Remember Pets When Planning For Emergencies

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LINCROFT, N.J. – For many households, there is an extra element to account for when making plans for disasters – the family pet.

Pets are an important part of many households and their unique needs should be taken into account, as they are particularly vulnerable when a disaster strikes, particularly one that requires evacuation or relocation. They are unlikely to survive on their own if left behind, and if they do, they could run away and be difficult to find afterwards.

 “A pet needs the bare necessities during a disaster. These include food for a few days, one gallon per day of water, medical records and medication, and leash and collar,” explained Kathy Johnson, Director of the Bergen County Humane Society. Pets’ basic needs are similar to those of humans:

  • Water: A minimum of a week’s worth of water for each pet.
  • Food: A minimum of a week’s worth of food. Keep canned or dried food in airtight containers. Include a manual can opener. Food should be changed every six months.
  • Shelter: A pet may require a personal carrier or cage, which should be big enough for your pet to stand and move around in.

You can create a pet disaster kit with a first aid kit and pet first aid guide book, which can be bought at any pet store or online. Your pet’s medicine and medical records can be kept in the first aid kit and kept up to date. Other important documentation, such as adoption papers, vaccination records, feeding schedules, behavior issues and your veterinarian’s contact information, should also be kept in a waterproof bag or container.

Not all emergency shelters allow pets, so pet owners need to know what their other options are if they need to evacuate. Ask family and friends that live outside your area if they might be willing to take your pets until you return, or just to check on them if something happens when you are not home. A kennel or your veterinarian’s office could have the resources to board your pet if you have to evacuate.

Another option is hotels and motels that allow pets during emergencies. Some websites that have information on these hotels and motels are:,,, Pet Friendly Hotels & Motels, and Call ahead for a reservation as soon as the possibility of evacuation comes up.

Bring a few of your pet’s favorite toys and comfort items to help him stay calm and reduce stress. Have some sanitation items such as cat litter, litter box and scoop, trash bags, newspaper and paper towels. Also consider taking a picture of you with your pet. In case you get separated, you can show what your pet looks like. You will also have proof that it is your pet if he’s found.

Pets should have some form of identification on them. The simplest way is a regular collar tag, which should have the pet’s name, your name, address and phone number on it. A waterproof pouch containing identification information can be attached to the collar.

The other common identification method is a microchip implanted underneath the animal’s skin with all of its information on it. A veterinarian or an animal shelter can perform the procedure, but the chip also has to be registered. For confined animals, such as birds, reptiles and small mammals, identification should be kept on the cage.

Birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians require special care, especially during a disaster. Birds can be transported in a covered carrier and then moved to a regular cage. They should be kept in a quiet area. You will need a plant mister to keep the bird cool, a hot water bottle to heat the cage, materials to line the bottom of the cage, and necessary dietary supplements.  

Reptiles can be transported in a cloth sack, such as a pillowcase, or a regular carrier. Upon arrival, immediately transfer the reptile to a secure cage. If possible, have the reptile defecate before transporting by soaking it in a shallow water bath. Also, have a water bowl for soaking, spray bottle for misting, heating pad, appropriate handling supplies, extra bags and newspapers, and dietary supplements.

Fish and amphibians can be transported in watertight plastic bags or ventilated plastic containers. Terrestrial or semi-aquatic amphibians only require a small amount of water. Moistened paper towels, clean foam rubber, or even moss will suffice. Fish and aquatic amphibians need plenty of water. The bag should be at least one-third full, then inflated with air and closed. Using water from your pets’ normal living space will probably reduce physiologic stress. It is recommended to monitor the water, temperature, humidity, lighting, and nutrition while your pet is at the shelter.

All of these animals should be kept away from heavy traffic areas, loud noises, and vibrations. All carriers should be escape-proof. Birds need to be fed and given water on a daily basis. Feed your fish, reptile or amphibian on its regular schedule if you can.

For more information on preparedness for your pets, visit


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