Weathering the Storm with Your Pet

tornado alley
Tornado Alley

If it’s not safe outside for you, it’s not safe for your pet!


You are probably not aware of the fact that I grew up and now reside in Tennessee.  I have always loved the very distinct four seasons that we have here.  I spent one year in California and I have to tell you that the weather was BORING!!  I know it sounds peculiar and maybe I am just that, but I like to see and experience the changing of the seasons.  For me, they mark time and I can associate most seasonal changes with some memory from childhood.  I’m so nostalgic!  However, there are two seasons that I both love and loathe- Spring and Fall.  Why?  You might ask.  In Tennessee those seasons are synonymous with tornadoes.  They call this region “Tornado Alley” for a reason. Tornado situations will often produce anxiety, fear and a need to escape for many of our pets. Most animals can sense the storm long before the Doppler radar is even aware of a problem.  My own dog, Thunder, is my barometer of inclement weather.  He hates storms and becomes anxious hours before there is a problem.  It turns out that is  blessing for me; I am able to dose him with Rescue Remedy far in advance of the really scary part of the storm or tornado and avoid the full-on panic he feels.  Because we Tennesseans view tornadoes as a common occurrence, it would follow that we are always prepared in case of The Big One.  Here are a few tips that will make it easier for you and your pets to weather the storm and an added bonus of steps to take after the storm system has passed.

Preparing Pets for Tornadoes

You should first determine where in your house will provide you with the best protection- your “safe place”. The “safe place” should be a space or room that has the most walls between you and the outside and it should be far away from any window.  Then create an emergency supply kit for your pet.  If you have a room that is best suited for shelter, keep the emergency kit in that room.  Otherwise, it should be close by and all family members should know where it is.  Suggested items include but are not limited to:

  •   A 3-5 day supply of food and water for your pet, bowls and a manual can opener.
  • Sanitation items, such as a litter box or puppy pads, and  disposal equipment.
  • Crates to provide the animal with a secure and safe hiding spot; make sure that the crate is clearly labeled.
  •  Leash and collar should you need to transport your pet and/or a carrier for cats.
  •  Any medications for pets.


  •  All animals should have some sort of identification; collar with tag, microchip, tattoo.  I prefer the microchip simply because it is a means of i.d. that is permanent.
  • Include a photo of your pet, whether that is a picture in a frame or one on your phone.

Prepare to seek shelter.

  •  Practice getting the entire family, including pets, to the “safe place” during calm weather.  This will help to make it an automatic response and you can avoid the last minute hysterics.  Your pet will pick up on your fear and that will be even more stressful for them.
  • Train your dog to go to the area on command or to come  to you on command regardless of distractions.  Yes, this is a tough one.  If you keep your dog collared simply grab the leash from the emergency kit and direct the dog in that manner.
  • Cats present us with a bit harder task.  They will often head straight for their favorite hiding place once the storm gets close.  Know where that is and gather them up into one room.  I usually get my cats inside the bedroom and can easily crate them when the time comes.
  • If an evacuation is called, take the emergency kit with you.

After the Storm

  • Your home, yard and entire neighborhood will be very different when the storm has passed.  This will prove to be stressful for your pets.  Keep your cat crated and your dog on a leash.  Familiar landmarks and the usual smells will be replaced with chaos.  This is disorienting for everyone and the confusion may lead to a lost pet. Keep them close.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster.  If your pet is especially sensitive to storm stress, remember that Rescue Remedy can be used on a regular basis for up to 7 days.  Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible.

