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How to prepare with pets

I’m fairly new to prepping (I’d been thinking about it for a good while, but the pandemic combined with world events really kicked things into gear for me) and while I have a solid go bag and a plan in case I need to leave the city with my two kids – I’m at a complete loss with regards to how to prepare for travelling with my cat. I don’t drive, and even though my partner does, I don’t want to rely on that necessarily, so all of my plans are based on walking to my folks’ house in the country, a journey that could potentially take 2 days. Anyone in a similar situation? What do I need to keep my cat safe and warm in an emergency situation that could involve camping overnight?

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  • Comments (27)

    • 3

      Here are two previous posts about prepping with pets that may help answer some of your questions:

      The Prepared is currently working on a dedicated article about pet preparedness, so keep an eye out for that in the coming future.

      • 3

        Thank you for the links – there is a lot to go on here. I’m definitely lacking on the pet first aid side of things, so that looks like a good place to start. 

    • 2

      The posts Gideon recommended are great. We have multiple cats and a dog, so pet preparedness is big at our house too.

      If you’re planning to walk or at least planning for that possibility, look into getting a wagon (Costco usually has a great folding wagon on sale in the spring). It will make it easier to travel with a cat carrier and additional supplies. Or, repurpose a used kid’s stroller to push cat + supplies instead of pulling. 

      If riding a bike is an option, look into one of the little bike trailers. 

      • 3

        Thank you for this – I’ve been thinking about a wagon and I know that it would have a lot of practical uses beyond transporting my cat, but storage space is such an issue for us! We live in a tiny house and it’s already tough to prioritise with regards to limited space so I cant see having any space for a wagon, as much as I would love one. Kids stroller definitely a viable alternative though so thank you for this suggestion. 

        If it’s okay, can I ask you if your cats are indoor or outdoor? Mine has never been outside in his life (apart from visits to the vet, and some brief trips in the car) and I’ve been wondering if some leash training might be a good idea just to get him used to being outdoors if he needs to be. There’s so much to think about! 

      • 2

        I think leash training with a halter would be good. They can be quite dramatic about it though, so patience is key. 

        My cats are indoor/outdoor, but their outside space is enclosed with netting, so they cannot get out of our yard. I do plan on looking into a netted tent for them this year, in case we need to evacuate. It just hasn’t been in my budget yet. 

      • 3

        I forgot to mention that the folding wagon takes up about the same amount of space as a folded kids stroller and has great all-terrain style wheels. 

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      • 3

        If you were in a situation that desperate, I think you’d have to let your cat go. Cats can fend for themselves in a natural setting. We have a cat who was abandoned in this neighborhood: a neighbor said she had been seeing him around since before Christmas, and a different neighbor brought him to us at the end of January in sub-zero weather. He was dehydrated and ravenous, but had kept himself alive in a cold winter for over a month. He’s lived with us ever since, just turned ten, indoor-outdoor.

        We had another cat who used to walk with us to the park, loose, not on a leash. He’d walk on the other side of the street checking everything out, and would meet us at the playground. He was an indoor-outdoor cat who lived to be nearly 21, never had an accident. 

        I had a friend who had two Aussies. He would go to peoples houses to install granite countertops and leave his dogs in the back of his pickup truck. Really bad idea. He returned once to find them both gone. He spent months going back to that wooded area to call them. After a month, one of them came to his call, hungry but basically OK. After four months he finally found the other, in worse shape, but she recovered. 

        This would obviously not be true for all dogs and cats, but they all have instincts which in many cases would allow them to hunt to survive. In most cases, your pet will stay near you even with no restraints. If you have to walk with two children for two days, and it’s extremely unlikely that that would ever happen, there would certainly be someone who would give you a ride, you’d have to let your cat loose but offer him food when you stopped to rest, if you had any. 

    • 2

      Have current pictures of your pets with you in your wallet or phone in case they go missing and you can identify markings. Have a collar on them with a tag containing your phone number. Microchiping is also a good backup. Things happen and you may be separated from your pet.

