section and we may include it in a future story.


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