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Posted on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 8 p.m.

If you have pets, being prepared in severe weather is crucial

By Lorrie Shaw


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In looking at the calendar, we're all kind of scratching our heads at the weather patterns this month. It's March, right??

Certainly, as a pet sitter, I'm relishing it, but I realize the danger that can ensue because of the unstable weather.

The weather systems that are making some very unfavorable conditions possible are a concern for those who share life with pets of all sizes, and for those professionals like me who care for pets while their humans are away.

With the tornado watch that was issued and posted here on this evening, it's the mindful thing to prepare if pets — including dogs, cats and other animals — are under your care.

First rule of thumb: stay calm. It sounds clichéd, but it will serve you best. As the human, you're responsible for a pet's care.

Here are a few more crucial tips that can help lead to a happy ending should something disastrous happen because of the weather:

  • Make sure that your pet has a collar with identification and/or is microchipped. If they are lost in the event of a disaster, these tools will make it easier to be reunited. (I recommend that my clients have an ID tag — or, as one client does, flyers — with my contact info on them while they're away.)

  • It sounds odd and techie, but in addition to paying attention to the weather forecast, look to my Twitter feed (and include the hashtag #miwx) for Michigan-centric information. In real time, I can get a great idea of what is going in and around the areas that I need to be in on any given day.

  • In our basement, we have a pet survival kit that includes: fresh stash of pet food (consider easy-to-store pet nutritional bars), bottled water, medications (including syringes and a Sharps waste container if diabetes is present), veterinary records, a disposable cat litter pan, extra food dishes, a pet first aid kit, poop bags, a quart-sized container of bleach and other supplies with us in case we need them if a disaster hits. Don't forget a comfy pet bed for each pet!
  • Ensure that you have some photos of your pet should you and your pet become separated.
  • Have favorite toys and treats on hand for your pet. They provide a fun outlet and reduce stress during tough situations.

  • If you have a cats and other small pets, make sure that you have a secure pet carrier handy in case you need it. For dogs, we have leashes for each dog ready and we actually put a harness on them as we head to the basement when the situation calls for it.

  • Never leave your pet chained outdoors, or to fend for themselves. They depend on you to provide care for them.

Additionally, please note that not all shelters accept pets if you must seek refuge temporarily. Click here to learn more from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about sheltering your pet if you are unable to return home, and more tips on caring for pet birds and other considerations should disaster strike.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to's email newsletters.