The official hurricane season here in the Caribbean runs from June 1st to November 30th. While the government and news stations stress the importance of being prepared in case of a hurricane, preparing your pets for potential storms is often overlooked. As animal lovers, we here at GoToStCroix.com want to make sure that you AND your pets are properly prepared in case of a hurricane watch or warning. During a natural disaster what’s good for you is also good for your pet; so, make a plan, be prepared and stay calm.
Make a Plan
Plan ahead and get your pets ready today. Familiarize them with their carriers and the shelter room, practice getting them into their carriers, and get them comfortable with going for car rides. Here are some of the things you can do as part of your planning to prepare your four-legged friends for hurricane season:
- Select a safe room to shelter your pets, preferably an interior room with few/no windows. Be sure to remove any toxic chemicals or plants, and close off small areas where cats or small dogs could get stuck (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture) if they are scared. Also, consider keeping different kinds of pets separate (such as cats and dogs), even if they usually get along. Storms can cause pets to act out due to anxiety and even the best of furry friends can end up fighting, and potentially injuring each other under duress.
- Make sure your pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information. We also recommend getting your pet microchipped. A microchip is the best way to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you get separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up-to-date with the microchip company.
- Use a pet carrier. Not only are carriers are required at many shelters or boarding centers, but they also serve as a safe space for an anxious pet. It is also recommend that you label the carrier with your pet’s name, breed, sex, date of birth, your current address and contact numbers, and any important medical information.
- Feed your pets canned food to reduce the amount of water they will need. Plus, there will be less chance of bugs getting into your pets’ emergency food stash if it’s not dry food.
- Keep newspaper or ‘puppy pads’ on hand for your pets to use when they can’t go outside for potty breaks.
- Find out which emergency shelters allow pets in case you must evacuate your home since many shelters cannot accept pets for public health reasons. You may also want to contact your vet or pet boarding center to find out if they can house your pet during severe weather, especially if your pet has a medical condition.
Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit:
Just like you do for you and your family members, make sure to have a disaster kit ready for your pets. Prepare a bag or backpack with the following items to create your kit (making sure documents, medications, and food are stored in waterproof containers):
- Food and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet (food should be stored in waterproof containers or buy canned food). Don’t forget food and water bowls, as well as and a manual can opener.
- Sanitation needs. For cats, be sure to have a litter box and litter. For dogs, pack newspaper or ‘puppy pads’ since they might not be able to go outside. Don’t forget clean-up items for bathroom accidents (or in case the animal must be kept inside) such as paper towels, plastic trash bags, and bleach-containing cleaning agent.
- Medications for at least 2 weeks, along with any treats used to give the medications and pharmacy contact for refills
- Medical records, including: rabies vaccination certificate, current vaccination record, microchip number, prescriptions for medications, most recent FeLV/FIV test result or vaccination date (for cats), and a summary of pertinent medical history.
- Sturdy leashes or harnesses. Pack a spare if you have it, just in case.
- Pet carrier or cage for each pet that is large enough for them to stand comfortably and turn around, as well as towels or blankets for comfort.
- Pet toys and bedding. These familiar items will help your pets feel more comfortable and decrease anxiety.
- A handout containing identification information, in case you get separated from your pet. Make sure to include your pet’s name and a current photo of your pet; any descriptive features such as age, sex, neutered/non-neutered status, colors, and approximate weight; your pet’s microchip number; your contact information, as well as the contact information for a close friend or relative in case you cannot be reached.
- A handout with boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems.
Tip: You can find a great Pet Disaster Kit Checklist created by the CDC here.
Protect Yourself & Your Pets from Injury and Illness
Remember that hurricanes and storms are stressful for both humans and pets. Staying calm and talking to your pet in a soothing voice can help, but it is also important to handle your pet safely as they may behave differently during a stressful situation.
To avoid common diseases that pets can transmit to people, be sure to:
- Wash your hands before and after handling your pets’ waste or cleaning the litter box
- Wash your hands right after handling pet food or treats
- Avoid letting your pet lick your face or hands
To keep your pets from contracting diseases common after natural disasters:
- Keep your pet up-to-date with their vaccines
- Do not let your pet interact with other animals
- Use disinfectant to clean their carriers and litter boxes
- Wash your pets’ bedding regularly
- Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters
- Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water
- Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals
If you have questions about getting your pets ready for hurricane season, you need to get their medications refilled, or you want to get your pet microchipped, we recommend calling Sugar Mill Veterinary Center. We hope these tips will help you to have your pets prepared for potential hurricanes. Most importantly, PLEASE do not leave your pets behind or tied up outside. Abandoned pets are often lost, injured or worse. We hope you will be prepared and stay safe this hurricane season, and keep your furry family members safe too!
Hurricane Preparedness & Severe Weather Resources
- VITEMA (Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency): www.vitema.vi.gov | www.facebook.com/vitema/ | St. Croix Office: (340) 773-2244
- Alert VI: sign up for the emergency mass notifications, including severe weather alerts
- NOAA National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov | Tropical Cyclones: A Preparedness Guide PDF
- US Virgin Islands Tropical Hurricane Weather Station (local forecast): www.facebook.com/NorthsideWeatherStation/
- Department of Homeland Security: www.ready.gov/hurricanes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/index.html | Preparedness for Hurricanes, Flooding and Similar Disasters PDF | Pet Disaster Checklist PDF
- FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency): In the event of a hurricane, FEMA will provide information at www.fema.gov
- American Red Cross: After a disaster, you can register on the ‘Safe and Well’ list (or find you family members or friends that have registered) at safeandwell.communityos.org
– Jennie Ogden, Editor