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.