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Keep Pets Safe by Practicing for an Emergency

By Linda Cole

I live in Tornado Alley, and when I bought my home one of the most important considerations was a basement. I wanted a secure area where I could leave my pets when it was stormy and I was at work. Emergencies can happen at any time, day or night, but too many families don't consider what might happen until a disaster is at their front door.

Practicing how you will handle certain kinds of emergencies can make a difference. Practice makes perfect, and when you know what to do and where to go, panic doesn't take over your mind. Practice gives you knowledge, and knowledge gives you the power and strength to move quickly in an emergency.

Having a plan is one of the best ways to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe in an emergency. Teaching kids what to do when they're home alone may not ease fears in an emergency, but it can help to keep them calmer so they can follow a plan instead of racing around trying to think what they should do and frantically searching for pets that may be hiding or forgetting about them altogether.

Pets have certain places in their home where they feel the most comfortable and safe. Some prefer a secluded place like under the bed or tucked away in a closet. It's important for everyone to know your pet’s favorite places because most likely, that's where you'll find them if they're hiding. Cats and dogs are pros at picking up how we are feeling and if we have anxiety and are frightened, they understand it. So it's important to know all of the possible hiding places your pet could go if they're scared. You can’t count on them answering you if they're frightened. Pets can freeze up with fear just like people can do.

I had a fire in my home many years ago. After the firemen put out the fire, I went into the house to try and find my cats. My dog was running around outside making new friends. I had left everyone in the basement and the fire was upstairs, so I was confident the cats were safe. I quickly found three of them sitting on the basement steps, but one was missing. After searching for over an hour, upstairs and downstairs, I finally found her sitting on a shelf at the bottom of the basement steps. With all the smoke in the air, I couldn't see her and she refused to answer me when I called her. My pets made it through their ordeal, but it taught me why it's important to know every possible hiding place in the house.

Because emergencies are different and affect everyone in the household, sit down with the entire family and talk about where to go, what to do, what to grab and how you will contain your pet in different emergency scenarios such as fires or tornadoes. Everyone should know where the emergency kit is kept, where a pet could be hiding and where leashes, pet carriers or cages are kept. I have two large dog crates already set up in the basement I can use for the cats or dogs if I need to contain them. I also have a large pet carrier and 3 smaller carriers just in case they might be needed. Once you know what to do, where to go and how you will keep your pets under control, then you need to practice 4 or 5 times a year, or more if you think it's necessary to help younger children understand what to do.

Take your pet to the safe area so he feels comfortable when it's important for him to be there, and include him whenever you are practicing your plan. Some of his favorite toys and a handful of CANIDAE TidNips treats can help make practice time a positive experience for your pet.

Having a plan and practicing it helps everyone feel less panicked if and when an emergency happens. We can't control Mother Nature, and house fires happen. The safety of your family and pet depends on knowing how to stay as safe as possible. Practicing a plan can help by keeping everyone calmer and thinking with a clear head. Practicing is what makes a plan work.

For related reading, see “How to Create Your Own Pet Emergency Kit” and “Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners.”

Photo by Ygonaar

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