5 Tips to Prepping Your Pet For Tornado Season

Living in the Midwest, we never make it through a spring without heading down to the basement at least once. A year ago, a rather benign-looking storm dropped a twister just a mile from our house. My kids and I ran downstairs, wondering too late what to do about our two house cats, a snake, a couple rabbits outside, and caged birds.

Fortunately, while the local school didn’t fare so well, our home was spared. But the whole experience was a little too close for comfort. I resolved to be ready next time. Here are my five tips to preparing pets for a possible warning when a tornado watch is issued:

1) Know where your pets are

A pet that spends most of its time in a cage or tank is easy to locate. But cats, rabbits, and other animals that roam free in the home can find tight spaces to sleep. And pets that spend part of their day outside in the backyard, like dogs, cats, tortoises, and rabbits, are safer if they’re inside with you when the clouds darken.

Related: Do You Have An Emergency Plan For Your Dog?

2) Keep emergency pet supplies in your storm shelter

Just as your family should have bottled water and snacks available in the shelter area, so should you do the same for your pets. If you live in an apartment or trailer home where you will need to leave your home to find shelter, pack a designated bag with emergency items to bring with. Otherwise, just keep your in-home shelter stocked. Must-have items include:

  • Pet first aid kit, which will vary depending on your pet species
  • Bottled water
  • Pet food and treats
  • Disposable bowls
  • Sanitation items, such as a litter box or puppy pads
  • Plastic bags for poop pickup
  • Favorite blanket or toy
  • Harness, leash, and muzzle
  • Any medications
  • Veterinary vaccination records
  • Crate, unless you will be bringing your pet in a travel carrier

4) Have appropriate travel carriers on hand for your pets

Some cats or dogs become nervous during storms and may not do well being carried by hand or called to the shelter. Know your pet! Also, for other pets — from snakes to parrots to fish to tarantulas — plan ahead about whether you can bring the animal’s entire habitat into the shelter or if you will need to use a travel carrier.

Related: Phone Numbers Every Pet Parent Should Have On Hand

4) Hold mock tornado drills

It’s helpful for humans to practice the drill for when a tornado siren sounds. When pets are involved, it’s crucial to practice the process of not only gathering emergency supplies ahead of time but also how you will be getting your pet, yourself, that emergency kit, and any other items you deem necessarily in your shelter. Review what part of the process you can do ahead of time, when a tornado watch is first issued, and what has to wait until a warning is sounded. Consider how you would change the process depending on how much warning time you’re given for a specific storm.

5) If your home is damaged by a storm

Hope for the best, and plan for the worst. I hope you are never the victim of a tornado. But if your home is hit by a twister, its important to be ready for that. Your emergency supply bag should have enough items to tide you and your pet over until help arrives. Once you’re free of the shelter:

  1. Keep your pet on a short leash. Don’t allow your pet to roam free. A storm can turn a familiar landscape upside-down, and your pet can get lost easily. Debris, such as broken glass and downed power lines, can also injure your pet or worse.
  2. Comfort your distressed pet. Animals, like us, desire the familiar. A home damaged by a storm may look nothing like the home they were used to. Plus, the emergency situation may necessitate transportation to a temporary emergency shelter. In the least, your pet’s routines will be disrupted. This will be unnerving for your pet, which will be expressed through problem behaviors. Try to be patient and understanding at this time. Aim to get your pet to its normal routine as soon as possible.

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