Prep for emergencies:

Don't forget your fur family

For all its rolling green hills, tranquil lakes and benign flora and fauna, Aotearoa still poses serious risks to its inhabitants. What we lack in dangerous species, Mother Nature makes up for in seismic and meteorological-related activity. Earthquakes and heavy weather threaten us enough that an investment in emergency preparedness is well-advised for every household.

One area where many such plans may be lacking is with the family pets. The safety of cats and dogs also requires forethought and special provisions to survive a ‘big one’, says pet insurance specialist PD Insurance chief operating officer Michelle Le Long.

“The possibility of a natural disaster is never out of mind. It’s one of the facts of life living in New Zealand, and with a little preparation it needn’t be cause for undue concern,” she notes. “But do give a thought to your pets; taking similar precautions for the furry family members means assuring their wellbeing along with your own should the unexpected happen.”

The dangers we face

The risks faced by everyone in Aotearoa are clear on the government ‘Get Ready’ web page. Hazards include earthquakes (most prominently) along with floods, landslides, storms – the recent Cyclone Hale stands out – and tsunami and volcanic activity. Government advice starts with a plan for your household, and Le Long stresses this plan should include the pets.

“Everyone in your household should know what the plan is,” she says. “This includes preparing supplies that will get you through at least three days in terms of food, water and necessary medicine. Be sure there’s enough for the fur babies, as you don’t want them going without.”

What to pack for the pets

Government advice recommends at least nine litres of water for every person and long-lasting ready-to-eat food, with suitable options for babies and pets. Other recommendations include toilet paper and large plastic buckets for an emergency toilet. A medical aid kit should be included too, along with any medications for chronic or specific conditions.

Besides sufficient food and water for your fur babies, consider bowls, carriers, leashes, kitty litter and poo bags. Comforting items such as favourite toys or a blanket are ideal supports for the stress your pets might experience in an emergency. Also bear in mind that even though there’s every possibility additional household items will be available and useable if you’re trapped in such a situation, your plan must assume they aren’t.

Remember the basics: Identification!

One reality of a chaotic natural disaster is the potential for separation of pets and their families. While dogs must be microchipped by law, there’s no such provision for cats. Consider having them fitted with this form of identification that enables you to be contacted if they’re found.

Having a recent picture of your pet is a good idea, too, in case the ‘Facebook army’ or other means of help are required in finding them. And the most basic of basics? Be sure your pets have a collar, preferably with some form of identification carrying your phone number.

During an earthquake

We all know to ‘drop, cover and hold’, “but what do you do with your pets?” Le Long asks.

“Animal experts advise leaving them to ‘do their own thing’, noting they’re great at finding their own safety. If inside, don’t struggle to reach for them unless they’re close and calm enough to hold. Focus on finding your own safety spot quickly. If your pet is frightened, don’t attempt to hold onto them if they try to escape and never force them to come out of a hiding spot.”

After an earthquake

Aftershocks usually follow larger earthquakes. Try to keep pets safe and secure from further danger and keep a close eye on their behaviour. Comfort them as much as possible.

If you must evacuate and leave your pets behind, don’t restrain or crate them, says Le Long.

“Ensure you leave behind enough food and water where they can easily access it,” she says. “If your pet’s gone missing, enquire with your neighbours or anyone nearby. Also contact surrounding vets, the local council or animal rescue organisations to try and locate them.”

Le Long adds, “While your pets are part of the family, when a quake or any other natural disaster hits it often does so without warning. Human safety must take priority; as the immediate danger recedes, deal with any people problems first then tend to the fur kids.”

Finally, she says pet insurance should be part and parcel of your preparation.


Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]