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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Include your cat in disaster-preparedness plans

By Melissa Kruse

The current swine flu situation has added an apocalyptic air to life in Seattle. Cats cannot contract swine flu, but I got to thinking about what would happen to my pets if I had to be hauled away in a wheel barrel teeming with other plague victims on my street. Or, what if I was stuck beneath some twisted wreckage following Seattle’s inevitable magnitude 9 earthquake and couldn’t reach the bag of California Natural? Would they have to eat me?

If you’re still reading this, check out the following tips for keeping your pets safe in case of a disaster.

1. Put a pet rescue sticker on your front door. I’ve seen these stickers on the front windows of pet-conscious homes in Seattle and I’m finally getting one myself. The sticker will alert rescue workers that pets are inside your home. You’ll need to list the types and number of pets in your household, the name of your veterinarian and his or her phone number. If you happen to evacuate with your pets be sure to write "EVACUATED" across your sticker. Some pet stores carry these stickers, but ASPCA will send you one for free.

2. Establish a safe sanctuary. In the event you can’t take your cats with you and it’s dangerous to leave them in your home, don’t just abandon them! Tsarina Sassputin will not be any happier in a flooded home than you would be! Since disaster shelters set up for hoomans might not accept animals, you’ll need to have a plan for where to take her ahead of time. Ask your vet or local animal shelter where you can find emergency housing for cats. Ask friends and family if they would be willing to house your cat in an emergency situation.

3. Set aside a stock of extra food and supplies. Just as you should have a two-week emergency supply of imperishable foods for the people in your home, you should also have a supply of cat food set aside. Canned foods in pop-top containers will fare the best in most disaster situations and will keep longer than dry food.

ASPCA also recommends having these items on hand in your disaster-preparedness kit:

Pet first-aid kit and guide book, disposable litter trays, extra litter, liquid dish soap and disinfectant, disposable garbage bags, feeding dishes, extra harness and leash, photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (remember to rotate out if it's perishable), bottled water (7 days' worth for each person and pet), a traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, flashlight, blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet), recent photos of your pets, pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter.

4. Arrange for a temporary cat nanny. Pick someone trustworthy and local who has a heart for cats. Give them a set of keys and email them instructions for feeding and caring for Chief Petty Officer Flufflesworth. Neighbors who also have pets are ideal for this role because you can swap nanny duties depending on who has survived and who’s stuck beneath the rubble. While we’re on the topic, it’s also a good idea to select a permanent replacement parent for your cat should you happen to be cruising the Alaskan Way viaduct when the Big One hits and just not make it back. Consider people in your life who genuinely love animals and especially cats, and also you. Make sure they understand your expectations and that they are to give your cat a comfortable forever home should anything happen to you – otherwise you’ll haunt their ass for eternity.

You might also consider a pet trust.

5. Microchip Mr. Biggles. Despite all your planning, you could still be separated from your pet in a disaster situation. The best thing you can do to guarantee finding him again is to get your cat microchipped. The procedure is done by your vet and involves inserting a small computer chip (about the size of a rice grain) under your cat’s skin. Most cats don’t mind it. The chip contains your cat's identifying information and can be read by a special scanner, which most shelters have. If permanent identification isn’t an option for you, make sure your cat wears a collar and tags with up-to-date information.

Now you’re all set for the apocalypse. Good luck!

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