How to Keep Your Exotic Pet Safe When a Hurricane Hits

Lizard in a cage
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Outfitted for Emergencies

One step all exotic pet owners can take ahead of time is to create a pet emergency supply kit that can be stored with your family emergency supply kit in a waterproof container. (Online resources are available to further help you compile an emergency kit.) Your kit should include:

  1. A safe, escape-proof pet carrier in which to transport your pet and house him temporarily. Carriers should be large enough to house the animal comfortably for several days and be coverable with a thin sheet or towel to provide security and shade. They should be labeled with your contact information and other emergency numbers, including your veterinarian’s.
  2. Pet food (at least a seven-day supply) stored in airtight, waterproof and spoil-proof containers. Dry food (such as pellets for birds, reptiles and small mammals) are preferable to fresh produce or live prey.
  3. Water (at least enough for seven days).
  4. A box of resealable plastic bags for storing opened food.
  5. Bowls and sipper bottles for food and water.
  6. Essential cage accessories, such as lights, heaters and misters for reptiles, dust baths for chinchillas and perches for birds.
  7. Important medical records, including proof of vaccination for ferrets.
  8. Any medications your pet is on (at least a two-week supply, plus a prescription for more).
  9. Microchip, tattoo or leg band information if applicable.
  10. A recent photo of the pet in case he must be identified later.
  11. Bedding.
  12. Toys/blankets/comfort items, including hide boxes for reptiles and small mammals to minimize stress.
  13. Grooming items such as brushes and nail trimmers, plus cuttlebones for birds.
  14. Treats that won’t spoil.
  15. A list of pet-friendly hotels, shelters and boarding facilities that will accept an exotic pet. (See www.takeyourpet.com, www.petswelcome.com, www.letsgopets.com and www.travelpets.com.)
  16. A local map and an evacuation plan that you can practice with your pet in advance, especially if he is stressed by riding in a car.
  17. A flashlight, batteries and a radio.
  18. An emergency fund to cover last-minute housing in a veterinary hospital or shelter.
  19. An emergency medical kit containing gauze pads, scissors, styptic powder or sticks to clot bleeding nails and beaks, bandage material cut into small sizes, bandaging tape, towels, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, latex gloves, a freezer pack, antiseptic solution (recommended by your vet), tweezers and a washcloth.

Do's and Don'ts

Dr. Doug Mader, a veterinarian who works with exotic pets in Florida and writes on hurricane preparedness, says other factors to consider when getting pets ready for a hurricane include bringing indoors any pets housed outside, such as birds in aviaries and turtles and fish in ornamental ponds. Aquatic pets can be housed inside in temporary tanks powered by battery-operated filters and air pumps, if need be. Dr. Mader says that, in the face of a hurricane, pet owners should not:

  1. Set pets free outside to fend for themselves, as many exotic pets are prey animals and will not survive.
  2. Abandon pets at a veterinary office or boarding facility or leave them at home alone in the case of evacuation.
  3. Leave pets in a car unattended, where they may overheat, suffocate or escape, or get washed away or stolen.
  4. Wait until the last minute and expect their veterinarians to fill prescriptions, provide extra food or make copies of records.

Birds love to fly, and many reptiles like the water. But the wind and rain of a hurricane can be too much for any pet to survive. With advance planning and an escape route, you, your family and your pets —furry, feathered and scaled —can all make it through safely.

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