Dr. Marty Becker
Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and even man-made disasters have brought home to us all in recent years that a crisis can happen at any time, in any community.
Just as you can't leave preparing for your human family members to chance, you need a plan to ensure the safety of your pets. Here are some steps to get you started:
Make a plan. Prepare for all possibilities, including that you may be away from home when disaster strikes. Get to know your neighbors, and be prepared to help each other out. Find out from local emergency operation agencies, shelters, veterinary organizations and your own veterinarian what the local emergency response plans are and what help they can provide for you and your pet.
Keep ID on your pets. Most animals survive a disaster, but too many never see their families again. That's because many pets aren't equipped with a way to determine which pet belongs to which family. Pets should always wear a collar and identification tags. Better still is a permanent identification that can't slip off, such as an imbedded microchip. Make sure one of the numbers on your pet's ID and chip records is your cell phone, as well as a friend or relative living out of the area. That way, if you can't get to your home phone, you can still be reached and reunited with your pet.
Put your pet's records in one easy-to-grab spot. Make a simple file with updated records of your pet's vaccinations and other health records, as well as his license and microchip information, and details on his pet-health insurance provider. Include some good pictures of your pet with simple, uncluttered backgrounds, so if you need to make "lost pet" posters, you can. Put this material with the rest of your important papers in a place safe from fire or flood.
Have carriers and restraints at hand. You're not going to get advance warning of some disasters, such as earthquakes. But if you know a storm is on the way or a wildfire may turn your way, make sure you get your pet inside. Sturdy crates and carriers belong on the list of "must-haves," along with restraints, including comfortable box muzzles for dogs and soft face-shield muzzles and restraint bags for cats. While you may trust your pet to remain calm, it's better to be prepared: An injured or scared pet may lash out in self-defense.
Include your pet's needs in your emergency kit. Always keep ample supplies on hand of your pet's food, medications, litter and enough water to cover your pet as well as your human family members. (And rotate all supplies regularly.) A first-aid kit should cover your pet's needs as well as your own -- and should include a compact first-aid guide geared to pets. If your pet eats canned food, don't forget to throw in a spare can opener and a spoon. Disposable dishes and litter boxes can be useful as well.
One of the best investments you can make when it comes to preparation is to know basic first aid for pets and people alike. For a directory of instructors in your area, check PetTech.net or ask your veterinarian for information.
New baby? Your cat
doesn't have to go
You don't need to find a new home for your cat if you are expecting a baby, no matter what well-meaning relatives and friends may say to the contrary.
When pregnant, have someone else handle the litter-box chores, and if you garden, wear gloves just in case a neighbor's cat has left deposits in your flower beds.
After your baby comes home, common sense dictates that no animal be left unattended with a small child. While cats do not maliciously smother or suck the breath out of babies -- as the myths hold -- it's just safer to take no chances. (I have to admit: Seeing proud parents post pictures online of babies propped up on cats and dogs makes my stomach flip. Don't take stupid risks for a "cute" picture.)
After your child is older, you still want to remain on the lookout for problems. Toddlers don't understand that pets need gentle handling, and although most cats catch on very quickly to the notion that small children are best avoided, a possibility always exists that your pet, if cornered, could scratch or bite your child or even be hurt himself.
Cats are wonderful family pets, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Keeping your cat in good health with the help of your family's veterinarian will help make your pet a perfect companion -- a little more flexible and self-sufficient than a dog but still affectionate and nonjudgmental.
If you're always aware that small children and cats have the potential to hurt each other, you'll be ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping everyone safe. -- Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.
Some cats don't
mix well with milk
-- Most cats like milk, but milk doesn't agree with all cats. After the age of 12 weeks or so, some cats (like some people) lose the ability to digest the lactose in the milk. For those cats, milk isn't recommended -- it can give them diarrhea. For cats who aren't lactose intolerant, milk can be a nice occasional treat.
-- The average bat eats 3,000 mosquitoes per night.
-- Some birds make more than a thousand trips finding enough material to build their nests. Doves may spend only a matter of two to four days on nest building with twigs, while hawks will take months using sticks to build a nest. Hummingbirds use dandelion down, hair, feathers, spider silk, fine strips of bark and lint to make their nests. Martins and swallows build their nests out of mud, creating nest cups that cling under bridges and eaves. Orioles create a hanging nest by weaving together materials such as grass. Woodpeckers will create nests by excavating them, often using fresh wood-chip bedding.
-- Among the many notable things said or written about cats is this quote from Ernest Hemingway: "A cat has emotional honesty: Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but the cat does not."
-- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon