My human and I watched the movie 2012 last night and it brought back some terrible memories. I was just a kitten living in New Orleans when we had this terrible storm. My family left me and the dog at home alone. The noise was terrible. We spent hours and hours cowered together inside a jet, not in the cabin—inside the engine. At least it seemed that way. The house exploded from around us. Poor pooch didn’t make it. I huddled alone under a collapsed porch for over week without any food. There was water…everywhere! It smelled and tasted like toilet water, and I’m not talking flower-scented kind.
Finally, some people in a boat came and took me to a building with lots of other scared dogs and cats. I kept looking for my family, but I never saw them again. Some other humans took me to my new home in Joplin. We had a bad storm here last year. This time it sounded like a train. I don’t need to tell you what happened here. The whole town was flattened, but we came through it safe and sound. Everything was fine until a few days ago. It’s been raining buckets here, and I’m scared again. I keep having nightmares about transportation. I don’t know where we can go that’s safe. My human Mom is talking about moving to a place called San Francisco. What can I do to make sure I don’t get left behind again?
They call me NOAA
Sorry to hear about your string of disasters. In 2005 you were lucky to have gotten out of Louisiana with a higher than ambient body temperature. Thousands of pets didn’t. And like you, most of the cats and dogs left behind never saw their families again.
Moving west may keep you safe from hurricanes and tornadoes, but Mother Nature loves to show off her destructive creativity. So, no matter where you live, disasters can pop up with little or no warning. Tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires may line you up in their proverbial sights.
Then there are unnatural disasters, like trains derailing and chemical spills. At any time, a cop could show up at your door and tell everyone to get out!
A word to your humans: Don’t leave your fur family behind, even when the cop assures you you’ll be back home in time to watch Finding Bigfoot. If it’s dangerous for people, it’s dangerous for pets. Humans won’t leave the toddler in her crib if it’s only going to be a few minutes. Just saying…
In 1996, a train carrying enough explosive chemicals to evaporate the state of Rhode Island derailed in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. The town immediately evacuated over 2,300 humans living within a mile and a half of the wreck. Cops told the people to leave their pets behind cuz they’d be back soon. Then, the train cars began exploding, sending train parts and fireballs three-hundred feet in the air. Anxious pet parents were told it would be weeks before the high and mighty allowed them back in their homes. By that time, the trapped furry family members would be deader than disco. After two days, some of the pet owners mutinied. Despite the danger of airborne train cars, they snuck into town and saved their cats and dogs. Within another two days later, the governor ordered the National Guard to assist the remaining pet owners.
Fortunately, humans have learned a lot from the great flying train catastrophe and Hurricane Katrina. Those high and mighty Washington types passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards act (PETS), or I like to call it the No Pet Left Behind act. Now cities and states have to include pets in evacuation plans. That means unlike before they can’t order people to leave their pet to die in a disaster.
But the government can’t (and won’t) do it all. Noah, your humans should pretend they’re Dog Scouts and Be Prepared!
Most cats, including me, show eminently better sense than humans, preferring to hide under a bed or in a closet at the first sign of danger. If your humans know something like a wildfire, hurricane or even an old fashion severe thunderstorm is speeding their direction, they should put you in a small secure room so they can find you pronto. Next, they need to place your Catastrophe Avoidance Tote (or Go Bag) near the door so you’ll have everything you need if y’all need to bug out. All Go Bags should be stored in an easy-to-remember and easy-to-get-to place, not in the basement underneath a functioning transmission for that 1971 Ford Pinto.
Before a disaster happens, your human needs to look into some stylish body piercing. I’m not talking about a nose stud or belly button ring. A microchip placed between your shoulder blades may not make you look cooler, but when emergency volunteers ask, “Who’s your daddy?”, you can tell them—indirectly as you keep your mom’s contact information current with the data manager. Even if you lose your collar or tags, that microchip can tell shelter workers not to euthanize you. So Every puss and pooch in the house needs their own Go Bag. So what exactly goes into a Kitty Kit or a Pooch Pack? I’ll be talking about kitties stuff, but dog owners can use their gray matter and substitute the words “poop bags” for “litter box” and “leash” for “carrier.”
• An old pillowcase. What happens when the vet transportation device (carrier) comes out? Any kitty worth his litter becomes a magician and disappears. Since we kitties don’t associate the pillow case with anything scary, you won’t vanish when you see it. Your humans can slip it over your head and place you in the carrier without the need for chainmail gloves or reconstructive surgery. Plus you’ll have a cozy pillowcase to curl up on.
• A carrier for each cat (pet). You could be stuck in there for a week, so you’ll need to be able to stand up and turn around inside, with enough room to fit in a shoebox or disposable aluminum baking pan (litter box), and food and water bowls. In case you get separated from your humans, the carrier should have their names and cell phone number written on the outside with a permanent marker, and a luggage tag with contact info.
• Bottled water for a week. Even if there’s safe water where you’re going, strange H20 might give you the runs. There’s no experience in the world like being stuck in a car with a cat experiencing an overactive anus.
• A week’s worth of Felix (Fido) food. Use pull-tab cans or plastic pouches that don’t need a can opener. Don’t forget dry kibble in a zippered freezer bag, in case you get the “crunchies” on the road.
• Poop clean up stuff. Because what goes in must come out, include enough cat litter to last for a week, and a scoop and a handful of plastic grocery store bags (poop bags.) Store the litter in a waterproof container (like the zippered freezer bag).
• Any kitty prescription medicines, plus the name and phone number of your veterinarian. (Your mom should rotate meds out when the clocks spring forward or fall back so they won’t expire.) Keep copies of prescriptions for refrigerated meds like insulin.
• Harness and leash. A harness works better for evacuation situations than collars. If you get scared and take a swipe at your mom, she can stay safe…from a distance. A harness won’t come off, either. Your ID, rabies and microchip tags should be attached.
• A copy of your medical records. Store records, especially rabies shot records, in a zippered plastic bag to protect them from water damage.
The above items are MUST HAVES, but here are some other helpful things to have handy.
• A pet first aid kit. (Not all the medicines in human first aid kits are safe for pets.)
• Current photos of you and your human together kept in a zippered plastic bag. Not only are these great memories, they’re proof of ownership. And if you get lost, it will help emergency workers identify you.
• Toys and your favorite blankie. How boring is that carrier going to be for a week at a time?
• Baby wipes. In case you make a mess or your human can’t wash up after scooping the box.
Once you’re ready to leave, your humans still need to know where to go. Unless they have friends or family to stay with, they’ll want to keep a list of pet-friendly hotels. While people can’t be forced to evacuate without pets, few shelter permit furry types. (Ridiculous since we’re cleaner and better behaved than most rug rats.) Motel 6/Accor, Super 8, La Quinta, Days Inn and Red Roof exhibit excellent taste in clientele, and usually offer pet-friendly accommodations. As soon as your humans decide they need to leave, they should call and make reservations. (Your human mom can even make your reservations through AdoptAShelter.com to benefit her favorite animal shelter.)
I hope you never experience another disaster, Noah, but now you can nap peacefully knowing your humans have planned ahead. Hopefully you’ll never again have to ask yourself, “Noah, how long can you tread water?”
By Dusty Rainbolt & Debbie Waller
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