I remember exactly where I was on that rainy fall day; piled into our house with friends and neighbors for a typical “Florida Hurricane Party”. A few beers in (as is tradition), with pizzas in the oven and the local weather man urging us to “hunker down”. We were all just hoping for enough flooding to get the next day off of work without any actual damage…….then the emergency signal blared from the TV. The Hurricane had unexpectedly changed course and we suddenly found ourselves in the red cone, with an ETA of less than 30 minutes, and an expected surge of 15ft in our neighborhood. Well, crap. With a cat under each arm and a dog leash in my mouth, I loaded up a boyfriend (with his egg crates full of a book that he’d been writing; ending up being an awesome read), a hound dog, 2 cats and a grey squirrel (thankfully she was still bottle feeding and her cage was relatively mobile) into a 1998 Protégé and headed for higher ground. I met my family, and about 80 others that had been caught unprepared, at their church. To this day, we still refer to that day as Noah’s Ark; everyone had brought their pets and the pastor (a pet lover himself) welcomed them all.
I made a lot of mistakes that day. I had become a cocky Florida-native, and it caused a lot of unnecessary stress to my pets, which potentially had put them in harm’s way. So let me share some collected tips with you, my pet parent friends, to help you avoid making those same mistakes.
Should you stay or should you go? Ultimately, this is your decision. IDEALLY, you have enough time to make that decision, but that’s not always the way it happens; best to have a backup plan including:
SHELTERS: Currently, there is ONLY ONE pet friendly shelter for Lee County: South Fort Myers High School, 14020 Plantation Rd, Ft. Myers 33912
*You will need to have printed proof of current Rabies vaccine and up to date flea prevention. *Pets are kept separate from humans but are still exclusively the owners responsibility; meaning you must feed & clean up after your own pet (food is NOT provided)*It is first come only; which means that if you wait, you may be too late; in which case…..
KEEP A LIST OF PET-FRIENDLY HOTELS out of area, in case of evacuation: Unless your church is pet-accepting, like we were lucky enough to have, you’ll need a place to go. On the road is NOT when you want to start looking! Have those websites and numbers ready; or you may have to consider an extended road trip to visit your Great Aunt Tessie in Oregon. Start here to make your lists:
*Bringfido.com *Dogfriendly.com *Pet-friendly-hotels.com *Petswelcome.com
Have everything in one place and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Whether you opt for a shelter, a motel, or “hunkering down”, you WILL NEED THESE items with you:
1. Collar with tags (use cell phone #’s, since you most likely won’t be home in a true disaster)
2. Microchip registration (yeah, you got Lucky microchipped when he was a puppy 13 years ago….but do remember the chip #? If you don’t have it written down, take a quick trip to the vet to be scanned at no charge! If you get separated from your pet, a microchip is the ONLY legal way to reclaim him.)
3. 1 week of food in a waterproof container (rotate this food out, so that it doesn’t become stale)
4. 1 week of drinking water (varies by weight and medical condition)
5. 2 weeks of medication (including heartworm prevention! Mosquitos will take FULL advantage of any standing water. You should have a minimum of 2 weeks on hand in case your veterinarian is not up-and-running right away. Consider having anti-anxiety medication on-hand, if recommended by your veterinarian. Storms can be very stressful to pets and combined with potential evacuation and your OWN anxiety, can turn even the sweetest puppy dog into a fearful-monster-Kujo. And cats? Cats are generally even more sensitive to change, and become excellent hiders when they feel threatened. Be patient with your pet, they can’t understand what the weatherman says or why you’re suddenly driving like a maniac in a direction they don’t usually travel. (At minimum, sprayable pheromones are available; such as Adaptil and Feliway, and come in cute little travel sized pumps.)
6. Vaccine records & your regular veterinarian’s phone number
7. Emergency/24hr vet #’s IN area and OUT of the area, in case of evacuation
8. Current photos to help prove ownership; should you become separated
9. Leash (+1 extra) & waste bags for dogs
10. Carrier & litter box (plus scoopable litter & scoop) per cat. Those disposable aluminum lasagna trays are a cheap, disposable option for a litter box in a pinch. And I know, you cringe at the thought of putting your beloved cat into a tight little carrier, BUT believe me, they will actually feel SAFER in a carrier than in your arms. If your cat hates the carrier, it’s most likely because they associate it with negative things (such as only going to the vet), so begin leaving the carrier out in the house, with treats inside of it.
11. Emergency contact information (in case you’re separated) and medication schedule. If you would need to be medically relocated, someone will need to know how to find you, and how to care for your pet until they do.
12. LED collar, blinker clip, or glowsticks (Sounds funny, but it helps! Most hurricanes are accompanied by power outages; make sure that your dog is visible to yourself and emergency workers)
13. Manual can opener (if required)
OTHER USEFUL LINKS to assist you in your hurricane prep: