Protecting our pets during natural disasters
Written by Dr Bridget Brown, JCU Vet Veterinary Associate
Townsville is a beautiful place to live, well-known for its beaches, reefs, rainforests and warm weather. However it is vulnerable to a number of natural disasters including severe storms, cyclones, flooding and bushfires, so it’s important for residents to be prepared.
Often these situations can be frightening for the whole family including our pets, who may become stressed and behave differently. Planning for these situations is crucial in order to consider their safety.
Planning is key
- Ensure your pets are microchipped and always wearing a collar, with an ID tag (featuring up-to-date contact information) and council registration details.
- Keep recent photos of your pets, featuring special markings (this could help to identify them more easily). Print the photos and write their name, microchip number and your contact details on the back.
- Prepare a pet emergency kit including their essentials such as food, water, medications, harnesses, sanitation needs (i.e. doggy bags/litter box) and bedding.
- Consider your closest evacuation shelter – some of them may not allow pets, so it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared.
Safe and secure areas
- Travel crates are ideal as these can also be used to evacuate animals if need be.
- Have a bed and blankets with the crate which can be used for animals to hide in, if they become scared, It can also help to reduce the noise of the weather.
- Ideally, have your pets set up in the home so you can check on them frequently without putting yourself in danger.
- Pack an emergency bag for your pet that includes enough food, water and suitable medications.
- Don’t forget the importance of harnesses and leads, which assist with moving or transporting animals when they need to be secured.
- Keep a list of contact details for your regular vet, closest animal emergency centre, local pound and animal shelters handy.
Calming aids to reduce stress may include:
- Pheromone diffusers, sprays or collars (available for cats and dogs).
- Medications prescribed by your veterinarian (use as directed).
- Favourite toy, bedding or hiding places (as long as they are secure).
- Thunder shirts (a natural option which provides gentle, calming pressure).
How should I behave when my pet is anxious?
- Don’t ignore them. If they are scared and looking to you for guidance and support, it’s important to acknowledge them and act normal. Try talking to them in a comforting voice and giving them a pat or a cuddle briefly, before returning to your normal behaviour. That way they can understand that you are not afraid and happy to continue as normal.
- Allow them to hide and be by themselves if that is what they want. Hiding is a coping mechanism and forcing your pet out when they’re scared is both dangerous and distressing for them.
- Never punish your pet when they are afraid, as this will likely contribute to their anxiety in the future. They may see your behaviour as proof that they were right to be worried.
- Keep things familiar (i.e. playing the television). A drastic change in your routine may contribute to their anxiety.
- Distractions can be helpful, such as their favourite games or activities. It also helps them to acknowledge that good things can happen during stressful times.
- If your pet is comfortable settling in with you, then this is the best option to ensure they remain safe and secure.
Please stay safe and take care out there!
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