Rescue Remedy

Mikey, SuperCat
Mikey, SuperCat

Calm and quiet for recovery


I would like to tell you a story about an amazing cat named, Mikey.  I first met Mikey on a “meet and greet” interview prior to my caring for him.  His Mom, Shirley, had told me he was very special and I found out why when I met him.  You see, Mikey only has three legs. He lost his right rear leg to disease, I believe.  He was adopted by Shirley right after his surgery. She knew she had a special cat and he knew he had a special forever home.  When I met him, it was love at first sight.  He is beautiful, smart and loves to play games.  His favorite is to find hidden treats in the house after I leave.  This is a game that his mom came up with to keep Mikey mentally stimulated while she is at work and he really has fun with it.  I didn’t see Mikey on a regular basis, but whenever I went to see him he would always greet me at the door.  He would circle my legs rubbing on them and meowing for me to feed him.  We had a good time on our visits. Recently, Mikey and Shirley have endured a tragic experience.  Their apartment was consumed by a fire that took everything.  Nothing was left.  Shirley told me that the last thing she saw was Mikey running into the closet in the master bedroom.  She was certain she had lost him.  It wasn’t until much later in the evening that a firefighter approached her to say they had found Mikey.  Can you believe it?  This three-legged cat had managed to get to the balcony of a burning apartment and  jump three stories to safety!  Three stories! Words could not express the relief that Shirley felt knowing that Mikey was alive! She had been posting on Facebook that night to keep her friends and family updated on the events.  I happened to check her profile and was stunned at the news.  I prayed there would be some way I could help Shirley and Mikey.  It was a week later when Shirley called me and asked if I could take Mikey for a while until she had found a new home.  I jumped at the chance to help. I have been posting his progress on Facebook and love to report to him when he gets feedback from his fans.  Mikey is a bit vain, you see.  But, one look at him and you understand why. That noble head, the calm serenity you see in his face and his whole demeanor which simply says “I’m here and I’m alright”

Now you’re probably thinking, “Wow!!  That is some amazing cat.  Not only did he survive the loss of a limb, but he was able to save himself from a fire.”  He is a Super Cat!  Mikey was found clinging to the branches of a large bush.  He had some fire damage; whiskers singed off, tip of his nose burned, tips of his ears burned and his pads… oh, his pads.  They were all burned and raw.  He suffered from trauma and smoke inhalation, but he soldiered on.  He went under the care of Dr. Torchia at Nippers Corner Veterinary Hospital.  They cared for Mikey for the first and most crucial week.  Cleaning the pads,  feeding him special food for cats who have endured a trauma, administering antibiotics and pain pills.  He became their hero, a symbol of the quiet, humble pet that tolerates all the poking and prodding necessary to bring him to health.  Now it was time for Mikey to go home.  But, where was that, exactly?  Mikey’s home had been burned to the ground.  His mom stayed in a hotel for a short period, but that couldn’t last forever.  This was were I was allowed, by the powers of the Universe, to step in and help out.  Shirley called me and asked if I could take Mikey until she had settled in a new home.  It was the answer to my prayers.  I had wanted to do something for Mikey and Shirley, but just didn’t know what that could be.  Here was my answer!  When she asked me it was a no-brainer.  Of course I would take Mikey.

