Introduction: Emergency Pet Evacuation Pack
Despite the funny cover photo, this is a serious Ible. I've noticed that The Walking Dead rarely shows domestic animals, probably because the answers to the questions "Where'd they go? What happened to them?" are more sad and gruesome than we care to contemplate while being entertained.
In the real world, emergency pet evacuation is a very real (though thankfully infrequent) thing. The best recent example of pet evacuation on a large scale may be Hurricane Katrina. My mom attended ASPCA emergency rescue training following that event and the information she learned there has really stuck with me. In California there's a big push to have an earthquake kit at the ready for humans. In a home with pets, it only makes sense to also have a pet oriented emergency kit at the ready too.
The following Ible will provide recommendations for the contents of a condensed (if crap has really hit the fan you won't want to have time to deal with multiple bags) emergency pet kit and some of the transportation techniques from the ASPCA rescue workshop.
* Since it keeps coming up in the comments, I'd like to clarify: This Evac Pack should serve you well in the instance of tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake related evacuations. It will also work if you are notified of a nearby brush/forest fire and are told you need to clear your home in case it spreads to your neighborhood. This is NOT intended to be a residential fire escape pack! Rule #1 of Home fires: GET OUT...NOW!
Step 1: The Bag
You'll want to have all your supplies together in the same easy to grab place in case you have to leave quickly. To keep the kit from being burdensome, I suggest using a manageably sized duffle bag or backpack with multiple zippered compartments.
Step 2: Feeding
If you ever have to use this kit, hopefully you'll be dealing with a temporary displacement and not a full on Apocalypse scenario. You want to bring enough food and water to last until you are relocated and given rescue assistance, but not so much that you are slow and sore from hauling massive amounts of supplies.
FOOD: Generally, packing 3-7 days worth of food makes for a good emergency kit supply. Personally, I would err on the high end and go 5-8. If you have extra you may be able to help someone else's pet who is without.
Pop top cans (no can opener needed) are a good option and very shelf stable. I'm also seeing a lot more brands offering wet food in foil pouches, which are slimmer and flexible, and thus very easy to pack.
Dry foods are rarely offered int to-go pack size, so you can pack a potion of this in tupperware or a ziploc for the kit. *Remember to monitor your kit every few months. Dry food in a non-factory sealed container is more likely to totally dehydrate and crumble, go bad, mold, or get bugs in it if your kit is stashed away in a dark closet. Checking your supplies from time to time ensures you have viable goods should you actually need them.
WATER: Have bottled water ready to go, again a 3-7 day supply is recommended. Vessel size depends largely on how you feel you will most efficiently transport it. Keep it from being cumbersome! I would prefer several personal sized bottled waters, because those are easy to carry if you are a small person. They can go in the bag, in a cargo pant pocket, in a zipper compartment, or in your hand. Another person may be inclined to carry one gallon+ jug of water in hand.
WATER DISH: Some kits suggest a bowl for water and another for food. Since we're operating on the premise of a condensed kit, I'm going to say 1 water dish per pet. Animals will eat food off the ground if they have to, but you don't want that precious water getting away. This dish can be metal or plastic --something non porous and easily rinsed out. Remember that cats do not like high bowls that interfere with their whiskers, so if this kit is for a cat opt for a low profile dish.
You could also use a shallow tupperware container with re-closeable lid. This would be handy for saving any unused food or water until your next rest stop point.
Plastic Spoon. Another user suggested this and I agree that it might be handy. If you brought canned food you may need a little something to help it out of the can, especially if it is cold out. I'd opt for a spoon over a fork so you don't risk puncturing any of your plastic bags or foil pouches.
Step 3: Identification
Keeping your pet from running off or getting lost in the confusion is a top priority.
Collar your pet! Even if you have indoor cats who are never intended to go outside, please please PLEASE give them collars with tags that provide your contact info. Pets can slip out when you least expect it. A collar and tag immediately tell the person who finds them that they are owned and cared for. Making it easy to get in touch with you makes it 100% more likely that you will get re-connected with your pet.
Microchip your pet and UPDATE THE INFO! Seriously, keep that info up to date. The company I use requires you to mail in change of address/phone. Last summer we found a lost kitty (no collar) and took her in to be scanned for a chip. She had one, but the owner had failed to put any contact information on it. The chip still listed the rescue group the cat came from years ago. Through diligence on our part, we pursued every piece of info we could get and eventually found the owner. He could have had his cat back 5 days sooner if he had taken 5 minutes to mail off his phone number. Updating chip = name and phone number immediately available to tell you your pet has been found.
