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How do I include my pet in a disaster plan?

Q: We retired last month to Florida, where Hurricane Dorian took us by surprise. We have two cats and evacuating with them was difficult. How can we make the process easier next time?

A: Everyone should plan for disasters, because fires, earthquakes and major chemical spills can happen anywhere.

Tips for pet evacuation preparedness:

1. Start by taking cell phone photos your cats, their vaccination records and microchip certificates, or put these documents in a large envelope. Update the records regularly.

Editor’s Note: The Figo Pet Cloud app helps you keep all your pet’s important records in one place to be accessed anytime, anywhere.

2. If your cats aren’t microchipped, see your veterinarian for this quick procedure. A microchip injected under the skin at the shoulder blades provides lifetime identification in case your cats get lost. If you have to evacuate, each cat should also wear a cat-safe collar with ID tag.

3. Decide on a few evacuation locations, based on how widespread the disaster could be. Compile a list of friends, animal hospitals, boarding kennels and pet-friendly motels now. During a disaster, also consider evacuation shelters that accept pets.

4. Buy a carrier for each cat and tape your contact information to the outside. The carrier should be large enough to hold your cat’s bed, food and water bowls, and a small litter box. Line the carriers with towels and leave them open in your home so your cats snooze in them and feel safe there.

5. Fill a tote bag with a 2-week supply of bottled water, food, medications and litter. Don’t forget bowls, litter pans and Feliway spray, a pheromone that helps cats relax and feel secure. Rotate perishables periodically so they stay fresh.

When there’s a next time, your pre-planning will make the adventure easier.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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