That began the journey we are now on to get Mikey back to optimum health.  I set up my guest room as the infirmary.  If you ever have a pet that has undergone a traumatic experience, be sure you have a place he can stay that gives him peace and calm.  These two elements are crucial to recovery.  You don’t want a lot of foot traffic through the room that could startle or disturb the pet.  They need to know this is their safe place.  Mikey enjoyed having his space, but I soon learned that he needed lots of quiet time.  So much so that he would wedge himself up under the bed to be in the darkest, quietest place in the room.  I had to remedy that because I needed access to Mikey for administration of pain pills, antibiotics and the tedious task of cleaning his pads and dusting them with medicinal powder.  Through trial and error, I devised a blockage to the area under the bed and Mikey settled in to his crate.  I found that he really preferred the crate to be entirely covered, sort of like a cover over a bird’s cage. One indicator of good health in any pet, especially one having endured trauma,is a regular pattern of elimination.  When Mikey first came to stay with me it was Thursday.  The vet said if he had not had a bowel movement by Saturday, he would need an enema.  Oh how I wanted for Mikey to avoid that!!  But we just couldn’t get things moving.  After that visit, I explained to Mikey the importance of his going on his own.  I made sure he had plenty of water, often holding the bowl up to him so he could drink.  I gave him canned food along with his kibble, because it has more moisture and should aid in elimination.  Sure enough, two days later he went on his own in the litter box.  We had a little celebration for that!  If you ever are caring for a cat that has any kind of injury to the foot pads, it is best to line his litter box with shredded newspaper.  Any kind of litter will get caught in the injured area of the paw and can cause infection.  My husband used our paper shredder and we made bags of newspaper shred for Mikey to use.  Now Mikey is eating on a regular schedule, he tolerates the pills he has to take and is a Superhero regarding the care of his pads.  My husband holds him and I carefully spread open his foot and clean between the main pad and his toes.  Then I dust his feet with a medicinal powder, occasionally he has to wear baby socks if the pads have sloughed off a great deal.  He is such a trooper.  He doesn’t fight or wriggle or throw a hissy fit.  He calmly allows me the ministrations seemingly aware that it will bring him closer to perfect health.  When he is in his room resting, I play a meditation tape for him. It’s one of my favorites by Dr. Andrew Weil, it’s a meditation on healing.  Hey, I’ll try anything to make this big guy happy and comfortable.  Most important is keeping him calm and allowing for recuperative rest.

There is one more thing I would like to add about Mikey’s care.  The use of flower essences for restoring balance in a dis-eased system.  I believe in a natural and holistic approach to health in people as well as animals.  I believe that the body is meant to be in a state of health and will do it’s best to keep that balance.  We are responsible for caring for ourselves in a manner that encourages and promotes optimum health.  Our pets can do the same with their health.  As a pet owner, it is our responsibility to keep our pets healthy and free from disease.  When a traumatic event, such as a fire, occurs we use all of our resources to restore balance.  In Mikey’s case, the veterinarian used all of her knowledge to heal Mikey to the point where he could go home. When he came to me, I had the advantage of an existing relationship with him.  He could trust me and he knew I was there for him and I had his best interest at heart.  I followed all of the Dr.’s protocol and I added the use of Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Pets.  Bach’s system of healing with flower essences is one of many that have been scientifically tested to work with all kinds of animals.  The system is based on the body’s natural balance of wellness and the use of different flower essences to regain balance should it be upset.  Bach’s Rescue Remedy is considered an emergency remedy indicated for use in animals who have undergone a traumatic experience.  This could be dogs that are afraid of kenneling because they were born into a puppy mill, dogs that are used for fighting, dogs that are overbred and stressed as a result, or a pet that goes through a natural disaster, such as Mikey and the fire.  The combination of flower essences produced and distributed under the trade name Rescue Remedy is widely considered to be the single most important remedy in healing animals.  It has been described as ” a first-aid kit in a bottle”  Often it is all that is needed to “rescue” them from their predicament and restore normal functioning.  It is used routinely by vets to calm pets prior to examination, before and after surgery and many other treatments.  It is often the first line of approach because shock is a major factor in many conditions affecting animals, and because as many as 90% of animal problems are fear related and can be helped by relaxation. I have been dosing Mikey with four drops of Rescue Remedy with crab apple essence to instill calmness and to help cleanse his blood.  When I told his vet, she said she uses it all the time with animals that come to her and are stressed or anxious.  She said it was a good treatment for Mikey.

Right now, at this very moment, Mikey is resting in his crate.  He greeted me this morning with a friendly “meow” demanding his breakfast!  It was the first time I have heard Mikey talk since he came to me three weeks ago.  I could have cried.