      My cat loves to sneak outside whenever he can to explore. The little stinker. I’ve tried to walk him with a harness before but he just flops over and doesn’t know what to do. There’s the balance I want to have of bringing him outside on a harness to desensitize him to the outside world and not make it too stressful on him, but at the same time doesn’t that tell him it’s okay to go outside and I don’t want him to get the idea that he can be out there on his own. I’m not sure what to do.

      • 2

        Yes, I’m in this same boat: I want her to be comfortable walking on a leash, but not so comfortable that she’s cool with sauntering outside without me!

    • 2

      It’s a really good question, and I think some animals are better for prepping than others like I say in my article here.

      If you’re in your house, sure, you can take care of just about any animal in the normal way. However, you can’t bug out with a fish or a budgie, or a cat really to be perfectly honest. You should be focusing on your survival and you might be carrying a lot of gear, and you can’t really take a cat in a carry case on a 50 mile hike to your bug out. They can’t walk with you as they’d probably run off, and if you are having to set up camp somewhere new, there would be the same issue I think. 

      All in all, the ony pet animal really suitable for bugging out is a dog, after thatI would say a horse, and possibly some sort of prey bird that could fly and keep up with you and possibly catch you a rabbit along the way 🙂

      • 2

        All in all, the ony pet animal really suitable for bugging out is a dog, after thatI would say a horse, and possibly some sort of prey bird that could fly and keep up with you and possibly catch you a rabbit along the way  

        Well I have 8 dogs and 4 horses, but no prey birds besides a pair of bald eagles that take fish from my pond.  But I will state a horse would be one of the most suitable animals to bug out with.  They are big, strong and most of the year can find their own food.  Not only can they carry a rider but they can also carry a fair amount of gear too.  If used as a draft animal, they can haul a lot of gear.  A horse is even more alert than the best of dogs and will alert much sooner than a dog.  They will always point with their head and ears at whatever they sense out there.  A horse can take you thru country that would stop an ATV.

        My dogs would mostly be a drain of resources, except for providing some security.

      • 2

        Would your eight dogs have the ability to fend for themselves if you were bugging out with them in the woods? 

        That would be quite impressive to teach a prey bird to hunt for you. 

      • 4

        Nah.  They are worthless mutts that spend most their days inside.  No problem.  I ain’t bugging out anyway.  I’m too old and my homestead is my Alamo.

      • 2

        Guess you are going to have to go out hunting for them. Or do you have 6 months worth of dog chow for them?

        Do they like fish from your pond?

      • 3

        I keep about a 2 month supply of dog food, and a year’s supply of hay for the horses.  Once the dog food runs out, they would eat people food… from our stores, from wild game, from the pond & local cattle.

      • 2

        Yes a horse has to be the ultimate survival animal and horses have helped nations explore and conquer for thousands of years. They’re just all round a good animal, and greatly allow you to travel much further without being drained, and yes they can go cross country with no issues. I suppose the only issue would be having the ability to properly shod them and administer medicine when needed. 

        Dogs are great (if you have the right breed I suppose) and you can stock up on bags of food that will last a year fairly cheaply. If you have one or two dogs they can be an asset for survival, but if you’re trying to bug out with a pack of them you’ll run into more problems than it’s worth. Yes, they could be cut loose and fend for themselves for a while I suppose. 

      • 2

        Only meds my horses have ever had is wormer & I keep a year’s supply of that.  All my horses are barefoot, so they just need the occasional trim, which I have the tools to do myself.

    • 8

      I feel like some people are kind of missing the term “pets” in all this.  They aren’t supposed to serve a practical function like hunting for you, they’re pets. 

      And you absolutely can hike fifty miles with a cat, if you love the cat, and doing so is the only way to save their life.  Just like you can hike fifty miles with a human toddler in tow.  You may have to ditch some gear, or take the journey in smaller stages, but if you have to abandon your loved ones to reach your bug out location, you need either a closer location or a better plan for getting the whole family there safely.

      Re horses: Great asset for bugging out post-TEOTWAWKI when you have no car, but mighty inconvenient to load in a trailer as a forest fire approaches! 

      I don’t think there’s any kind of pet that would make bugging out easier over all, except for the motivating factor of being responsible for someone’s safety other than your own, which is often what gets people prepping in the first place – when they adopt their first pet or have their first child. 

