Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet
Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost, or worse. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to find out what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area to accommodate pets and to include pets in your disaster plan to keep them safe during an emergency.
Have you included pets in your disaster plan? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start today by:
- Making a plan and
- Preparing a disaster kit
By doing so, you are protecting the health of not only your pet, but yourself, your family, and others in your community.
To get started, familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could impact your area and consider your options for providing care for your pet(s).
Make a Plan
Disasters can happen without warning, so be prepared for these events:
- Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
- Microchip your pet(s) – this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
- Purchase a pet carrier for each of your pets (write your pet's name, your name and contact information on each carrier).
- Familiarize your pet with its transport crate before a crisis.
- Practice transporting your pet by taking them in for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in.
- Practice catching your pet, if needed.
- Keep a leash and/or carrier nearby the exit.
- Ensure proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
- If you do not have a car, make arrangements with neighbors, family and friends. You can also contact your local government to learn about transportation options during a disaster.
- Decide where you and your pet are going to stay. Based on the severity of a disaster, you may have two options for your pets:
- Sheltering in place
- Sheltering in a facility away from home (during an evacuation)
Sheltering in Place
When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet-friendly in the following ways:
- Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows.
- Remove any toxic chemicals or plants.
- Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck in (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).
Sheltering during an evacuation
- Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets.
- If accommodations are needed for your pet(s):
- Contact local veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and local animal shelters. Visit the Humane Society website to find a shelter in your area. .
- Contact family or friends outside the evacuation area.
- Contact a pet-friendly hotel, particularly along evacuation routes.
- Make plans before disaster strikes for where you and your pets will go. Be aware that pets may not be allowed in local human shelters, unless they are service animals.
- Check with:
- Family or friends outside the evacuation area.
- Pet-friendly hotels
- Check with:
Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit
Prepare a disaster kit for your pet(s), so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help putting it together. Here is a checklist to get you started. Some examples of what to include are:
Disaster Supplies for Pets
- Food (in airtight waterproof containers or cans) and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet
- Food and water bowls and a manual can opener
- For cats: litter box and litter
- For dogs: plastic bags for poop
- Clean-up items for bathroom accidents (paper towels, plastic trash bags, bleach-containing cleaning agent)
- Medications for at least 2 weeks, along with any treats used to give the medications and pharmacy contact for refills
- Medical records
- Rabies vaccination certificate
- Current vaccination record
- If your pet has a microchip, a record of the microchip number
- Prescription for medication(s)
- For cats, most recent FeLV/FIV test result or vaccination date
- Summary of pertinent medical history; ask your veterinarian for a copy
- Sturdy leashes or harnesses
- Carrier or cage that is large enough for your pet to stand comfortably and turn around; towels or blankets
- Pet toys and bed (familiar items to help the pet[s] feel more comfortable).
- A handout containing identification information (in the event you get separated from your pet)
- Current photo of pet
- Pet’s descriptive features (age, sex, neutered/non-neutered status, color(s), and approximate weight)
- Microchip number
- Owner contact information (cell phone, work phone, home phone)
- Contact information of a close relative or friend,
- A handout with boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems
- Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers
Protect Yourself from Injury and Illness
- Disasters are stressful for humans and pets alike. Practice safe handling of your pet, because your pet may behave differently during a stressful situation.
- To avoid common diseases that pets can transmit to people
- Wash your hands before and after handling your pet and its waste
- Wash your hands right after handling pet food or treats
- Wash your hands after picking up your pet’s stool or cleaning a litter box
- Avoid letting your pet lick your face or hands
Diseases Pets Can Transmit to People During a Natural Disaster
Natural disasters can contribute to the transmission of some diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put your pet at risk for getting sick. Some of these illnesses can be transmitted to people. Some common disaster-related diseases that pets can pass to people are listed below.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in both animals and people. Rabies is transmitted through bites from rabid animals or through contact with their saliva.To protect you and your pet:
- Keep your pet up-to-date on rabies vaccine
- Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately
- Practice safe handling of pets in a stressful situation
- Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash
- Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals
Ringworm is a condition caused by a fungus that can infect skin, hair, and nails of both people and animals. Ringworm is transmitted from animals to people through direct contact with an infected animal's skin or hair or through touching an object where an affected animal has been. To protect your family from ringworm:
- Wash your hands after touching any animal
- Do not let your pet interact with other animals
- Use disinfectant to clean the cage and litter box
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in the urine of infected animals that can cause kidney damage and affect other organs. It is transmitted through contact with infected urine or contaminated water, soil, and food.
- Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your pet for leptospirosis
- Wash your hands after coming in contact with urine
- Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters
- Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water
Diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks: Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are common pests of stray animals and can be a problem immediately following a disaster situation. Their bites irritate the skin and may also carry a variety of diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile virus) harmful to both humans and animals. To prevent illnesses associated with mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks:
- Keep your pet up-to-date on heartworm and flea and tick preventive treatments
- Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals
- Wash your pet’s bedding regularly
Visit Healthy Pets Healthy People for more information on diseases animals can transmit to humans.
What if I am separated from my pet?
Make sure that your family is in a safe location before you begin your search.
- If you are in a shelter that houses pets, inform one of the pet caretakers. Give the pet caretaker your pre-made missing pet handout.
- Once you have been cleared to leave the shelter and return home, contact animal control about your lost pet.
- Last, call the microchip company to make sure all the information about you and your pet is updated and current.
- CDC Protect your Pets in an Emergency
- CDC Emergency Preparedness and YouCDC Fact sheet: Protect yourself from animal and insect-related hazards after a disaster
- Saving the Whole Family guide to disaster preparedness from the American Veterinary Medical Association [PDF - 378KB]
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: Considerations for caring for animals during a disaster
- Humane Society of the United States: Making a disaster plan for pets
- United States Department of Agriculture: Animal Emergency and Disaster Planning Information (includes farm animals)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: Evacuation routes
- Louisiana State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Manual for Animal Shelters during a Disaster
- READY.GOV Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Pet Owners [PDF - 283KB]
- Page last reviewed: August 19, 2013
- Page last updated: August 19, 2013
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs