The Importance of Practicality: Preparing Pets for Natural Disasters

preparing pets for natural disasters

During the hustle and bustle of the 2021 holiday season, we heard a snippet on NPR about the Colorado Wildfire (dubbed the Marshall Fire) that started and spread across 6,000 acres in a matter of hours on Thursday, December 30, 2021. 

We realized that for many of us that if we have not personally lived through the event, that the news of the ever-increasing frequency and footprint of natural disasters is becoming background noise. 

Honestly, think about it. We all know Katrina. We all refer to Katrina when talking about hurricanes. But, how many of us can name more recent hurricanes? What comes to mind without looking them up is Michael, Harvey and Sandy. Vague images of each of those hurricanes and the approximate locations come to mind, but Katrina stays with us. 

Unfortunately, each natural disaster due to climate change appears to have become a blip in our collective long-term memory. 

The day after the Marshall Fire destroyed an estimated 1,000 homes, Governor Jared Polis said, “”In the blink of an eye, many families having minutes, minutes to get whatever they could, their pets, their kids into the car and leave.” 

Which brings us to our point: all of us are becoming more prone to a natural disaster or some climate change related event. Are you prepared? Have you prepared for your companion pets?

Now, if you are thinking that such a dramatic event would not happen in your region and force you to flee, what if you lose power for 2 weeks due to a derecho or hurricane? What if you have a house fire? 

A great resource to start your companion pet preparations from supplies to disaster obedience training is the Emma Zen Foundation. As you are reading over the website, you might glaze over because you think, “Duh, I got this.” But, do you? Or, you might feel overwhelmed at the amount of what you have to do and not bother. 

We strongly suggest you start with the Emergency Preparedness Kits portion of the website. 

We would like to address the first and very important point:

“A two-week supply of food for each pet stored in airtight containers. This should be rotated at least twice a year to insure it is fresh, this also maintains that the food your pet is now eating is in their emergency kit. During a stressful situation is no time to add a change of food routine to your pets regimen. Remember a manual can opener if you feed canned food.”

If you are feeding canned or kibble to your companion pets, this is fairly easy. We suggest that you simply double up the next time you go to the store or order online. Instead of switching the food out every six months, we think that every time you are about to run out of the “in-house” food, you purchase the new food, replace the emergency food with the new food, and the new food will now be your emergency food. 

Here’s a diagram: 

In-House Food/Emergency Food 🡪 In-House Food Gets Low 🡪 Purchase New Food 🡪 Emergency Food Becomes In-House Food 🡪 New Food Becomes Emergency Food 

Where this gets problematic is if you are feeding raw or well-balanced homecooked. You have options, but with a little more planning involved. You can purchase the freeze-dried equivalent, canned, kibble or dehydrated. Dehydrated does need to be rehydrated, so you should also have plenty of extra water in your emergency supply kit. 

Debra Jo Chiapuzio, President of the Emma Zen Foundation, adroitly points out, “During a stressful situation is no time to add a change of food routine to your pets regimen.” So true. 

So, what do you do? 

First, you need to make sure your companion pets do not have a food sensitivity or intolerance to the emergency food. 

Secondly, you need to feed them and rotate the food in during a relative period of calm. For instance, here in California, we would not introduce a new food for emergency situations during the height of the wildfire season. Basically, we want to make sure our companion pets will eat the food and have their bodies become acclimated to it.

Then, every six months when it is time to switch out the emergency food, feed what’s in the emergency kit. 

Remember, while we at Hemopet support balanced raw or homecooked meals for our companion pets, natural disaster emergencies demand practicality. 

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