      To the OP’s question:  I would start with something very absorbent (puppy pee pads work well and are light weight) to line the carrier with, so if the cat has to pee in there, he won’t get his fur wet.  The rest would depend on what other gear you have, but most cats are fairly cold tolerant as long as they’re kept perfectly dry.  If in a tent, just throw something like your jacket over the carrier to keep him warm.  If sleeping out on the ground, try to put something below the carrier to insulate it from the ground, then shelter by putting your pack against one side and sleeping right against the other side, for example. 

      You don’t say what ages your children are, so I don’t know whether they are able to help carry gear, or whether you may be carrying one of them in addition to the cat and gear, but I would go light on the pet first aid kit part if need be – it’s more important to be able to transport the cat himself, than deal with every possible unlikely injury he could sustain along the way. 

      And you would want either a carrier with a shoulder strap or a backpack style one – or to rig a shoulder strap on your existing carrier – so you can rest both arms from time to time while walking.

      Also, do your parents drive?  If so, maybe pre-arrange a meet up point where they could collect you if possible, rather than attempting to walk the whole way.  Somewhere outside the expected “danger zone” but that would still cut some distance off your hike. 

      Good luck, and congratulations on beginning your prepper journey!

      PS – I’ve actually hiked with cats when I was younger, but fortunately only recreationally.

      • 5

        I talked to my wife about this thread and she said she would figure out a way to bug out with the budgie and aquarium full of fish and that it is wrong to leave them behind.

        GOOD TO KNOW! 

        Luckily we only have a dog right now, but now I know not to get a gerbil, parrot, or exotic snake because she WILL make us bug out with those. I agree that we have a stewardship and responsibility over our pets, but I can also leave and ditch those animals in the worst of cases and my life depended on it.

      • 3

        @Forager — you nailed it! I don’t have a dog so that he can guard my house or catch rabbits for me. I have a dog because I like dogs, and I like having a family, and I wanted there to be a dog in the family that I have. So I went to the shelter and got a puppy. And then I said, “Oh $%!&, what if there’s a massive earthquake and I can’t take care of this puppy? This is now the worst thing I can imagine.” And then I became a prepper. 

        @Robert, I literally LOL’ed at your “GOOD TO KNOW.” I’m far enough down the prepping road now that I def. wouldn’t get any pet I couldn’t envision bugging out with. But that’s an easy thing to say when your idea of a dream pet is an athletic dog weighing between 40 and 75 pounds. I feel for the cat people, let alone the bird, fish, and small mammal people.

      • 4

        I bought a backpack carrier for my cat with a clip inside to keep her from jumping out when/if I unzip the peek-a-boo part for her to get fresh air. I have her harness, leash, and a baggy of food in the pocket. Probably should put holistic pet anxiety drops in there too.

        I bought it when I really started prepping for fire evacuation and realized if I have to get out of my car and run, or get to a lake and float, a hard shell/hand held carrier would be a hindrance.

        I’ve carried her around in it, just to try and get her used to it. Didn’t really work. Wish I’d had her on a leash from the time I got her as a baby. But in an emergency we’re both going to be freaked out so… you know… she doesn’t like the hard shell either.

        When I’ve evacuated early I put her in the hard shell and keep the backpack with her other supplies.

    • 3

      I wrote an article in 1996 about Emergency Preparedness for Ferrets for The Epicenter. It is easily adaptable to other pets. I give you permission to use any part of it for your article. https://theepicenter.com/blog/pet-preparedness-ferrets/#:~:text=Basic%20ferret%20necessities%20such%20as,First%20aid%20supplies.

    • 6

      I just added a Senior Dog Bug Out Bag to the kit builder (actually a bug out bag for a senior dog and the human who will be carrying her), with some ideas for how to bug out when one’s cat-sized senior dog cannot make it to the end of the street under her own steam some days. Maybe it will give you some ideas too?

      I live in a tiny apartment so my solution is a bicycle basket and/or a frontpack BOB with a backpack pet carrier!

      And if you might have to cross borders, please make sure you have a copy of your cat’s vaccination records in your bag so they don’t have to quarantine.

      • 2

        Absolutely LOVE the kit!!! Pet your good dog for me 🙂

      • 5

        Nice kit.