Photo and Chip Info. Pack a current, clear photo of each pet.Make sure it is an image with decent contrast, so that if you have to xerox it, the details are not lost (no black cat on a black blanket, ok?) These may be useful if you lose your pet and have to ask around or create flyers to post. If you have microchipped your pet (do it!) pack a copy of their chip/ID numbers. This can help you prove ownership if you have to pick them up from a pound, or track whether the chip was scanned somewhere and they were unable to reach you.
Vaccination/Medical Records. Make a xerox of your latest vaccination records and any other important medical info (health history, medications, etc.) Emergency care facilities may requires proof of rabies vaccination before your pet can be admitted, for the safety of other people and their pets. Facilities who take cats may want proof of Feline HIV status in order to house your cat with those of like condition.
*Pack all paper documents together in one plastic bag, to protect from water damage.
Step 4: Safety
Pack 1 collar and 1 leash PER PET. It is a good idea to pack an extra leash in case one breaks, falls in the water, etc. When picking a leash, go for something durable, and look for ones with reflective designs if possible.
With cats, your best option may be a harness instead of a regular collar. Anyone who has owned a cat will know how crazy they can whip their bodies around when frightened, and a harness will give you more control in a bad situation.
With Dogs, a muzzle may become important. As one user pointed out in the comments below, many emergency shelters will require a muzzle before your dog can be admitted. Dogs who are normally very sociable may become aggressive and snappy when frightened. I know it may seem excessive or unfair, but it is safest for everyone and will ensure you do not encounter snags getting cleared by security somewhere. Consider packing a simple, soft-type muzzle (easily folded and put in your pack) in case this situation comes up.You can also improv a muzzle out of your excess leash length. Learn how in this video.
Clip on Reflector or LED light.These can be clipped onto collars or harnesses at night as a means of keeping visual contact or making the animal more visible to cars/rescue vehicles. I've seen a variety of reflectors and small lights offered at the dollar store.
Fleece Blanket. The cheap personal size fleece blankets you see on the end cap at CVS are perfect. You could also make your own with fleece yardage. Obviously a blanket is good for warmth and bedding, but it is also an invaluable tool for picking up a frightened animal.It provides a barrier to protect you from teeth and claws, gives you a better grip, and sometimes helps calm the animal. Once I helped rescue a tiny stray dog from the middle of a busy street, and the blanket is what made it happen. He refused to be touched, but somehow using the blanket made it ok because you weren't ACTUALLY touching him. *Remember the animal's psychological state in a time like this and act in a way that will make them feel safe/ at ease. Approach them with calm and reassurance.
A Familiar Sound. Does your dog enjoy the sound of squeaky toys? Does your cat come running at the sound of a bag of treats shaking? Pack something small that provides a familiar and comforting audio cue for your pet. This may be helpful if you lose sight of them and need to get them to come to you, or simply for providing a familiar and pleasant sound to ground and reassure them in a stressful time.
Step 5: Transport
In the case of dogs, ideally your collar/ leash combo will get you where you need to go.
For small dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, etc., always have a pet carrier of appropriate size in your home. You likely have one already, for vet visits and the like. Hard shell or soft duffel types are equally viable as long as they are easy for you to manage.
It is a good idea to let your pet explore the carrier during regular, relaxing days. Let them play or nap inside. If they become familiar with the carrier, seeing it later for unexpected travel will be less stressful.
If you do NOT have a carrier, or have more animals than you do carriers, the following are approved Emergency Rescue evacuation techniques:
Pillow Case -- It may sounds awfully makeshift, but a knotted off pillow case is a legit means of evacuating a cat in an emergency. You're totally right in thinking that they are NOT going to like it, but if you don't have anything else, it'll do. The pillowcase protects you from being clawed and bitten. Since you will hold it from the knot, you reduce much of the juggling act associated with a writhing cat. It is also soft and flexible, conforming to the cat's movements and minimizing potential injury to the cat insideThis is not a long term solution by any means, but if a guy in a rescue helicopter says "grab the cat now or we have to leave it", throw that sucker in a pillow case and board!
In the case of fire, a pillowcase will also act as a filter and prevent smoke inhalation until you can get clear of the fire.
*Pillowcases would also be a good option for birds. They can't hurt themselves or get tangled in anything if they're inside a cloth pillowcase.
There is a commercially available product based on the pillow case technique called EvacSack, which offers bonus features like a space for ID tags and high visibility coloring.
