We all think it will never happen to me! I bet most of us have either had to evacuate or know someone who has had to evacuate or been displaced due to fire, flood, earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado or another natural disaster. It can be very scary for us and our pets.
Do you have an emergency plan and know where you will stay? Maybe you can stay at a friend’s house, or a hotel. Maybe a shelter is your only option. Are your pets travel-ready?
I was evacuated years ago when I lived in California, and they were expecting the levy on the Feather River to break. At the time I had 2 dogs and a cat. When the orders came down that we need to evacuate my husband loaded up the dogs in the truck with their food and bowls and I grabbed the cat and put her in my car with her food. We headed Northeast to a friend’s house about 10 miles from where we lived to a town called Sutter. It was higher in elevation and they had invited us to stay with them.
Once we left the area, we were not allowed back for 3 days. Well, it was an adventure. My cat had to live in my car for 3 days because our friends had dogs that didn’t get along with cats, and I didn’t even have a litterbox, crate or any of her supplies besides the bag of food I had grabbed. The local store that was in Sutter had been wiped clean and the shelves were bare. So, I put my cat on a leash and tried to walk her multiple times a day. She was not having it so she stayed in my car for 3 days. I have to say my car was never the same after that, is an understatement. Luckily the dogs all got along.
So, when you are making your plan here are some things to consider.
Crate Training your pets:
Most pets are den animals and like a nice quiet place to relax. If you have to go to a shelter, a friend’s house or even a hotel you might need to have them in a crate. If the Red Cross does let your pet into the shelter they will not only have to be socialized they will probably need to be crate trained.
If your pet is not crate trained it can take some time to get them used to it. I would start by ensuring I have a size-appropriate crate for my pet. They should be able to stand up and turn around in the crate easily. Next, I would put it in an area where your pet hangs out during the day. Leave the door open and feed them in it every day. Give them treats in it and make it a happy place for them. Once they get used to it, you can start closing the door for short periods so they know it’s a safe space. NEVER punish them by putting them in their crate or they might associate it with something bad.
Car rides with your pets:
Does your pet travel with you? Most of us only put our pets in the car when we take them to the vet. This can associate the car ride with something scary or bad.
If your pet has never been in the car start now. Start by just putting them in the car, treating them once they get in and then letting them get out. I would do this several times a day for a few days, just so they get comfortable getting in and out of the car. Then I would take them for short rides around the block, to a park for a quick walk, or even to a local Starbucks for a puppuccino. Make it something fun. Before you know it, your pet will start to love car rides!
Walking on a Leash:
Not all pets like walking on a leash, especially cats can be a challenge. But if you start now, it might save your pet’s life down the road. I walk my dogs every day and I often see a neighbor who just got a new Boxer mix puppy a few months ago. He is probably already 30 pounds. But he will just sit down on the sidewalk and not move. This has been gone on for a couple of months now. I suggested to her if he is treat-motivated she could try a lure stick or she could walk with my pack to see If that motivated him to walk. Walking with my pups did the trick that day but she was going to purchase the lure stick so she could use that when we were not around.
There are lots of great training videos out there that can help. Start with the appropriate collar and leash. I like the martingale collars when I start training because I know my pet can’t slip out of them and get loose. I would personally never use a retractable leash when training. You must keep control so I would use a standard 6’ leash. If your dog pulls and is not paying attention to you let them get to the end of the leash and turn quickly and go the other way. Continue to do this until they are focused on where you are headed. Then treat them and give lots of praise when they look at you. If they continue to pull you might need a different training collar like a choke or pinch collar, especially for bigger dogs.
Another good resource is to check with local pet clubs for basic obedience classes. It can help bond you with your pet and they can be lots of fun. Training your pet is not so much about control as it is about learning to communicate.
We hope this helps you to make sure you and your pets are prepared for any adventure.