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📷 by Laula Co

The essentials

  • Emergencies are called that for a reason — They happen unexpectedly and can turn your world upside down in moments. It’s crucial to have a plan in place to keep you and your pet safe when disaster strikes.
  • Decide if you will evacuate or shelter in place — Not all emergencies require the same response. Think ahead about whether it’s safer to leave with your pet or stay put. Each choice requires different preparations to ensure your pet’s safety.
  • Preparedness can save lives — Taking steps now, like creating an emergency kit and having an evacuation plan, can make all the difference. Being ready can help you stay calm and protect your pet during a crisis.

Natural disasters come in many forms: hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, violent storms, and more. Where you live plays a big part in what severe conditions you’ll likely face — the East Coast is frequently in the path of hurricanes and forests on the West Coast may fuel wildfires.

When a natural disaster strikes, it can leave both people and animals without homes, electricity, or access to clean water. The best way to prepare for an emergency is to have a disaster plan in place ahead of time.

Make a disaster plan

Here are some important considerations to help build a disaster plan for both you and your pet.

      1. Know where you will stay 

Animals may not be allowed in certain hotels or disaster evacuation shelters (such as Red Cross centers) unless they’re service animals. Identify shelters, out-of-town friends, or relatives where your pets and other animals can stay. You can find boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation site that could hold your pet until you’re able to return home.

      2. Know who will help your pet if you’re not home 

Create a buddy system in case you’re not home during an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor who can check on your animals and evacuate them if necessary.

      3. Find out where the closest veterinarian or animal hospital is 

Find a veterinary center or animal hospital in the area where you’ll be evacuating — Add their contact information to your emergency kit. It’s also helpful to keep at least 3 different vets’ numbers in your phone in case your regular vet is out of reach or can’t help for whatever reason.

      4. Put up a rescue alert sticker 

If you shelter at home with your pets, place this sticker on your front door to let people know that there are pets inside. If you evacuate with your pets, if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the sticker. 

      5. Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash

After a disaster, familiar scents and landmarks may have changed. Pets can become confused and lost, so it’s important to keep them on a leash or in a carrier when going outside or being transported.

      6. Limit interaction with other animals 

This can include other people’s pets, wildlife, or stray animals. Since you won’t know if they’ve come into contact with anything contaminated, it’s best to avoid interactions.

      7. Avoid stagnant or contaminated water, especially from flooding

Water that’s been at a standstill, especially from flooding, can contain heavy metals, bacteria, dangerous materials, or objects that can be harmful to you and your pets.

      8. Make sure your pet has a collar and identification tag

If you become separated from your pet, you’ll have a higher chance of being reunited with them if they’re wearing a collar that has a tag with your information on it, including your cell number. FidoTabby Alert is another option — get a free tag and utilize their nationwide pet alert network if your cat or dog goes missing.

      9. Consider microchipping your pets

Collars and tags can be lost or broken, but microchipping offers permanent identification. Any shelter or vet can scan a found pet for a microchip and get the owner’s contact information.

      10. Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and preventatives

Some natural disasters can cause exposure to stagnant water, other animals, and overcrowding, which can put your pet at risk of getting sick.

       11. Prepare a disaster kit for your pet

An evacuation will go more smoothly if you have everything you need readily on hand for all two- and four-legged family members. You can make last-minute evacuations quick and easy by keeping everything you need to transport your pet or pets safely in a convenient location to grab as you leave the house. This might include carriers, leashes, pet seat belts, harnesses, and even muzzles.

Tips for moving animals other than cats and dogs

For some pet owners, it’s not as simple as loading Fido in the carrier and driving to safety. Larger animals, feathered ones, and more stubborn ones — like horses, chickens, and pigs — are still part of the family and need the same consideration in the event of a natural disaster. In addition to the tips above, also keep the following in mind for these unorthodox besties. 

Plan transportation — Ready all transport vehicles, including securing someone to drive them and handle the animals inside. You want someone who’s familiar with maneuvering both the animal and its appropriate mode of transportation in an emergency. 

Make sure you have supplies — Ensure your safe place has the right feed, access to water, and veterinary resources to care for your animals.

Evacuate early — Whenever possible, evacuate animals at the first sign of impending disaster. The more time you can allot for transporting your farm friends, the better. 

Shelter-in-place responsibly — If you think you might not be able to evacuate, you’ll want to decide ahead of an emergency what to do with the animals. Is the barn ready if you plan to store them? Are you prepared to let them run loose outside? 

Stay informed

Staying informed of the emergency as it unfolds can mean the difference between getting to safety and getting stuck. Here are some ways to keep track of current conditions in the event of a disaster:

  • Alerts and warnings. Pay attention to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) that come to your phone. These look like text messages and deliver the important information you need to stay aware of unfolding situations. 
  • Advice of officials. Your local and/or state officials are carefully coordinating things behind the scenes and will have the most up-to-date guidance.
  • FEMA app. Download and install FEMA’s app to get real-time updates on storms and other emergencies for up to five locations anywhere in the U.S.
  • First signs of trouble. If you hear weather sirens, receive a WEA, see an emergency bulletin flash across the TV, or get an alert from the FEMA app, bring your pets indoors right away.

Pet disaster kit checklist

We recommend storing all of these items in a waterproof duffle bag or satchel that’s easy for you to carry. Here’s what to pack in your pet’s disaster kit:

Food and medicine

Not every place you evacuate will be able to provide your pets’ food, medicine, and other supplies. It’s important to plan ahead.

  • 3-7 days’ worth of dry and canned food. Make sure food is stored in air-tight containers and that you have enough for all of your pets.
  • Two-week supply of medicine. This includes prescription meds and flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives.
  • Supply of water for at least 7 days. Make sure this is potable, fresh water for cleaning and drinking.
  • Feeding dish and water bowl. Consider packing collapsible bowls. Something simple like these Rest-Eazzzy Bowls are great to have on hand.
  • Liquid dish soap. It’s important to clean the bowls after each use (make sure the soap is pet-friendly).

First-aid kit

Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit isn’t always a priority for ourselves, much less our pets. But, pet owners should plan for both their own bumps and bruises, and their cat, dog, or other pet.

  • Anti-diarrheal liquid or tablets. Stick to OTC meds from pet stores and avoid Pepto-Bismol and Imodium unless directed by your vet.
  • Antibiotic ointment. Handy to put on minor cuts or scratches. Be sure to use pet-safe options, like Neosporin.
  • Bandage tape, cotton bandage rolls, and scissors. Important for packing, wrapping, and/or taping up any injuries that might occur.
  • Isopropyl alcohol/alcohol prep pads. Always wash tools with alcohol to make sure they’re clean before using.
  • Latex gloves. Keep your hands clean and limit exposure to any zoonotic illnesses your pet could pass to you.
  • Saline solution. A simple saline solution is ideal for washing out wounds. 
  • Towel and washcloth. These are ideal for situations where you need to dry or wash your pet.
  • Tweezers. Splinters happen. Keep tweezers on hand to remove debris.


Sanitation is important in any situation, but doubly so when you and your pets are in an unfamiliar situation where you’re exposed to new people and pets.

  • Litter, litter pan, and scoop.  A shirt gift box (like what presents come in) with a plastic bag works well as a disposable pan.
  • Newspaper, paper towels, poop bags, and trash bags. These are good for making spots for your dogs to use the bathroom and to dispose of waste.
  • Household chlorine bleach or disinfectant. To thoroughly clean all areas exposed to pet waste, use bleach or disinfectant.

Important documents

Keep multiple copies of these papers — it may even be helpful to laminate them in case they get wet. Take it one step further by digitizing these records using your phone. 

  • Identification papers. If your pet becomes lost, you’ll need a way to prove they are yours when they’re found. Be sure to pack any documents that can prove your ownership.
  • Medical records and any medication instructions. If your pet needs to be boarded, the facility will require proof of vaccinations and medication instructions, if necessary.
  • Emergency contact list. List out the phone numbers of anyone who would be able to make informed decisions about your pet’s care. This includes your primary veterinarian and regular pharmacy.
  • Photo of your pet. Just like proof of ownership, a photo of your pet (preferably with you in the frame too) can help if your pet goes missing.

Travel supplies

For pet owners who adventure with their furry friends, some of these items may already be in the car. But, it’s best not to assume.

  • Crate or pet carrier. Keep them labeled with your contact information. Here’s a list of betterpet’s favorite dog crates and kennels.
  • Extra collar/harness with ID tags and leash. In case their regular one breaks or gets lost.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries. If you lose power, this is essential.
  • Muzzle. Even the calmest dogs can become fearful and potentially dangerous.

Comfort items

Just like us, pets need comfort from their favorite things when they are stressed and anxious. Sometimes, supplements help as well.

  • Favorite toys and treats. So your pet has something to chew on and play with.
  • An extra blanket or familiar bedding. Having familiar scents and objects can help calm a stressed pet.
  • Calming supplement. If your dog gets anxious, you can try one of our favorite calming supplements (ask your vet first).

