When disaster strikes and you have to bug out to stay safe, the first step in almost every case is to gather your family into the car as quickly as possible. For many people, this is when a sudden, harsh realization hits them – in planning to get the family out of town, you have forgotten to consider how your pets, themselves an integral part of the family, will come with you. (That is why everyone should create a Bug Out Bag for their Pets ahead of time – just keep reading!)
While you might have to make the hard decision to leave your beloved pets behind in a true, all-out emergency where survival is the only concern, in many situations that require you to get out of town quickly bringing your pet is a real option as long as you are prepared. For example, you wouldn’t leave your family dog behind to weather out a hurricane or wildfire, but you would need to be able to get them out the door quickly. This is why having bug out bags for your pets can make a huge difference in your ability to bug out with your entire family – pets included – when an emergency arises.
Bugging Out – Should You Bring Your Pet? (of course!)
While no one wants to think about leaving their pets behind in a disaster, it is worth seriously considering ahead of time what it would take to leave the house quickly for each of your pets.
1) Type of Pet
For starters, consider how many and what types of pets you have. Large-breed dogs are one of the best types of pet to bug out with because they are able to carry their own supplies in most cases, are typically athletic enough to keep up with your family if you need to travel on foot, and can provide some level of protection from threatening strangers. Cats are another common family pet that people choose to bug out with since they can travel relatively long distances on a leash or be carried in the top of a pack, although you will likely have to carry their supplies for them. Other household pets, like chickens, livestock, or fish, are much more difficult to travel with since they need to be carried and are not responsive to human commands in the same way that dogs and cats are.
Related: Prepping Dog and Cat Food
2) Safe for Traveling
If you think your pet is a potential candidate for bugging out with you, there are a number of other factors to consider. If your bug out plan requires traveling on foot to a safe location, consider whether your pet’s fitness level is on par with your own, whether they will be able to carry their own supplies, and whether they will follow commands in a tense situation. Even if you are bugging out in a vehicle, consider what would happen if you have to abandon your car – would you be able to forage supplies for both your family and your pet along the way? Another thing to consider is whether the location you will be bugging out to will be friendly and safe for your dog or cat, or whether having them at your final destination will cause further complications.
3) Type of Emergency
The nature of the emergency should also dictate whether your family pet should be coming along. If the emergency is relatively slow-moving, or there are safe areas outside of the immediate disaster zone, then finding food and supplies for your pet will not be particularly difficult after you bug out. On the other hand, is a widespread emergency, finding food and water for your dog or cat may simply add to the burden you already face of providing food, water, and shelter for your family.
4) Other Considerations
On the other hand, there are also potential advantages to bringing your pet with you when bugging out. A large dog can be an extremely effective security system by both alerting you to unwanted visitors and by defending your family if you are attacked. Having your family dog or cat with you when bugging out can also be important for keeping morale up, especially if you have small children who are upset about leaving their home and belongings behind. Dogs, in particular, are also very adept at foraging for natural water sources and, if they are trained as a hunting dog, can help you track game. The best way to prepare your pet for bugging out with your family is training – short training sessions focused on finding a particular object, tracking, or even growling on command can all come in handy in the event that an emergency breaks out and you have your four-legged companion with you.
Bug Out Bags for Dogs and Cats – the Top 7 Considerations
Of course, the second part of the equation when bugging out with your dogs and cats or other pets is to have a similar stock of ready-to-go supplies as you have for each member of your family. Preparing a bug out bag for dogs and cats follows many of the same principles as preparing a bug out bag for humans, with some important pet-specific differences.
1) Saddle Bags and Cat Carriers
Bugging out with dogs is relatively straightforward in large part because they can carry their own supplies, so they do not add to the space or weight of your own pack. A wide array of manufacturers designs saddlebags for medium- and large-breed dogs, which you can easily pre-fill with dog food, water, and other supplies in the same way that you would fill a bug out bag for another member of your family. Importantly, you should test out your dog with the filled saddlebag well in advance of any emergency to make sure that it fits – a poor-fitting bag can cause chafing against your dog’s skin – to acclimate them to the bag, and to make sure that they can handle the weight over potentially rough terrain.
Small dogs and cats differ from medium and large dogs in that they typically will not be able to carry their own supplies in a saddlebag, which means that you will need to commit to adding their food, water, and supplies to your own pack. The bright side is that they do not require a huge amount of food and water per day; so the weight added will be relatively minimal. Both small dogs and cats can walk a decent distance on a leash, but keep in mind that if you are covering long distances on foot you may need to carry your pet some of the way.
2) Food and Water
Typically, when planning out food and water for a human bug out bag, the rule of thumb is to pack enough supplies to last three days. The same rule applies to pets, and it is worth throwing in even a few more days’ worths of food if your dog is carrying their own saddlebag since dog-friendly food may be harder to come by than human food depending on your situation. It is also worth keeping treats in your pet’s pack since these can be used when they are tired or to coax them into a shelter they might not otherwise want to stay in.
The amount of water your pet will need per day varies based on their size, how furry they are, how hot it is, and whether you will be passing by water sources that they can stop and drink from. Although cats and dogs tend to have less sensitive stomachs than humans when it comes to unfiltered water, your pets can still succumb to Giardia and other waterborne illnesses so it is a good idea to keep a water filter or water treatment tablets in their pack.
3) Leash and Collar
It goes without saying that a leash and collar should be an essential part of your pet’s bug out bag. Even the most well-trained dogs have a hard time not chasing squirrels in the woods, and many pets will act skittish when faced with unusual circumstances. Although retractable leashes are common; a simple six- to 10-foot nylon leash is the best choice when packing a bug out bag for pets since it is less prone to breaking and easier to control. The collar should have ID tags attached or other identifying information in case your pet gets lost.
4) Collapsible Bowls
How will your dog or cat get to the food and water you brought along for them? While you could pour food on the ground and cup water into your hands, a collapsible bowl is a much easier solution that takes up less space and is usually lighter than a standard at-home bowl.
Your pet may be perfectly healthy, in which case there is no need to worry about bringing along special medications for them. However, older dogs and cats in particular often have prescription medications that take up very little space and weight but can make a huge difference in your pet’s comfort and ability to keep up with the rest of your family.
Related: OTC Medications for You and Your Dog
6) Comfort Items
Just as bugging out is stressful for you and your family, it can be extremely challenging and unsettling to your pet – which in turn can cause them to act out or fail to follow commands. Bringing treats along with their food can help with this, as can packing one of their favorite toys in their bug out bag.
7) Cold-Weather Gear
While a lot of large-breed dogs are furry enough to be fine for prolonged periods outside during the winter months, it is worth considering a dog or cat jacket or sweater for your smaller friends. Even furry pets, like cats, can suffer from being outside in the cold for days on end.
Make a Bug Out Bag For Your Pet Today!
When you are preparing your family to bug out in the event of a disaster, it is also important to remember your family pets and determine what situations warrant bringing them along and what situations will require leaving them behind. Just as you ensure that your family members are ready to go in an emergency by preparing a bug out bag for each of them, have a bug out bag for your pet complete with food, water, and pet-specific supplies like bowls and toys so that they will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Originally posted 2019-06-19 00:51:57.