2 Laundry Baskets-- 2 plastic laundry baskets tied together is a wonderful impromptu cat carrier. We actually used to do this for my old cat at home who had gotten way too fat to go in a standard carrier. All the slots in the baskets make this very easy to grab and carry.
It is just that simple: One basket with the second upside down on top, creating a pod.Bind the two securely together with twine, cotton rags, or zip ties (if this will be a long ride). It is a good idea to throw a towel in the bottom to serve as bedding and also minimize how much the cat slides around as you carry it.
Step 6: First Aid
Pet First Aid kits are commercially available from places like the ASPCA, or you can assemble your own. It is wise to have these things on hand in the home and car for human use as well.
I found a few sites that offered straight forward pet First Aid Tips that I think every pet owner should know. This one in particular was simple and covered a variety of situations that could come up during an evacuation (heat stroke, broken bone). Have a read and print anything you think may be handy to tuck in your kit.
Disclaimer: The information in this Ible is intended as a guide for emergency situations only. If your pet becomes sick or injured during a regular circumstances day, CALL A VET and GO IN. The information provided here and on any linked sites may help you address immediate discomfort or bleeding, but this does not mean you should attempt to entirely self-treat if professional aid is an option. As long as we live in a a functioning, first world, zombie-free country, PLEASE take all serious medical concerns to a licensed vet!
Again, working on the premise of a condensed kit for easy travel, I'm listing what I feel are the absolute first aid kit musts. Largely my choices have been based on versatility of the item (multiple uses). If you have room to pack a more fully furnished kit like those you'll see for sale, by all means do so.
1 Cotton Washcloth --for cleaning wounds or wiping debris from the eyes and nose.
1 Bottle Saline Solution or Eyewash -- Saline will be less expensive and was deemed more versatile by vet input on this Ible. Use for rinsing debris from the eyes/ corners of eyes
Betadine Solution -- This was recommended by one of our users who is a vet. If you pack the concentrated form of Betadine, you can carry a small amount and dilute it with water for use (dilute until it is the color of weak tea). This is optimal for cleaning wounds; much more effective than things like peroxide or neosporin.
Alcohol Pads --cleaning wounds or sterilizing objects (tools, water bowl, hands)
1 Roll Wrap Bandage or Cohesive Bandage -- to dress wounds, bind a limb, make a splint, or form a tourniquet. Cohesive bandages can potentially be reused if removed carefully.
1 Roll Adhesive First Aid tape --to secure bandage or pads in place.
Several Gauze Pads -- The non-stick kind are best. Use with tape to dress localized wounds.
1 small pair of scissors --for efficient trimming of above materials as needed. Use an extra from your freebie sewing kit or cosmetics kit. Scissors may also be important for trimming away matted fur or clearing fur from an area that needs dressing/ stitches.
I'd throw in a few regular adhesive bandages as well. They hardly take up any space, and you may find them effective on something like a torn ear....or your own scratch wounds after you let the cat out of the pillow case.
If you pet has required medications: Include a small, waterproof container like tupperware or a pill bottle. If storing a reserve of medications in your evac pack, remember to check the meds periodically and rotate out for newer stock. You don't want to waste expensive prescription meds, and you want to to have a viable supply when/if you use the pack.
Step 7: Restroom Breaks
If you're dealing with cats who have been primarily indoors, they may be confused by the absence of a designated potty spot at first. Most will get with the program pretty quickly and dig in the dirt, but if you'd like to pack an easy, disposable litter pan, I recommend cheap aluminum roast pans. They are light, flexible, and fit nicely in the bottom of a duffle bag. You can rinse and re-use, or throw it out whenever you need to.
If you wish to pack a travel portion of litter in a ziploc, I highly recommend Arm & Hammer's new "light weight" formula. I can throw the entire box over my head, whereas regular litter I can barely lift with one arm. Since we want to travel light, it makes a lot of sense to bring the lightest rocks possible.
In a pinch, you could also toss some dirt or sand in your aluminum pan and the cat will get the picture. I have friends who have used this method when moving their cats cross-country.
Your ziploc may later double as a pooper scooper once it is empty.
There are also disposable litter pans available in the pet aisle of your grocery store that already have litter in them. Johnny Cat is one brand. Consider these as another option, but measure to see whether the pan will fit nicely in your bag.
Step 8: READY!
Armed with these recommendations, I hope you feel better prepared to navigate an emergency with your pet safely. For more information on emergency animal rescue techniques, visit the American Humane Association, ASPCA Emergency Training, or Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue.
On behalf of myself and my cat boys, I hope you never have to use any of this! Stay Safe!