By Kimberly Blaker
If there’s one thing the spread of COVID-19 has taught us, it’s to expect and plan for the unexpected. This doesn’t just apply to preparing for yourself and the people in your life. In the event of an emergency, advance preparation for the care of your pet is vital to your pet’s wellness.
COVID-19 hospitalization is just one of the many situations that could require last-minute care for your pets. But many other crises could also require arrangements for your pet’s care. Examples include other illnesses requiring hospitalization, last-minute travel for emergencies or work, homelessness and eviction, financial hardship, rehab, natural disasters, deployment, death, and more. Your pet is an important part of your family. So make sure you have a sufficient plan in place for your pet before a potential crisis hits.
Who will watch your pet?
In times of crisis, especially community-wide or family situations that affect other people as well, such as COVID-19, your first plan may not work out. So have a backup plan, so you aren’t left scrambling. There are many options available depending on your financial situation, preferences for your pet, and the length or type of care you may need.
Trusted family or friends are an excellent option, if any can watch your pet. Since you know them, and likely so does your pet, family and friends may be more likely or able to provide care in your home or take your pet into their own home. Family and friends offer pets a familiar face and perhaps even a familiar place. This can be particularly helpful to ease your pet’s stress. So ask if any friends or family members are willing to watch or take-in your pet, even if only until suitable options can be arranged.
Some shelters offer temporary foster placement for a specific amount of time with the intent to reunite pets with their owners.
Dog and cat boarding kennels, in-home boarding services, and pet hotels are available to host your pets when needed. Be sure to read reviews, tour the facilities, and ask questions in advance to ensure your pet will be well-cared for and according to your preferences.
There are also pet sitting or walking services depending on the situation and needs of your pet. These are good options for shorter-term situations, and when your pet doesn’t need as much care or would just do better at home than in an unfamiliar place.
Your veterinarian may also be able to offer recommendations, since vets often know many of the local services. Veterinarians also know your pet and are more likely to be invested in making sure your pet is taken care of.
Whatever options you choose, get to know your emergency caregivers ahead of time, if possible. Also let them get to know your pet and vice versa, and make sure the caregiver understands your pet’s needs. In the event of a crisis, you’ll feel more at ease knowing your pet is in good hands.
Maintain your pet’s health
Emergency preparedness requires maintaining your pet’s health. Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and medical check-ups. You should also keep a sufficient supply of any prescriptions, special foods, or other needs on hand to ensure your pet’s health in unforeseen circumstances. Also, keep the documentation for proof of shots and spaying or neutering in an accessible place, since these may be required by kennels, shelters, or foster services.
Prepare written instructions for your pet’s care
Create instructions for your pet’s care and keep both virtual and printed copies. Give one to anyone who may look after your pet. Also, post a copy on your fridge or in a conspicuous place in your home in the event you aren’t able to point it out. Every pet is different and keeping the same routine as much as possible will ease your pet’s stress during a crisis.
You’ll also want caregivers to know about any special needs, such as medications and when your pet needs to see the vet again. The caregiver should be aware of special foods your pet needs or can’t have. Your pet’s stress level and other avoidable problems can be reduced if the caregiver knows your pet’s training commands, personality quirks, behaviors, and things to watch for. The instructions should also include contact numbers for you, your pet’s vet, and emergency contact if something should happen.
Have a bag ready to go
Keep a bag packed for emergencies with the basic needs for your pet like food, toys, and a leash. Also, include a list of frequently used things you don’t want to keep packed, but want to make sure your pet has. This might consist of favorite toys or blankets to provide your pet some sense of normalcy and comfort when away from you. Also, include your list of instructions and routines in the bag. Then keep the bag easily accessible and near a crate or whatever you use to safely transport your pet.
Help caregivers ease your pet’s stress
During a crisis, pets can experience anxiety or depression, just like people, especially if they’re separated from their family and don’t follow their regular routines. So make sure your pet will be in a safe, comfortable environment with people you trust. Hopefully, the caregiver has interacted with your pet in the past, so they are familiar with each other.
Other things caregivers can do to relieve some of your pet’s stress include:
give gentle physical affection at your pet’s comfort level
stick to routines as much as possible
provide your pet the opportunity for regular exercise
stick to your pet’s usual diet
have a designated quiet space with comfort items from home
play classical music or turn on TV shows explicitly designed for animals
Although you may not be able to predict when a crisis might turn your life upside down, one thing is within your control. You can have a plan in place for emergencies that ensures your pet will be adequately taken care of, leaving you one less thing to worry about.