How to keep pets safe during a hurricane
How to Keep Pets Safe During a Tornado
Tornadoes usually occur with little to no warning and can cause unspeakable devastation. If you wait until a tornado is approaching before you figure out how to keep yourself and your pets safe, it may already be too late. Planning, preparation, and practice are essential to tornado safety, for humans and their animal companions alike. Make sure every member of your household, including your beloved pets, knows the drill when a tornado strikes.
Preparing and Practicing for Disasters
Establish a specified safe room or area.Even with improvements in detection technology, people rarely get more than a few minutes’ warning of an impending tornado. It is essential that you have a plan in place, and the first step is defining where your safe zone is located. A purpose-build tornado shelter is ideal, but a section of the basement or a windowless interior room on the ground floor will also work.
- A small, enclosed room is good because it may reduce the amount of falling or flying debris, but make sure all members of the household and their emergency supplies can fit within the space.
- Indoors is normally better than outdoors, but mobile homes and trailers are not built to withstand tornadoes. Identify a place of shelter nearby that you can use.
Stock supplies for your pets.You probably won’t have time to scramble around and gather supplies, so make sure your safe zone is stocked at all times. In addition to human supplies, make a storm shelter kit for your pets as well. It is a good idea to have a crate ready to go in the safe zone, so — for a dog, for instance — consider filling it with supplies like:
- a dog first-aid kit; disposable bowls; a familiar blanket; a harness, leash, and muzzle; plastic poop bags; any medication your dog takes; immunization records; food, water, and treats for several days or (if possible) up to two weeks.
- For a cat, include a supply of litter and a scoop, and a small litter box if possible.
- Regularly check expiration dates on stockpiled food and medications.
Make sure your pets can be identified if you’re separated.Amidst the confusion and destruction that can follow a tornado, pets often hide, run away, or get lost due to fear or disorientation. The easier it is for someone else to identify your pet, the more likely it is that you’ll be reunited.
- A secure, sturdy, clearly labeled identification collar (that is worn at all times) is an essential first step.
- However, remember that an embedded microchip cannot fall off during a tornado. Strongly consider having a chip with identifying information implanted in your pets.
- Also carry photos of your pets on your person and in your phone.
Know where to find your pets when a storm approaches.If a tornado is headed your way, you simply won’t have the time to search far and wide for your pets. Scared animals tend to have favorite hiding spots, so take note of any places where your pets tend to go during a typical thunderstorm. That way you can quickly locate them and get them to safety.
- Bring your pets inside (if they’re not there already) anytime a thunderstorm approaches. If there is a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado watch posted for your area, strongly consider heading for your safe zone. If there is a tornado warning, go there immediately.
- In U.S. meteorological nomenclature, “watch” means the conditions are ripe for the event, while “warning” means that type of weather has been spotted in the area. Learn the terminology for weather warnings where you live.
Run tornado drills with your entire household.Training and practice beforehand can save lives when a tornado strikes. At least once or twice a year, and especially before the main tornado season where you live, run full tornado drills for your household. Make sure every person and pet is accounted for and knows where to go and what to do.
- If your pets have been trained to recognize and obey commands, teach a command like “shelter” or “storm.” Dogs can probably be trained to head for the safe zone on command; cats may be able to be prodded to enter a carrier to take to the safe zone.
Taking Action During a Tornado
Secure your pets in carriers.As soon as a tornado warning is announced or you spot a potential twister, spring into action immediately. Command or coax your cat into its designated carrier, or, if necessary, use a towel or pillowcase to scoop it up and place it down into the carrier (with its opening facing up). Lead or command your dog into its carrier in the storm shelter or other safe zone.
- Place some familiar comforts, like toys or blankets, in each carrier.
- A sturdy pet carrier or crate provides your pet with added protection and keeps them from running away or hiding in fear.
Provide further protection from debris.No matter how sturdy your storm shelter happens to be, your should cover yourself and your pets with padding to reduce the risk of injury due to falling or flying debris. Place heavy blankets over the pet carriers, or even use an old mattress kept in the safe zone to huddle beneath.
