Animals are God’s creatures…By their mere existence they bless Him and give Him glory.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2416)

It’s Pet Preparedness month!

History, literature, song and pop culture are liberally sprinkled with references to pets.  Some of the most loved companions to historical figures have been cats and dogs as well as the ever popular parrots, parakeets and canaries.  “Garfield” featuring a lasagna-loving fat cat and “Peanuts” featuring a too cool Beagle are two of the most famous cartoons ever drawn.  Only 3 out of 46 US Presidents have not had a pet while in office and according to Forbes, 66% of US households have pets in 2024.  We love our pets here in the US.

Whether you have as companions a pack of dogs, a new kitten, parakeets, goldfish or guinea pigs, have you thought about how to care for your pets in an emergency?  Farmers and ranchers who keep livestock know that preparing for a large scale disaster such as a flood or severe storm can entail a great deal of planning:  mapping evacuation routes and arranging food, water and veterinary care at the destination; evacuating before it becomes impossible;  and deciding whether it is best to move animals to a barn or turn them loose to seek safety on their own.  Fortunately for people who have small animals in their care, preparedness is a little bit easier:  make a plan and gather a few supplies.

In case of a pre or post-disaster evacuation:  Go-Bags for people…Go-Bags for Pets?

When a large scale disaster hits and you must temporarily leave your home, if you are headed to a public shelter, hotel or motel, please remember that most will allow service animals only, no pets.  Make a plan for pet evacuation and arrange with friends, relatives or neighbors who are not affected by the disaster to care for your pets.  I’ll stop short of suggesting you need an entirely separate Go-Bag for your animals but there are a few things to consider and do:

  • Add several days supply of pet food and drinking water to your family’s Go-Bag.
  • Any special medicines your pet takes regularly? Add a few days supply in a clearly marked container so that it cannot be mistaken for human medication.
  • Ask a vet if you think you may need first aid supplies for your pet, which ones are safe and how to use them.
  • Applies mainly to dogs and cats: add a copy of registration papers and license to your important documents container and also a picture of you with your animal in order to prove ownership and help identify your pet if it escapes.
  • Applies to dogs: add a spare leash and collar/harness with a name tag.
  • Applies to cats: if your cat is litter box trained, include litter and an appropriate container.
  • Applies to goldfish, betas etc.: add a de-chlorination chemical to your bag.
  • Applies to gerbils, hamsters, turtles, lizards, snakes and any other very small pets: add spare bedding material and cleaning supplies to your bag.

A final note:  it has become the norm to have pets on whom we depend for companionship, entertainment and security, we lavish affection on them and take great care that their physical needs are met.  Many people seem to care more for their animals than for other human beings.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say on striking a balance:  “One can love animals;  one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2418).  Remember that your dogs, cats, birds, turtles and fish are gifts from God and take joy in them but do not let them take so much space in your heart that there is no room left for your fellow human beings.  For more on this subject, read Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’, Section V. A Universal Communion

Special thanks go to Deborah, Sara and Sheila for their invaluable contributions to this post. Stay tuned for an extra “Lightning Edition”, coming soon!

By Shayna Deitchman, AmeriCorps Disaster Case Manager

#DisasterServicesCCKCSJ #ItHappensCCKCSJ


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