Emergencies can strike in many forms, ranging from a minor pet illness or injury, to a house fire, all the way up to a major, region-wide disaster requiring evacuation of your home. Although you can't necessarily be prepared for every possibility, some basic pre-planning can go a long way.
1. First Aid or Transport
The most common occurrences are injuries or illnesses to your pet. There are many first-aid kits available for pets, but in general an injured, scared or painful cat will not let you do much without lashing out. Attempting to administer first aid can also delay treatment by a professional. It is far better to safely get the cat into a carrier or even a pillowcase or laundry hamper to safely confine her and transport her as quickly as possible to the veterinarian. If your cat has a chronic illness or is prone to a certain condition and you are located far from a veterinary office, discuss with your veterinarian what specific treatments you can offer during the delay before you can arrive at the office.
2. After-Hours Care
For injuries and illnesses that might strike in the middle of the night or on weekends, identify how to seek veterinary care ahead of time so that you aren't panicking in the heat of the moment. If your regular veterinarian offers after-hours coverage, make sure you find out ahead of time whether there is a veterinarian on call and whether there is a special emergency number that you should know. If you live in a major metropolitan area, where dedicated emergency and specialty centers are more common, make sure you find out where the nearest one is, program their phone number into your contact list, and have a basic idea of how to get there. Your veterinarian may have brochures or refrigerator magnets for these clinics and can let you know which one they prefer, if you have a choice of where to go. If you are worried about your pet, you might not be able to think clearly so having all this planned out ahead of time will make you more able to get your cat the care she needs.
3. Medical Records
For each cat in your household, it is a good idea to maintain a folder with a copy of her veterinary records and update it with new information after every visit. Include a list of all her current medications and supplements, and copies of vaccination certificates. This way, if you have to go to an emergency clinic or if you have to evacuate yourself and your pets, you can provide information to a veterinarian who isn't familiar with your pet.
Keep this information next to or inside of the cat carrier so that you can't leave it behind if you have to travel in a rush.
4. Easy Access to Carriers
Many people store their carriers in the basement or garage, but this is not ideal for several reasons. In the context of an emergency, it is better to have the carriers on the main level of the house so that you can grab them easily and quickly, even if you have to leave the house in case of fire or natural disaster. Also, leaving the carriers out in the house where the cats can sniff them and even take a nap inside will help your cats become familiar with them and they will be less stressed when they have to travel for any reason.
5. Cat Identification
Another important point is identification for your pet. Many people don't put collars on their cats, but I believe that it is really important for cats to wear collars and tags at all times, even when they are in the house. You can't always plan for when your cat will escape or be separated from you in a sudden disaster. Cat collars should be a "breakaway" style or stretchy so that the cat can escape if she gets caught on something. Your cat should wear a name tag with current phone information, including your cell number in case you are away from home. Since collars can come off, a microchip is also very important. This tiny chip is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades and can be read with a scanner held close to the body. Many cats are given chips at the shelter prior to adoption, but if your cat doesn't have one ask your veterinarian to place one. If your cat has a microchip, make sure you keep your contact information up to date in the registry, because the chip does no good if your phone number is out of service. In a major disaster like a hurricane, pets often end up at a large centralized shelter, but many are never reunited with their owners. An up-to-date chip that includes a current cell phone number can go a long way towards making sure you and your cat find each other again.
There are a number of good resources that can help you plan ahead and be prepared in case of an emergency.
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