Mikey with socks

Mikey with socks


The Great Crate Debate

“But, he’ll whine and cry all night!”  ”I’ll never get any sleep!”  ”That is just TOO cruel.  I could never do that to my puppy”  What are these people so torn up about?  Should we call the ASPCA??  Hardly, it’s a matter of choice for most dog owners – To crate or not to crate, that is the question.  When puppies come to their new homes, it’s not long before the crate discussion starts.  Initially, people think of the crate, or kennel, as a means for house training their pup.  It is that and more.  It is a method of containment that allows the owner to control when the pup is allowed access to the whole house.  A new pup should not be allowed the privilege of free roam of your home as soon as he arrives.  I know it’s adorable to watch a little pup explore your home and get in to all kinds of funny situations.  But those funny situations often turn into dangerous and/or harmful incidents.  Equally important is the understanding the pup must have that not everything is his.  You are the alpha and you decide where your pup goes and when.  It may sound harsh, but the earlier your pup learns that you are in control, the easier it will be for you to be the leader that your pup needs and wants you to be.

Now back to the crate debate.  The thinking behind the use of a crate to house train your pup is that giving him a crate with enough room to stand up and turn around in will prevent him from soiling in that space.  It is a dog’s natural instinct not to soil near their sleeping or eating areas.  The belief is that the closer you work with your pup’s natural instincts the easier and more seamless his training will be.  For many this is a new way of thinking with regard to house training.  It used to be we would throw down some newspaper, put the pup on it and wait for the magic to happen.  If there was an accident, the pup was punished and put back on the paper.  Now, we know that if we work with a schedule we actually set the pup up for success.  A much better way to learn a new behavior.  There are times when your pup should always be taken outside to relieve himself.  When he first wakes up, after play sessions, after eating or drinking water and just before bedtime.  A verbal command should be associated with the trips outside. Over time this allows you to take your pup out, give the command and have his business taken care of quickly.  Truly a win-win situation.  Many people will use “go potty” or “get busy” or “do it”.  Whatever you choose, be consistent and praise, praise, praise.  The crate also comes into play when you have the pup inside and maybe you need to do some work on the computer or have to start cooking dinner and can’t keep your eye on the pup all the time.  If he has been out and taken care of business, you can place him in his crate with a toy or two and go about your tasks.  The hardest part of crate training is the initial crying that is all to common with a new pup.  While the drive for a den is instinctive, it is not always embraced by the pup right from the start.  It is very important that you handle the introduction of the crate with gentleness and lots of patience.

Once your pup has become acquainted with and accepted the crate as his “safe” place, you will find that he will use the crate all the time.  My border collie mix, Lucy, loves her crate.  I may be watching a movie or working on my website and she will be laying down next to me.  She’ll get up, open her crate door and go inside for some alone time.  There have been times I’m just putzing around the house and can’t find her.  A quick glance inside the crate and I see she is contentedly curled up on her blanket.  Crates come in many styles.  There is the basic version that is simply black wire, you can purchase a plastic molded style that provides more of a cozy feeling because it allows less light inside and there are soft-sided crates that have mesh for allowing light and air through.  Wire crates come with a plastic bottom liner that can be removed for easy cleaning.  Many pet supply stores, both brick and mortar and online, sell crate liners that are pads to provide cushion for your pup’s elbow joints and help to make him more comfortable.  If you have chosen a wire crate for your pup, you can also buy a fitted cover that can be placed on the crate when the pup goes to sleep.  This acts to mimic the darkness of an actual den.  They are especially useful when a pup is first getting used to his crate because it blocks out not only light but other stimuli like noises or the coming and going of people or other pets in the house.

I believe crates are one of your dog’s favorite things.  They should be used to assist in house training and to provide your pup with his own place. A pup needs to know that he has a safe place he can go to whenever he wants.  Crates should NEVER be used for punishment.  That is counter intuitive to the whole premise of crate training.  The length of time a pup spends in his crate ( other than for overnight ) should be considered thoughtfully. Crate duration rules of thumb for puppies: 8 – 10 week old puppies: Maximum one hour at a time in the crate.  11 – 12 week old puppies: Maximum two hours at a time in the crate.  13 – 16 week old puppies:  Maximum three hours at a time in the crate.  17 – 20+ week old puppies:  Maximum four hours at a time in the crate.  Use a long-term confinement area for times longer than the puppy can hold in the crate. The kitchen is an ideal confinement area – not too large, high traffic, and easy-to-clean floor.  Adult dogs can spend a maximum of five-six hours in a crate at a time.

