In planning ahead for weather disasters and emergencies, keep your pets’ needs in mind and help protect them with this simple preparedness checklist.

hugging dog and cat

Photo © Chendongshan/

For a lot of us, our pets are members of the family. Our plans would not be complete without thinking about their needs as well as our own. Most pets have few requirements for remaining happy and healthy. They need food and water, a place to relieve themselves, exercise, and companionship.

Your pet may have other needs like regular medication or daily grooming, but in general the following are the things you need to address.

FOOD. My cat does not do well if his diet is changed, so we keep several bags of his preferred kibble in a lidded garbage can in the shed. When he needs more food, I pull out the oldest bag and replace it with a fresh one. Marking the use-by date with an indelible marker makes it easy to see which bag should be pulled next.

WATER. I store water for our cat just as I do for us. The U.S. government preparedness site,, recommends storing a gallon of water per person per day for three days as well as enough water for your pets. A gallon a day provides 2 quarts for drinking and cooking and 2 quarts for washing up. For a family of four for three days, that’s only 12 gallons, which doesn’t seem too hard to store. However, there are several reasons you may want to have more than the bare minimum on hand. One simple reason is that many emergencies go on much longer than three days. [Find more information about how to store water for short-term needs and how to plan for long-term water usage in Prepping 101.]

WASTE MANAGEMENT. This is obviously easier for a cat. All you need is extra litter for his box. A large dog may be much more of a problem. You will need to get your dog out for a walk and be prepared with a bag for picking up his mess.

EXERCISE. Our elderly cat doesn’t get outside much, but if you have an energetic puppy or a large dog, you need to think about how he is going to burn off energy. If there is debris around or the surroundings do not look safe, take your dog outside on a short leash. If you have a garage or basement or even a rec room, a few breaks of tossing a ball for him may be enough to keep him from getting bored or rambunctious.

COMPANIONSHIP. Your animal may have even more need of your attention than usual. Animals are often very sensitive to the mood around them, and you may find yourself with a hundred-pound black Lab sitting in your lap, quivering with anxiety. This a good time to pour on the TLC.

Planning Ahead

If you can remain home, you can easily provide what your pet needs. Should you have to evacuate, however, things are far more complicated. If you must evacuate and human lives are in danger, you may be forced to leave your pets behind. If you make plans ahead of time, you should be able to locate a place that will accept pets during an emergency.

Call your local disaster preparedness organization to locate pet-friendly shelters or hotels. Your vet likely has a list of places that accept animals. Have a separate transportation container for each animal; pet crates are a good thing to add to your list of things to look for at garage sales. If you’re desperate, a plastic storage box with clamp-on handles and a number of small holes punched in the sides will suffice. Mark each container with the animal’s name, your name and address, and contact information in permanent ink.

If your dog bites, include a muzzle. Most shelters will not accept vicious dogs, and some won’t even accept breeds that are considered suspect.

Watch Over Them

Many animals have instincts about weather and can provide advance warning for earthquakes. If your animals are behaving strangely, bring them inside and keep them there. A frightened animal left outside, even in a well-protected shelter, can become jittery and dangerous. If your dog is anxious, be extra cautious with it around children and other pets.

After a storm, your first instinct might be to let your pets outside, especially if you live in a place without leash laws and they are used to running around your yard, but it’s not a good idea. Animals are curious. You don’t want them getting into rubbish or getting hurt on broken glass or other debris. Downed power lines are a particular hazard.

It might also be hard for your pets to settle down if things look strange. The scents and landmarks might be altered, and they can get lost in otherwise familiar territory. Even the most even-tempered animal may be less predictable than usual. It’s not unusual for a docile animal to become aggressive or defensive. Remember that animals are at the mercy of their instincts.

I have concentrated on cats and dogs, but many people have more exotic pets. A shelter may happily take your cat but be less thrilled with your snake. Think about how to accommodate unusual pets, as well as addressing the needs of outdoor animals like chickens, goats, or horses. If you have more than a few animals, develop contingency plans for taking care of them in a crisis.

Here is a list of necessary items you should be prepared to supply to a shelter that is taking in pets.

pet preparedness chart

Text and pet preparedness list excerpted from Prepping 101 © 2018 By Kathy Harrison. All rights reserved.

Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Prepping 101 and Just In Case, as well as Another Place at the Table and One Small Boat. She is… See Bio

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Prepping 101

by Kathy Harrison

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