        I wondered though, have you actually tried carrying the whole setup any distance, with your pup in it?  I’ve found in the past that combining a frontpack and backpack was much, much harder on my spine and shoulders than expected.  I’m sure this varies a lot person to person, and likely also with the particular gear and how well it fits your body, but it is definitely something you’ll want to practice with before an emergency.  For myself, rolling everything from the frontpack into a small tarp and strapping it to the backpack proved a much more comfortable carrying method.

        And this is just a silly detail, but I saw no mention of a needle.  If the dental floss is also for thread, you will probably want a needle, no?  I keep one taped to the side of the dental floss container itself with a little piece of duct tape, which can be lifted up and re-stuck again and again.  Also, a little tip, it makes much stronger thread if you twist it before sewing with it.

        Thanks for sharing, and for looking out for your pup.  You are fortunate she’s small enough to carry on your back.  I’ve never felt less prepared in my life than when I had an elderly 140 lb. dog with a heart condition and arthritis.  I don’t think I’d ever personally get a pet that big again, although other members of my household/land have four large dogs spread between them, so as a group we may one day find ourselves in the same situation again. 

      • 4

        Ooh, thanks for the tip with the tarp! I haven’t tried carrying the setup any distance, but wouldn’t have thought to strap the frontpack to the back and carry it that way. Will keep it in mind.

        And good catch on the needle, thank you! It’s not a silly detail at all. I was thinking about using the awl on my SAK, but of course a thinner needle should be there too. I’ve added it to my list, along with a puncture kit and bike-specific multitool, since it would truly suck to not be able to use the bicycle. 

         Yes, I have never been more grateful for her weight (or for living on the first floor) than when she stopped being able to use stairs.

    • 4

      I’m currently on the road traveling for 2 months in a camper with my husband and 2 dogs. I brought every medicine they have used from the vet, plus have our first aid kit for us.

      What we have encountered so far.

      1. Dog getting diarrhea, remarkably whole at a laundry mat! Was thankful to have chewable pepto and pee pads

      2. blood on stool, not in it. Called vet and decided it was either from a hard poop she had from eating grass or anal glands needed expressing. I got a lesson via phone but has to go buy nitrile gloves, which I thought duh why not in my first aid kit!

      3. Just this morning dog found chocolate chips and ate a few. Another call to the vet and we did some math and decided she would only have an upset tummy. However if it was more then we would have had to go buy hydrogen peroxide and dilute some and give to her, which would require a syringe.

    • 2

      I now have 3 cats, and figuring out what to do with them will be a big problem-solver for me!  I do have one cat that might work with a leash, but he’s also a maniac sometimes, and likes pet carriers even less than my itty bitty female cat. My other cat is a giant chonker who might be a Ragdoll, but I’m not 100% sure. He might be the most docile, but he’s also the heaviest. 

      I’m not sure how things work with backpacks, but there are all kinds of pet backpacks available now. Taylor Swift uses a space-bubble style backpack sometimes when she travels with her cats. Cats can see out of the little window-bubble. If a multi-backpack scenario doesn’t work, a tote or collapsable crate might be helpful. I know the hard plastic carriers are generally considered safer than soft ones, but those are also heavy in themselves. 

      I have seen cats ride on top of shoulders/backpacks and bike buckets for pets, but usually, they have the be the right personality for such an active lifestyle. Some of these owners will also have cats that stay at home because they would not travel well like that, or go walking like that. 

      I’ve seen the store flat, expandable wagons out there. And just recently saw one that is higher than usual, and I wonder if a higher sided one might work with pet carriers better, esp. if you have multiple cats/dogs/animals or kids to transport. I am not sure what brand the higher sided one was. 

      Some women might want to run away to Canada or Mexico now, so if they take any animals, those animals will probably be quarantined for a set amount of time. If people go to another country, they should look up the quarantine laws for pets there. 

      One other thing to consider is animals in very high heat or very cold/snowy weather or wind/rain (hurricane season, tornados). If you would freeze to death outside, it is very likely your pet will freeze to death outside, too. A wild animal is more likely to be built for the local weather ups and downs, but not a pet.