April is Pet First Aid Month

Pet First Aid
Pet First Aid

Ready for an emergency?

The Red Cross has designated April as Pet First Aid Awareness Month.  What does that mean to all you pet owners out there?  It’s a great time to be sure you have a first aid kit ready and well-stocked in the event of major emergencies as well as the occasional cut or scrape accident.  In my house, I have a cabinet that is basically for everything “pet”.  It holds any current medications that one of my pets may be taking, flea and tick applications and a first aid basket that is kept stocked.  This way, if anything happens to one of my fur babies I know where to go to get the supplies I need.  It is important to have separate first aid supplies for your pets to prevent any cross-contamination.  I have to admit that I didn’t purposefully go out and gather these things for my dogs and cats.  I purchased them individually as needed and that really was not smart.  ”Be Prepared” as the Sweet Potato Queens would say!!  (That’s a whole other post entirely)  By having all these items in a handy location there is no panic on your part when your pet gets hurt.  You can quickly access anything you need to bandage a wound, rinse an eye or administer an aspirin or anti-histamine.  Keep in mind that just having the right medicine isn’t enough.  You should know how much of any one thing to use on your pet and what items are not interchangeable for dogs and cats, i.e. aspirin.   Check with your vet on medication dosages and make a note of it to keep in your kit.  You should also have the name and number for your veterinarian, an emergency 24 hour veterinarian and the ASPCA poison control number (on the list below).  The American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid training at many of their locations.  Google the information for a location close to you.

Being a good pet owner has a lot of responsibilities and a lot of rewards.  Do your best to ensure your home is a safe place for your pet from the start.  Be sure that electrical cords are tucked safely away from curious puppies and kittens.  There are products out there made for wrapping around electrical cords that contain citronella, a scent your pets will avoid.  String might be fun to play with, but if consumed by your pet can cause some serious internal damage.  And watch those table tops and counters!!  I have a “counter surfer” myself and I have to be very careful of what may be left behind after dinner. Basically, be cognizant of your surroundings at all times and think of your pet’s health.  They will thank you for it with lots of love and a lifetime of memories.

Finally,, links you to a tutorial on Pet CPR.  It could be a life-saver!

A typical first aid kit suitable for both dogs and cats should include:

  • An antiseptic ointment or solution
  • Hydrocortisone ointment or antihistamine spray for insect stings
  • Antihistamine tablets for systemic reaction to insect bites
  • Baby aspirin for injured muscles from a fall or stumble- FOR DOGS ONLY
  • Small stainless steel or plastic bowls for solutions to bathe wounds
  • Cotton balls, cotton buds and a roll of cotton padding
  • Sterile dressing pads
  • Liquid bandage for pets
  • Self-adhesive bandage
  • A small flashlight and fresh batteries to look inside a mouth
  • Latex gloves
  • Sharp tweezers
  • Small blunt scissors
  • Sterile eyewash (the human kind is suitable)
  • Eyedroppers
  • Syringe plunger to administer liquid medicine
  • Glucose powder to make a rehydrating fluid. Use one tablespoon of glucose and add a teaspoon of salt to a liter of water (1 and a quarter pints)
  • Keep an ice pack in the fridge marked accordingly for a pet emergency. (Keep a small towel in your kit to wrap it in for use.)
  • An Elizabethan or inflatable collar to prevent your pet from interfering with a dressing or bandage.
  • A gadget called a tick key to safely remove ticks without leaving any poisonous discharge behind
  • ASPCA Poison Unit (888) 426-4435