Disaster Planning: Evacuating With Small Pets

When, as humans, we think about disasters and preparedness, we think first about ourselves and our families.  Often we include our pets as part of our family, but sometimes smaller pets are forgotten.  Small pets evacuate easily, but evacuating with pets requires care and diligence.

disaster planning - evacuating with exotic pets

Evacuating with Rodents

Rodents typically evacuate very easily.  Most rodents live in a self-contained home that can go anywhere.  Rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs can be evacuated easily, though they do take up space.  Bring along a week’s worth of food and plenty of water.

Small rodents require a bit of extra care once on the road.  They cannot survive in high or low temperatures easily.  They also need protection from constant drafts.  Otherwise, they will do well in an evacuation.  Keep them comfortable just as you would a cat or dog.

Hotels may not allow you to bring your rodents inside, especially if you have mice or rats.  They seem to be friendlier about guinea pigs.  Have a plan for keeping your vehicle comfortable for your pets, or find a pet store at your evacuation area that will care for them while you settle in.

Evacuating with Fish

Fish do not evacuate well.  Before a disaster, talk to your local fish store about their preparedness, and if they offer any assistance in disasters.  Some fish stores keep staff through a hurricane or disaster, and will take on boarders.  If possible, this is the ideal solution.  Fish do not travel well for more than a few hours.

If your family can evacuate to a relative’s house, fish can be brought along.  Use a cooler specifically for your fish.  Place each fish in a plastic bag (similar fish can be bagged together) and keep the top 2/3 of the bag with air.  Don’t breathe into the bag, but use the air in the room.  Bring your tank, or a smaller tank if necessary, filter, and heater.  Do not leave the cooler in your vehicle in hot or cold weather–it should stay with you at all times.

Find a piece of furniture sturdy enough to hold your tank.  If you have very large fish, like cichlids or catfish, you may need to find a pet store that can board them.  Very large fish can travel in a covered 5 gallon bucket, available at home improvement stores.  If you have larger fish, or many tanks, you may need to develop a “sit tight” plan that works for your family.

Put several gallons of tank water into jugs before you leave.  You will need this to set your aquarium up elsewhere.  Expect to lose several fish.  If you keep them all, you have done a fantastic job and are lucky.

Evacuating with Reptiles & Amphibians

If possible, keep these animals in their normal habitats and move the habitat.  If you have a larger pet, such as an iguana or tortoise, place the animal in a carrier for travel.  Reptiles and amphibians do not enjoy travel and will become stressed when moved.  Do not forget heaters, filters, or heat lamps.  Bring any food you have on hand, and find a source as soon as possible.  Water turtles can be transported in plastic totes, with a small layer of water at the bottom.

These animals are the most sensitive to temperatures, and will be uncomfortable in hot and cool temperatures, and may find air conditioning too cold.  Make sure to evaluate their comfort every hour while traveling, and set up a new habitat as soon as possible upon arrival.

Some pet stores will also board these types of pets in an evacuation.

Evacuating with Birds

Birds should also be transported in their regular cage, if possible.  Small birds can be moved to smaller cages for travel, and can do fine in smaller cages while your family evacuates.  Once your family returns home, they can go back to their regular cages.  If you will be gone more than a week or two, bring the larger cage and set it up at your temporary home.

Larger birds, like macaws and cockatoos, can be transported in carriers.  Bring their large cage.  Most large cages collapse and can be transported easily.  They often do not enjoy travel, but tolerate it well.  As with the others, they are sensitive to heat and cold.  Birds must always be in a secure cage when your car doors or windows are open.

Bring a week’s worth of food if they eat a specialized diet.  It may be difficult to find their normal diet.

Have you ever evacuated with your small pets?

Did you come across unforeseen circumstances while on the road?

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