Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have what I feel is a very important question and I really haven’t seen it addressed anywhere. I live in a major city where twice I barely made the cut not to have to evacuate my apartment. That said, I have a lovely furbaby by the name of Andy that I love as if he were my own child. The thought of leaving him behind under those circumstances breaks my heart. Just think about it: Dogs are simpler; you put on a leash, take portable bowls for water and food (and food, of course) and go. For cats, things are more complicated. They need litter and a box, for example. Evacuation is made more difficult by the fact that my Andy is super scared — almost afraid of his own shadow! How would you wise and thoughtful kitties recommend I prepare for the possibility of having to evacuate in a disaster?
Thomas: Antonia, this is a very good question — and a very important one!
Bella: The first thing you’ll need to do is be prepared by getting things your sweet Andy would need if you had to leave in a hurry, and put those things where you could grab them quickly along with your own evacuation supplies.
Tara: This includes Andy’s carrier as well as a portable litter box, litter, food (be sure that if you bring canned food it’s the kind you can open without a can opener!), clean water and bowls. If Andy is on any medication, you’ll need to have a supply of that, too.
Thomas: You should also bring photos of Andy in case you’re separated or he flees in fear. The ASPCA also recommends that you put a rescue sticker on your door so that if you do have to flee before you can get Andy, that disaster relief people know there’s a cat in your apartment.
Bella: And don’t forget to have a copy of his veterinary records — especially proof of vaccination against rabies if that’s required by law in your area!
Tara: The ASPCA has a complete list of tips for disaster preparedness and what you should put in your “bug-out bag” for your cat, so start there.
Bella: Another super-important thing we’d recommend: Have Andy microchipped if you haven’t already! That way, if he does get away or is found by rescue workers, they’ll have a way to reunite the two of you.
Tara: Mama’s had all three of us microchipped. We also have collars with our names and Mama’s phone number on them.
Thomas: Now — as for the bigger question: How do you get Andy prepared to leave in a hurry when he’s a super-scaredy cat?
Bella: Scared cats will do one of two things: They’ll hunker down or they’ll flee. If Andy has no way to flee your apartment, the chances are he’ll run under furniture or into a closet if a fire alarm starts going off or there’s an earthquake or some other similarly loud and scary incident.
Tara: You need to be ready to grab him and endure scratches or even bites if you have to, in order to get him into his carrier.
Thomas: But hopefully you won’t have to do that if you do a couple of things ahead of time.
Bella: First of all, try building his confidence through interactive play. Feather on a string toys work really well for a lot of cats, but some cats prefer Sometimes a scared cat needs to feel like he “owns” his space, and the way to do that is to get him out and playing in that space.
Tara: If he’s a super-scaredy cat, you may want to talk to your vet about a short course of medication to help him feel less anxious. Mama’s been giving me medications to help me feel braver, and it is starting to help some.
Thomas: You can also get him used to his carrier, which is best done gradually.
Bella: Super-behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett has written a fantastic explanation of how to introduce a cat to a carrier, which we’d highly recommend that you read and use.
Tara: Also, as you’re teaching Andy to be more confident through play, teach him to come when you call his name. You can do this with clicker training or with food (if Andy is really food-motivated). That will help you if he hides under furniture when he’s scared.
Bella: I wish you’d come out and play, Tara. I want to be your friend!
Tara: But … but … I’m scared! No, I mean, I’m a brave kitty. I’m a brave kitty. I’m a brave kitty …
Thomas: Atta girl, Tara. Good job!
Thomas: Oh, for heaven’s sake! I just want to touch noses with you.
Tara: I’m trying to be brave. *sniffle*
Bella: And you’re doing a very good job, too.
Thomas: And finally, if you can, try to be less nervous or panicked if you do have to evacuate. We cats pick up your emotions very easily, and if you’re stressed and scared, we will be, too.
Bella: What about you other readers? What have you done to prepare your cats for a disaster? Did you have a scaredy cat that you helped to be more confident? How did you do it? Please share your wisdom in the comments!