- When you run your regular tornado drills, include this element as well. It will likely be disorienting and perhaps even frightening for your pets.
Try to remain — or at least appear — calm.No matter how often you train for it, experiencing a real tornado is a terrifying experience for all involved. As this loud, powerful storm barrels through, do your best to present an even keel for the sake of all the humans and pets in the storm shelter. Trust in your planning and preparation to see you through, as the outcome is by this point largely out of your hands — the storm is now in control.
Don’t leave your pets behind if at all possible.After the storm passes, you may have no choice but to temporarily evacuate due to damage or contamination. Bring your pets with you, in their carriers and with their supplies, unless you absolutely cannot do so. Don’t assume you’ll be able to get right back to them within a few hours or a day to care for them at whatever is left of your home.
- Of course, only you can decide how much personal risk you are willing to take before, during, or after a storm to protect your pets. Proper planning will help reduce these risks regardless.
Keep an eye out for post-storm dangers.When you emerge from your safe zone, it may be difficult to recognize your home and the surrounding area. Tornadoes can cause catastrophic damage that leaves both humans and pets stunned and disoriented. Such disorientation will cause additional fear and anxiety in your pets, which may in turn lead to unusual or reckless behavior.
- Keep your pets in their carriers or leashed in the aftermath of the storm; they may get frightened and try to run away or hide.
- Watch for broken glass; protruding nails or sharp debris; unstable walls, floors, or entire structures; gas leaks; and downed power lines. Take note that puddles or pools of water may be contaminated.
Keeping Your Pets Calm in a Storm
Make the storm shelter a happier space.Every person and pet in the safe zone will be on edge during a tornado, no matter how many drills you have run. Adding small, familiar comforts can ease at least a bit of this anxiety for your pets. Make sure to include some toys, treats, blankets, and similar comfort items in your shelter.
- Keep your pet occupied with play, training, or other everyday activities as much as is possible. Try not to express your own anxiety or be overly comforting toward your pet; act as though sheltering through an actual tornado is just as normal and safe as one of your drills.
- Although, if your anxiety does get the best of you, your pet might assume the role of comforter and be the source of calm in the storm. They can be very sensitive to the needs of their human companions.
Address storm phobias in your pets.Fears of loud noises, and especially storms, are common in pets like cats and dogs, and in some cases can be considered a phobia due to frequency and severity. There are ways to recognize and address such phobias in pets, and treatments are typically most effective when started early in life.
- Watch for signs of excessive storm fears in younger pets, and take note especially if a pet loses body control, becomes destructive, or risks injury to itself or others.
- Consider utilizing the services of a licensed veterinary behaviorist for severe phobias.
Try desensitizing techniques.If your pet has mild to moderate storm fears, you may be able to use training to desensitize them to the commotion caused by severe weather. Try playing an audio clip of storm sounds at a very low volume, and immediately offer a treat and praise if your pet does not respond negatively.
- If the pet responds negatively, don’t use punishment; simply try again another time.
- Each day following a positive result, increase the volume and duration of the storm sounds a bit. Continue to offer immediate treats and praise for successes.
- When an actual storm blows through, similarly offer treats and praise for a calm response. But never punish a poor response.
Consider medications in consultation with your veterinarian.When dealing with severe noise or storm-related phobias, your vet may recommend one or a combination of medications. Some medications will provide long-lasting benefits during the entirety of the storm season, while others are meant to be used right before a triggering event occurs.
- Clomicalm or Reconcile, to name some common examples, may be prescribed for use throughout the storm season.
- Fast-acting medications like Valium and Xanax, alternatively, might be prescribed for use during individual events.
- Make sure you understand the dosing and administration instructions given by the vet, and follow them to the letter.
QuestionI have 3 dogs and 1 cat who don't get along. The restroom has a small closet in it. Should I put the cat in the bathroom across the house, or put her in the closet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionWhat if it is a dust devil?Top AnswererA dust devil is a whirlwind that forms from debris and dust. They are usually harmless, but when large, can do damage to person and property. They are comparable to tornadoes.Thanks!
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