Disaster preparedness resources

Familiarize yourself with these disaster resources so that you know where to go and what to do when disaster strikes.

What to do if your pet gets injured

Remain calm — if your pet has been injured, start off by assessing their injuries. Is it something you can care for with your first aid kit? Or is it a serious injury? Call the vet numbers saved in your phone if it’s something you can’t handle or are unsure about. 

If you’re sheltering in place, the vet may be able to help you over the phone, or you can contact a telehealth service that offers video chat.

Tips on handling hurt animals

If your pet gets hurt, here are the best ways to handle them safely. 

Never assume — Even the gentlest pet can bite or scratch if injured. Pain and fear can make any animal unpredictable or dangerous.

Keep a reasonable distance — Don’t attempt to hug an injured pet and always keep your face away from their mouth. This might scare the animal more or cause them pain, and you risk being bitten in the face.

Take it slow and gentle — Perform any contact with your pet slowly and gently. They’ll likely be stressed or scared, and fast movements can make matters worse. Stop if your animal becomes more agitated or stressed. 

Visit a vet or clinic — Try to get your pet to a veterinarian as quickly as possible without risking injury or illness to yourself or your family. Vets will be stretched thin during emergencies, so reach out to clinics outside of your immediate area if need be.

Returning home with your furry friend

Coming back after a disaster has hit can be stressful for everyone. Here are some tips on how to make it as easy as possible for both you and your pet when you’re returning home.

  • Check for danger. Disasters can cause a lot of destruction, leaving behind potentially harmful objects for you and your pet. Check your home for sharp objects, spilled chemicals, and exposed wiring.
  • Observe their behavior. Animal behavior may change dramatically. Even normally quiet and friendly animals can become irritable and potentially dangerous when they experience a lot of change.
  • Take it slow. Monitor animals closely and only release them in a safe and secure environment. Scared and stressed animals are more likely to run away, so it’s important to keep an eye on them somewhere safe.
  • Be prepared. Take precautionary measures now by signing up for FidoAlert. This nationwide pet alert network will serve as a backup in case your pet escapes.
  • Seek medical guidance. Contact a vet if you notice any signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pets. Schedule a check-up or see if they can help you over the phone.

How to find a lost pet

If you lost your pet during the disaster and can’t find them, here are steps to take so you can bring them home.

Call the microchip company — Let them know your pet is missing and make sure all the information about your pet, including your current contact information, is current.

Contact your local humane society or animal control — Many shelters and organizations will house pets that were lost during disasters. You can contact animal control to make them aware in case they find your pet.

Reach out to neighbors — Your pet may have tried to return to familiar territory. If your community has an online message board, try posting a “lost pet” notice there. You can also try giving your neighbors a missing pet flyer and asking them to keep an eye out for your beloved pet.

Being prepared can keep you and your pet safe

Natural disasters may strike at any moment — some you can plan for, and others you can’t. By following our guide and your local guidelines, you and your pets will be well-prepared to handle any emergency.

Frequently asked questions

What are 10 items you need for an emergency kit?

An emergency kit should include at least a three-day supply of water for everyone in your group or a filtration straw, like LifeStraw, and a three-day supply of non-perishable food items, flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, dust masks, plastic sheeting and duct tape, a tool to help turn off utilities like a wrench or pliers, and local maps. 

What should be in an emergency kit for pets?

Your pet emergency kit should have a three-day supply of food and water for each pet, medications and any medical records stored in a waterproof container, collar with ID tag, harness, or leash, pet carrier, sanitation supplies like litter and/or poop bags, a picture of you and your pet together, familiar items like treats, toys, or bedding, a first aid kit, emergency contact list, and any other important documents like registration or adoption papers. 

What are the four phases of emergency management in animals in a disaster?

The four phases of emergency management are mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. During the mitigation phase, you want to take steps to reduce the impact of a disaster, like microchipping your pet. Preparedness includes all the planning you should do before an emergency happens like creating an emergency kit. Phase three, response, include your actions during the emergency to ensure safety and deciding whether you’ll evacuate or shelter in place. And the final phase, recovery, includes all your efforts to return to normal. 

What must you provide your pets before entering a shelter during an emergency?

Before entering a shelter during an emergency, ensure your pets have proper identification and/or a microchip with up-to-date contact information; emergency supplies including food, water, medication, and any special care instructions; vaccination records; and a carrier or crate to transport them safely.

What do I do with my pets during a disaster evacuation?

During a disaster evacuation, never leave your pets behind. Have a plan in place to keep them secure, have an emergency kit ready that includes a supply of essentials for at least three days, know where you’re going to go to find safety, and above all else, stay calm.