Sunday, June 3, 2012

Are You Ready to Go?

Hurricane Preparedness For Your Cats

Living here in Florida, every June we're bombarded with news stories about the beginning of the hurricane season. Every news outlet seems to have their own preparedness guide to help people get ready for either battening down or evacuating in the event of a direct hit.

Since I live fairly close to the oceanfront, I'm in the first evacuation zone, where we're ordered to leave if there's any chance at all that a storm will hit us. Fortunately, our portion of the coast rarely receives a direct hit from a major hurricane. But we have been ordered out at times, just to be on the safe side.

Once we received a very close brush with a storm while Vixen and I were living with my mother. We packed up all the most important things in our cars and headed westward to my Aunt Inez's house. With my trunk and back seat filled with photos, computers, et al, Vixen was in her carrier on the front passenger seat, next to me.

We'd driven on an expressway and arrived at a red light on the far end of a bridge across the St. Johns River. As I slowed the car, Vixen stood up in her carrier and looked at me like, "What do we do now?" She had picked up on our unease at what the storm may bring and knew something big was afoot. I just told her it was okay and we weren't there yet, we still had a little way to go. She accepted that and immediately laid back down in her carrier. How I miss my smart little girl!

Fortunately, that storm did no damage to our house, and when Vixen and I returned the day before my mother, all I had to do was clean up a lot of pine cones, palm fronds, and pine straw that had littered our yard. Salt spray from that storm had also killed the pine trees in our yard, so it was also the last time I had to deal with their gummy mess.

This past week, we actually did get a direct hit from an early tropical storm, Beryl. A large, low branch came off my oak tree in the back yard, but other than that, it was just more palm fronds and smaller tree branches again. Whew; another bullet dodged!

But because of that one evac experience Vixen and I had, I always keep an evacuation kit packed and ready for my cats during hurricane season. And since some storm shelters will now accept pets with prior registration, I also go online to the city's website and register my cats each year, just in case.

What to Pack in Your Cat's Evac Kit

Several things are good to have in the evacuation kit for your cat, and you can keep them together all the time in one of those plastic storage containers. That way, you won't have to be rushing around looking for these items as you're packing to leave:

  • Disposable litter box (I just use one of those made from the recycled paper)
  • Liner for the box, if you use one
  • Enough litter to last for several days
  • A copy of your cat's medical records, including current rabies vaccine certificate from your vet (if shelters allow pets, they typically require you to show a current rabies vaccination certificate)
  • Bowls for food and water (stainless steel works well because it doesn't break)
  • A spoon to dish out canned food
  • A manual can opener, if your cat's canned food doesn't have the pull-tab top
  • A first aid kit, just in case your cat gets injured
Other items will need to be added to the kit as you prepare to evacuate. Make sure your plastic storage container is also large enough to hold them:

  • Your cat's food (dry is easier, but if you must feed canned, take it, too)
  • Any medications you must give your cat
  • Any nutritional supplements you regularly give your cat
  • Your cat's bed, to provide a comforting scent of home (or a travel bed your cat has used before)
  • Any toys your cat especially enjoys
  • Your cat's harness and leash so that when you have to take the cat out of the carrier, there's a way  to keep him safely with you
  • A calming and soothing product for your cat, especially for high-strung kitties
  • A gallon of fresh water (you never know about the availability of water where you're going, and emergency workers will provide it to people first)
If your cat is not microchipped, you'll want to put a collar with an ID tag attached on the cat so if you get separated somehow, kitty can find his way back to you.

As the Storm Approaches

Your cat is probably more aware of the storm's status than are you. Kitty doesn't need a TV weatherman to know that the barometric pressure is dropping and it's time to batten down!

Cats also pick up on our own stress as we worry about an approaching storm and how to protect our homes, families, and other possessions. So if you have to evacuate, you may find that your cat is hiding. This is a natural behavior and part of the cat's self-preservation instincts. If you can't find the cat, try starting an electric can opener; that usually brings them running! (It even seems to work on cats who have never eaten food opened with a can opener. Why is that?)

Your cat should travel in the car with you in a sturdy carrier. This protects your cat in the event of a car accident, and also can serve as a temporary crate if you don't have a larger crate in which the cat can stay at a storm shelter.

Make sure you leave early enough to avoid the outer fringes of the storm, which can still bring nasty winds and rain, even spawning tornadoes. So even though it's a pain to leave the comfort of your home for the inconvenience of a storm shelter or a hotel, that's far better than trying to schlep your cat and all the various kitty accoutrements somewhere in the fringes of a hurricane!

Preparing an evacuation kit for your cats ahead of time will help you tremendously if you do actually need to evacuate. It's just one less thing you'll have to worry about when the time comes. And if you live in a coastal area, it's not a matter of "if" that time will come, it's "when".

Here's wishing you a safe and event-free hurricane season. Purrs!

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