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Disaster Preparedness

by Patricia Lane, D.V.M.

Cat Clinic of Cobb, 2635 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta, GA, 30066, 770-973-6369

An abridged version of this article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of The Cat Sitter™ Newsletter.   
The article appears in it's entirety below:

For more details about The Cat Clinic of Cobb, visit


Most of us leave home each day planning to be back in time for dinner. But, in the week of September 11, 2001, we realize that we are woefully unprepared to deal with disaster or many lessor emergencies, especially where our pets are concerned. There is no way to plan for every possible scenario, but a few simple steps taken now may mean the difference between life and death for the pets that are locked in your house, depending on you each day.

What if You Can’t Get Home Today?

Carry a note in your wallet regarding emergency care of your pets
Wrap it around your identification or insurance card.
Sample:  I have (number and type of pets) in my home.  In any situation in which I am unable to return home, such as my hospitalization or death, please immediately call (Mary Smith) at (address and phone) or (John Doe) at (address and phone) to arrange for the feeding of my pets located at my home at (address).  My Executor (name, address, phone) has a copy of this document.

Familiarize at least three people outside of your household with your pet care protocol
Neighbors, friends, family, pet sitters; be sure that these people have up-to-date written instructions as well as a key to your house.  If possible, try to make arrangements with at least one person who could take your pets into their home if necessary.  Make sure that these people can contact one another in case in case back up is needed.  It is suggested that you sigh a letter that releases these helpers from responsibility should one of your pets become injured and sign a veterinary medical authorization as well.

Place stickers on your front and back doors
These stickers will alert rescue personnel as to how many pets are on the premises.   Include an emergency contact phone number and the location of your written instructions.

Write detailed instructions for your pet’s care
These should not only be clear to your designated petsitters, but also to strangers who might have to enter your house in an emergency.  Place them in a prominent place, by the telephone and on the refrigerator.


Feeding information:  What do they eat?  How much?  How often?  Where is the food kept?  Be sure that food containers are clearly labeled and that feeding instructions are repeated on the containers.  Where do the pets normally eat?


Watering instructions:  where is water normally provided?   Where is emergency water stored?


Medications:  What?  How much?  How often?  Where are medications kept?


Written description of each pet:  How many of each species?   How would a stranger identify them?  Where would they normally be found?   Where would they likely hide if frightened?  Would any one of them be likely to pose a danger to strangers?


Location of evacuation supplies (leashes, carriers)


Location of medical records


Name, address and phone number of your prearranged petsitters.


Name, address and phone number of your veterinarian


Detailed directions to your home (in case you are in a state of panic and in need of rescue, or someone unfamiliar with your area must call for help.

Make arrangements for long-term pet care
A lawyer should always be consulted when deciding how to provide for the care of your pets in the event that you are no longer able.  Important issues to consider:


Even if you provide for your pets in your Will, it can take weeks or months for the will to be probated.  Short-term arrangements should be in place with friends.  your executor should be privy to these arrangements and have instructions for reimbursing expenses through the estate.


Some states will not permit a pet owner to leave any part of his or her estate directly to an animal.  Alternatives might be conditional bequests, in which both the pet and a sum of money are left to a beneficiary, or honorary trusts, in which trustees named by the pet owner can use funds in the trust to care for the animal.


Caretakers designated in a Will should be notified in advance, as they will have all the rights and responsibilities of ownership of the pet.   It is advisable to name alternate caretakers in the "Wi9ll, in cast the first-named person is unable or unwilling to take care of the pet when the time comes.


Be sure your executor knows of your plans.

For more information on pets in your Will, visit the Cat Clinic web site

What if You Cannot Leave Home?

Have supplies available in case you can not leave your home
We rely on the convenience of being able to run to the grocery store or pharmacy whenever we want. In the event of a local or regional disaster, not only might you be unable to leave home, but also the transportation lines bringing supplies might be disrupted. Local utilities might be interrupted, and water source could be contaminated. You need to plan for your pets as well as for yourself.


Water:  Water supplies could be cut off or contaminated.   A two week supply of tap water stored in plastic bottles should be set aside for each pet, in addition to your own supply.  Your pets will be less reluctant than you to drink from a swimming pool or a creek, but you should have a method available to decontaminate the water.


Food:  Grocery stores and pet stores depend on multiple deliveries each week to keep up their stock.  If supply lines are closed, the pet food shelves will be empty in a few days.  You should keep a two week supply of pet food on hand at all times.  Don't run low, and rotate your stores to be sure the food is fresh.  If the possibility of flooding or hazardous waste contamination exists in your area, you should keep supplies of canned food on hand as an added precaution.   Again, rotate your stores.


Medications:  Veterinarians do not keep large inventories of drugs on hand;  they also rely on frequent deliveries.  Pharmacies do the same, and their drugs would be earmarked for human use in the event of an emergency.  If your pet is on regular medication, you should be sure that you have a two week supply on hand at all times.


