All too often, people have been told to leave their homes for a few hours, only to find that they cannot return for weeks. Stranded animals have been left to starve, or accidentally let loose by emergency personnel. Always take your animals with you! Being prepared can save time and lives.

A. Have all of your evacuations supplies together in one place. If possible, assemble everything in an easily carried, waterproof container. Include a checklist so that nothing will be left behind.

B. Have a collapsible cage or airline approved carrier for each pet. These cages are not just for transport; they may be your pet’s only housing for a while. Pets that normally share space well may panic and fight when frightened, so don’t put two pets in the same carrier. Clearly label each carrier with your identification and contact information.

C. Have a leash and collar or harness for each pet. Even cats that are in carriers and do not normally wear harnesses should leave the house in a harness, just in case your next stop is a crowded shelter full of strange dogs.  Airport security personnel may require that pets be removed from their carriers during inspection, and a frightened cat could easily escape.

D. Be sure each pet is wearing identification. Microchips are recommended, as they cannot be lost. In addition, each pet should wear an identification tag on its collar or harness. A piece of adhesive tape applied to the back of a tag or wrapped around the collar can provide evacuation site information, or alternate contact information, since your regular tags will refer rescue personnel to your unoccupied home.

E. Keep all medications for all pets assembled in one place and clearly labeled, so that they can be easily added to the evacuation kit.

F. Include a copy of your written instructions for pet care, which contains information on feeding, medicating and identifying each pet, as well as emergency and veterinary contacts.

G. Include a copy of your pets’ medical records, containing proof of vaccinations, information on current medical conditions, and those microchip identification numbers.

H. Keep current photographs of your pets in your evacuation kit. Include yourself in some of the photos to help you prove ownership in case your animals are lost. Consider preparing laminated “Lost Pets” signs with your animal’s photo and your contact information in case you are separated.

I. Pack a two-week supply of food (canned and dry) and water in plastic gallon jugs. Include non-spill food and water bowls, and don’t forget the can opener.

J. Use disposable litter boxes. A few small shirt boxes, collapsed for packing and travel, make excellent litter boxes that can be used and thrown away. Keep a plastic jug of your cat’s favorite litter in your emergency kit ready to go.

K. Have a plan. Arrange ahead of time with a friend or relative who is willing to take in you and your pets. Be able to contact your regular veterinarian, as well as an alternate 30-90 miles away. Know the hours and requirements of a local boarding facility or animal shelter, as well as one 30-90 miles away. Identify hotels that allow pets within a 90 mile radius. Have those phone numbers available. Carry a road map in case familiar routes are closed. The Cat Clinic of Cobb keeps a directory of hotels that accept pets, and similar information is available on the web at www.petswelcome.com.

L. Be sure that you can leave as quickly as your pets. Keep an emergency bag packed. Be sure you have a vehicle that can carry all of your pets. Keep gas in the tank and emergency cash on hand.