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  • Mike L

Comfort Creatures

Updated: May 13





The unconditional love and unwavering loyalty of our furry companions is surely one of our most cherished relationships. The wet noses, soft fur, and big, expressive eyes melt even the hardest of hearts. Countless studies list the physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership. This being a prepping blog, I’m going to focus on the practical aspects of responsibly incorporating our furry companions into our emergency plans.


The Immutable Facts


There will be some hard truths in this post. First off, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Dogs, cats, fish, horses, African Greys, bearded dragons, tarantulas, and ball pythons all have one thing in common: they’re animals, not people. Granted, for some people, their pets transcend the boundary between man and animal becoming surrogate children. Again, they’re animals and you must take this into account when you’re creating your emergency plans. Not everyone loves animals and for that matter, not everyone loves animals as much as you do. Acknowledge this fact and keep it moving.


For a multitude of reasons, some animals are simply released into the wild to fend for themselves and they make out fine. For others, this is an act of extreme cruelty and a death sentence. The ramifications of releasing exotic pets into the wild, in non-native ecosystems are serious. Aside from breaking the law, you’re likely introducing a potentially invasive species into an area where the native flora and fauna have no defense against such invaders. The damage this causes is real and lasting. (Side note: see the Cane Toad, Nutria and Burmese Python.) So, what do you do? How do you provide for your companions, exotic and otherwise, during times of disaster?


Free Room and Board


In exchange for a place to live and food to eat, our pets shower us with an unending supply of love and devotion. Pet ownership is a huge responsibility and it’s not cheap, either. Of course, you can feed your table scraps to your pet, though this is not recommended, nor is it in the best interests of the animal’s health. Like their human parents, dogs and cats can develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol! Like people, your pet’s appetite can be impacted by stress and illness. Obviously, a cat or Chihuahua won’t eat as much as Great Dane, but you must plan to have extra food on hand and stored properly. As you conduct your needs analysis, critically examine what your pet(s) consume in a day, week, month and so on. Work purposefully to build your reserves.  


Remember, moisture, heat, and cold will cause the food to go off prematurely so store it in a cool, dry place and out of reach of vermin- your pet, too!  


Likewise, whatever medicines they require should also be on hand. Again, this is an expensive relationship, and a proper diet and healthcare are essential to their quality of life. Treats, toys, and a favorite blanket should be kept at the ready in the event of an evacuation. Comfort and familiar items help calm your pet. I recommend that you have a separate Go Bag packed just for your pet(s).


Be sure to include the vet’s name and contact information on your list of important information and phone numbers. Leashes, muzzles- if necessary, and kennels/traveling crates should always be in and next to your Go Bags. As you would with human beings, ration food, not water.


Training and Temperament


All animals have personalities and those of house pets are as different and distinct as their human parents. We had a cat who went from rarely allowing anyone to touch him to becoming a twenty-pound piece of fur-covered Velcro. In fact, sometimes their bad habits are caused or reinforced by their human parents. Begging isn’t cute when Spanky is practically climbing into your lap to get to your plate or forcing guests to repeatedly push him away. Think this one through carefully as it can quickly become unmanageable. It also makes it very difficult to rehome the animal. No amount of screaming or punishing will break Spanky of this horrible habit that is completely avoidable.  


Aggression and anxiety start in puppies and kittens so proper socialization is essential. They can also be triggered by stress. The aloofness of most cats is impervious to our expectations. If you must evacuate or stay with friends or relatives, a well-trained pet can be a source of comfort for everyone. Moreover, I think that a well-trained and well-behaved pet enhances the overall relationship.


Most, if not all communities have laws that address the co-habiting of humans and animals, especially at emergency shelters in times of disaster. Again, don’t simply assume that you can take Spanky with you. As with human children, leaving animals in hot, parked cars is illegal and dangerous. Do your homework in advance to identify places such as hotels and campgrounds that accept pets to eliminate another source of stress and a barrier to acting.  


On the Outside


Given the investment we make in our pets, I’m surprised that more people don’t microchip them. Doing so is straightforward enough and has the added benefit of helping to reunite you with Spanky or your prize-winning Ragdoll, Quincy. Animals, including house pets are sensitive to a wide range of environmental factors such as changes in barometric pressure (before storms), infrasound, and smells to name a few. They often run away or hide as a fear response to impending danger. Even in normal times and on a route you’ve walked hundreds of times before, a new smell or other stimuli can excite your dog to run. Definitely, keep them leashed and muzzled, if necessary, as well as getting them microchipped.


Relinquishing Ownership


As I mentioned, simply opening the cage, and allowing any animal or insect not native to the United States to go free is illegal, irresponsible, and potentially destructive to the local ecosystem. Exotic animals and insects can be difficult to relinquish. Zoos, reputable pet stores, reputable breeders and universities engaged in animal husbandry are great resources and can offer tips on how to care for and where to take your animal if you can no longer care for it. Local animal control offices as well as animal welfare agencies can also help.


Euthanizing a healthy animal simply because you no longer want it or can’t care for it should be avoided at all costs. Many animal shelters are “no kill” facilities and many have a night drop so you can relinquish your animal anonymously, under cover of darkness. Rather than giving in to fear and desperation, reach out to others who may be able to help.  


A final thought here. Be sure to provide for your pets in your will, specifically, stating whom you’d like to take custody of the animal. Failing that, identify a “no kill” shelter at which to place your pet for adoption once you’re longer around or able to provide proper care.

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thewaytopeace
Apr 22

Years ago we had two cats. The older one would beg for whatever we were eating and when he wasn't begging he could be found foraging in the kitchen for any food that may have been left out. He would also go through the garbage can looking for scraps. He was the best cat ever, smart, funny, full of personality and annoying as .... The younger one was very affectionate on his terms only and completely indifferent to people food.

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Mike L
Apr 22
Replying to

thewaytopeace,

Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts with me and others. It sounds like you had two polar opposite, but awesome companions! As I said, animals have personalities as distinct as human beings and that, too, enhances the relationship.

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Randy Cramer
Randy Cramer
Apr 21

If we revolt to times before tech and modern energy we will quickly be reminded why man and wolf, together, became the most dominant apex predators known to Earth. (Current knowledge considering)

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Mike L
Apr 22
Replying to

Randy,

Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts with me and others. You raise an interesting point, how could things be different, i.e., better if we weren't encumbered by technology and the other trappings of modern society. I see a post coming out of this one!

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Randy Cramer
Randy Cramer
Apr 21

"Begging isn’t cute when Spanky is practically climbing into your lap to get to your plate or forcing guests to repeatedly push him away."

We need to talk more openly about this amongst people. I hate when people assume I want their dog all over me. Of course I do, I just hate that they assume. Many people are not comfortable and unfortunately this can result in a heinous but easily avoidable situation.

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Mike L
Apr 22
Replying to

Randy,


Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts with me and others. You're right, the down side to pet ownership and many other relationships is that we assume that everyone shares our feelings, values and comfort levels. This couldn't be further from the truth and the false assumptions open the door to conflict and bruised feelings. As I said, a well-trained and well-behaved animal enhances the overall relationship.

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