So, how many of your went through the pet disaster post and got to about the 20th thing on the list and thought: “too much work for me”? Or maybe it was “too expensive for me” or just “that’s too freaking hard”. The lists provided by FEMA and the Humane Society are great, comprehensive lists meant to encompass everything. Unfortunately, comprehensive doesn’t always equal realistic. Whether because of difficulty in obtaining items, cost or sheer number the lists are daunting for the average pet owner. I’m not a vet or pretend to be one but I am someone who hikes and camps a lot and knows that if 10 essentials are the basis for human survival then surely pets can’t require even more. This post is going to make it simple for you to prepare a budget friendly pet disaster kit. Will it cover every disaster known to man? No. Will it cover most situations for the average American? Yes. I’m making it simple enough for kids to put it together because giving kids a responsibility of their own in a disaster is always a good thing and teaching them to plan ahead for disasters is important. Let’s get started!
- Water. The rule of thumb is one ounce per pound per day for survival. Time to do some math. Our dog Gracie weighs about 70 pounds so she’d need 70 ounces of water per day. Planning for 3 days, that’s 210 ounces or 1.6 gallons. Grab a couple of gallon jugs of water ($.50 each at our local grocery) and she’s good. Total cost: $1.00
- Food. This is going to depend a lot on your animal and the type of food so you’ll need to know how much your pet eats. Gracie eats 2 cups of dry kibble a day. Time for more math! Aren’t word problems the best? She gets fed Purina One Lamb & Rice which is 96g in an 8oz cup per the company (all dog foods will measure different based on the size of the kibble). So she’d need 96g times 2 each day for 3 days which equals 576g. The smallest bag we ever find is 4 pounds so that will more than cover her needs. Dry kibble has a shelf life of only about a year so make sure you rotate it out regularly. If you prefer canned food just take how many cans your animal eats per day for three days and stock that much. Do remember to add a can opener to your kit if it isn’t a pull top! Realism Note: there is much cheaper dog food out there and when times are tough we’ve been forced to use that. If you are in the same boat don’t stress about it and just add a bit more. The cheaper food has less nutrition (something extra important in a disaster) so add some extra cups per day just to be safe. If you buy the crazy expensive stuff? You probably don’t need to be worrying about this list anyway and can use the original one. Total cost (varies, this is our cost for a 4 lb bag): $6.88
- Food bowls. You know all those plastic containers missing their lids that your mom always complains about? Claim a couple or your pet’s disaster kit. Total cost: free.
- Cat specific. Grab an extra litter box (the small ones) and the next time you buy litter fill a gallon ziploc with before filling your normal cat box. The small litter boxes run for $4 at our local pet store. If that’s still too expensive, make a temporary one yourself by lining a cardboard box with a clean trash bag. The bag should protect the cardboard for the few days that you’ll need it. Total cost: free
- Leashes and collars. A leash will be your best friend in a disaster. If you have to evacuate or have to go through a storm ravaged area your leashes and collars may not survive. You need a backup. Gracie tends to destroy her collars frequently so we have to replace them all the time. We kept one of her older ones (dirty and worn but not damaged) as a backup. We also keep one leash handy merely because we always misplace them. If you need to purchase a new set for your animal rather than recycling it will cost you anywhere between $5 and a gazillion dollars (have you seen those diamond studded collars???) Check yard sales and dollar stores before your local supercenter…they almost always have them available. We priced a new reflective collar and a retractable leash at a local Family Dollar store and the total combined cost was $7.91. Total cost: $8
- Carriers/Cages. This is where I disagree a lot with the list. Mainly because a cage for a dog Gracie’s size is a minimum of $132 and so bulky you could never transport it around easily during an emergency. It’s just not realistic. A cat carrier? Sure. Nice and compact and bad kitty can be stuffed inside with ease and moved to a safe area. If you have a large dog, though, having a crazy expensive otherwise unused monster size cage hanging around your house is just plain silly. Our solution is to use a vinyl coated tie out leash. It has clasps on both ends and can be wrapped around anything (we use it a lot around trees when we camp at state parks where animals aren’t allowed off leash) which means that no matter where you evacuate to in a disaster, you can always safely tie up your pet and it’s small enough to easily tuck into a pet disaster bag. Total cost: $6.99
- Pet toys. Tuck a favorite toy in your kit to help ease your pet’s stress and keep it mentally occupied from the turmoil around it. Total cost: free
- Photos. In case you get separated or have to leave your animal at a shelter during an emergency, keep a recent photo of your pet in the disaster bag. Just as important but most people forget, keep a recent photo of you and your pet TOGETHER. It will help prove ownership should you get separated.Total cost: free
- Pet First Aid Kit. These can be insanely expensive if you buy them at the pet store. In another post I’m going to talk about creating your own on a budget so stay tuned for that. Not included in cost total.
So, there we have it. A short painless list for your pet disaster kit. Put it all in a bag or old lunch box and you are good to go. Total cost as indicated :$22.87. For less than $25 you can help keep your faithful family pet healthy and happy when disaster strikes.