Environmental Concerns:  Unless your pets are very young or very old, temperature extremes will be of less concern to them than they will be to you. If the power goes off, a dog or a cat can warm up a small space, such as a box or a crate, with its own body heat. If the weather is hot, you will need to be able to open a screened window for ventilation, or move pets to a cool basement. Remember that you may not be able to dispose of wastes in your normal manner. Stockpile some large plastic bags in case this is an issue.


Small Animal First Aid Kit:

Adhesive Tape (1 and 2 inch)
Antibiotic Ointment
Betadine Solution
Cotton-tipped Swabs
Elastic Bandage Rolls
Gauze Pads and Rolls
Hydrogen Peroxide

Isopropyl Alcohol
Latex Gloves

Measuring Spoons
Saline Solution (for eyes and wounds)
Syringe or Eyedropper
Thermometer (digital)

What if You Have to Evacuate?

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 precious time and lives.

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

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 awhile.  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.

Have a leash and collar or harness for each pet
Even cats that are in carriers and do not normally wear harnesses should not leave the house without a harness, just in case your next stop is a crowded shelter full of strange dogs.

Be sure each pet is wearing identification
Microchips are recommended, as they cannot be lost. Also, each pet should be wearing a tag.  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 additional evacuation site information.

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

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.

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

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 Pet" signs with your animal's photo and your contact information in case you are separated.

Pack a two-week supply of food and water
in plastic gallon jugs.  Include non-spill food and water bowls, and don't forget the can opener.

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.  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.

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.

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The Cat Sitter™ has tried one of these, and, it works!!!
The following is from a Clevercat® flyer

Purchase directly at 1-888-345-8484, or go to

Clevercat® Top Entry Litterbox is the only top entry litterbox.  Three of the pet industry's leading magazines presented Clevercat® with notable awards as being one of the best new products of 2001!  The revolutionary top entry design nearly eliminates tracking, and reduces odor.  The seamless sidewalls prevent leakage and over-the-edge messes.  Its cover doubles as a space-saving built-in tracking mat.   It's also dog proof from most dogs!  Cats and kittens love the privacy and easily adapt in two to three days.  Fits ten-week old kittens to large cats, and may be used with any type litter.

(Clevercat not recommended for disabled, elderly, or extra-large cats.)

Litterbox/Litter tips


Scoop and/or change litter and liner frequently for your cat's best health.


When introducing any new litterbox, continue using the same type of litter for at least one month.


Never flush scooped litter clumps or used litter down a toilet or drain.


Place your litterbox in a quiet, out-of-the-way location convenient to both you and your cat.


Choose a permanent spot for your litterbox.  If it becomes necessary to move it, be sure to introduce your cat to the new location.

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Great Happening

Change = scary Word

Does change affect your cat? You bet it does. As many of you know, I work for The Cat Doctor in Buckhead but was missing from The Cat Doctor for about a year. During that year my cat, Ms. Sophie, had to live through a good many changes. Ms. Sophie is a wonderful friend, she was patient when I needed patience, she was understanding or tolerant or both when I needed it, and of course she was loving and kind.

I really don’t think she completely understands why things are different now. I do know she understands something has changed. Both humans and animals sometimes reject change because we like things the way they are. We think we have grown enough and don’t need to grow anymore. Thank goodness we really don’t call all the shots; we would miss a lot if we did. Change is a wonderful thing; it’s how we grow in life.

I know we, as well as our clients (which are our friends), are going through a big change at The Cat Doctor. It is a little scary but I happen to know it is a wonderful change. If I did not think so I would not have come out of retirement. Dr. Weigner, along with this wonderful staff, are doing and will continue to do all they can to make the change as pleasant as possible.

Back to Ms. Sophie and the changes she has gone through. While I was away from The Cat Doctor I spent a lot more time at home. Since I have many allergies, dander being one of them, everyone thought I would have to find her a new home. No way. However, I did close the bedroom door and put her on the balcony. It’s very nice with lots of plants and flowers, not to mention several rockers with beautiful plump cushions to lay on. There are many birds of all kinds and colors; their singing sounds beautiful. There is even a Gecko who lives on the balcony.

Ms Sophie likes it out there and I thought that was the solution. But, she wants me to leave the door open so she can go in and out. Plus, I couldn’t stay away from her so I went out to hold her and to sit and rock. Well, that’s fine, but if I am going to hold her, putting her out and joining her defeats the purpose.

So, I had her shaved and brought her back inside.

Ms. Sophie doesn’t understand everything I tell her and all I have put her through, but she understands I love her & life has changed.

There is a moral to this story and it is this; don’t be afraid of change whatever the change may be. Remember, something wonderful is near and waiting for you and your cats and anything else in your life.

By Bene’ Cook
Practice Consultant
The Cat Doctor

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