Some of us know all too well why we should plan our pets for the unexpected.
Hurricane Joaquin came in like a thief in the night and stayed for three long, terrifying days. I was living on a remote island in the Bahamas when the unprecedented, unexpected disaster began to hit September 30, 2015 and overstayed its welcome through October 3.
When the nearly 200 mph winds finally subsided, an 18-foot storm surge left me, my boyfriend, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and countless other islanders and animals still stranded.
With little to no time to prepare for this Category 4 hurricane, all living creatures on the island were left to fend for ourselves for weeks. No electricity, no ATMs, no gasoline, no open stores, and no viable crops meant we had to survive on what remained. For some, that was nothing but the clothes--or fur--on their backs.
Living through a natural disaster taught me the importance of not only preparing myself for the unexpected, but also preparing all furry, scaly and feathered friends for the unexpected.
Here are some steps to take to ready yourself for the possibility of a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, blizzard, or other storm:
1. Buy water.
Do not rely on pipes to still be working after Mother Nature passes through. In the Bahamian outer islands, water is collected into cisterns. However, the storm surge destroyed many cisterns and contaminated all fresh water sources.
2. Stock up on pet food.
Our pup was on a mostly raw diet. The only non-refrigerated puppy food we had prior to the storm were packages of treats. Without electricity or a way to obtain food for one month, we had to share with the dog the lentils we cooked over a fire.
I recommend having an emergency stash just for your pet with enough food for at least two weeks.
3. Have a "calming sack" made up.
Whether it's the rumbling of cracking earth, howling thunder, or flashing lightning, your pet will be just as scared as you. Have a ready-to-go bag with toys, blankets, and a ThunderShirt to help pacify your pet during the event.
Additionally, be sure to bond with your pet through it all. Their presence is guaranteed to help you as much as it will help them.
4. Pack urine pads.
You will not want to let your pet outside before, during, or in the immediate aftermath of a storm. They might whine to go outside but you can't give in because they will get spooked once outdoors.
Because you'll be stuck indoors, your pet will have to do its business in the house. Urine pads and extra litter for kitties are ideal. Keep in mind that your pet might be too scared to use the bathroom and will hold in urine or feces. Or, he might be worried about having an accident inside since he has been potty-trained.
Encourage your dog to go to the bathroom inside. You can try training months beforehand so that your pet will use the bathroom on command. You can also learn to express the bladder or encourage defecation as instructed by a trained veterinary professional.
5. House your pet appropriately.
When possible, bring your indoor/outdoor pet with you into the home. Do not under any circumstances leave your pet tied up outside as he will need an escape route if it comes to that.
Goats are popular in the Bahamas. Many islanders left the gates open so the goats instinctually could seek higher ground, which prevented more farm animal deaths than would have occurred otherwise. Eventually, those that survived were rounded up by a team effort or returned on their own time.
Hurricane season in particular is gearing up not only in the tropics, but also further up along the Atlantic coast. Snowstorms will fast be approaching and tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornados can appear unexpectedly.
After Hurricane Joaquin, even wild animals, from birds and snakes to crabs, fish and insects, were thrown off course and died from being stranded or from lack of resources.
Care for your pet like you would for yourself. Make sure to have a complete pet disaster kit on the ready.
All photos via Stacey Venzel.
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