Too often following a disaster, Animal Emergency Response Teams are tasked with rescuing pets that were left behind during an evacuation. A hugely disproportionate number of these animals are cats. Is it because owners thought they would be okay on their own? Is it because they were unprepared and did not have a means of transporting them? Or is it that when the time came to leave, the cat was hiding and could not be found? Most likely each one of these issues has been a cause of a cat being left behind but none of them are a valid reason.
First and foremost, if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pet. A mandatory evacuation means that it is not safe for you to remain in your home without risk to your safety. Even if you think the house may remain safe, there is no assurance that you will be able to return in sufficient time to care for your pet.
You should have a carrier for each one of your cats. Then, do not wait for an
emergency for your cat to get used to being in the carrier. You can decrease your cat’s stress of traveling by allowing her to get used to the carrier at home. Remove the door and place a favorite bed, towel or pad inside. Your cat’s natural curiosity and interest in hiding spots will lead her to explore the carrier. Leave the carrier on the floor – if it is not in the way, you can leave it indefinitely allowing it to become a favorite hiding spot for your cat. When it comes time to evacuate, put the door back on before putting the cat inside and you will be ready to go.
So now your cat is used to the carrier but when it comes time to evacuate, do not wait until the last minute to try to put the cat inside the carrier. The cat may become frightened and hide if there is a lot of activity inside your house or outside (i.e., evacuation preparations, hammering plywood over windows, strong storm winds blowing and/or other commotion). Before things get hectic, either place the cat in the carrier or close the cat in a small room where she cannot easily hide from you.
Worst case scenario: you are caught off guard and do not have a carrier – use a box (or even a pillow case) until you can get to a safe place to transfer your cat to a more suitable carrier or crate. These options are better than leaving your cat in harm’s way.
Under no circumstances should you leave your cat behind during a mandatory evacuation.
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