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Being a pet parent means being prepared for emergencies both big and small. But what happens if you get sick and can't care for your pets?
If you become ill, it's important to have both a pet preparedness plan and a pet emergency kit ready so that your designated pet caretaker has everything they need to take care of your furry friend.
How to Create a Pet Preparedness Plan
Much like a pet disaster plan, a preparedness plan is something put in place before the emergency hits, points out the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). They advise, "it's also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home." This also pertains to situations in which you can't take care of your pet yourself. Even if your pet is staying in your home, the pet caretaker needs to know exactly where the supplies are and what to do with them.
Choose a Pet Caretaker
The first thing you need to do is decide who will care for your pet when you cannot. Designate a capable member of the household or, if you live alone, a trustworthy friend or relative. Depending on whether you will need a pet caretaker for a short or long period of time, this may be more than one person. Ideally, the caretaker is someone with whom your pet is already familiar and who is comfortable making important decisions for your pet.
Ensure that your designated pet caretaker understands the full extent of their responsibility, including any special health and wellness needs your pet may have. And make sure other people know who your pet caretaker is, emphasizes the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Notify your veterinarian's office that the caretaker is allowed to speak with the vet and make plans on your pet's behalf.
The ideal pet preparedness plan includes easily accessible pet care instructions that are written out in clear language. Walk through your daily routine and jot down everything that comes to mind, including the following details:
- Feeding schedule, portion measurements and location of food and fresh water
- Medication schedule
- Litter box cleaning maintenance (if applicable)
- Dog-walking schedule (if applicable)
- Grooming needs
- Bedtime routine
Once you have the plan in place, write it down and share it with your caretaker. An email or text works well, but it's also advisable to print the plan out and leave it somewhere highly visible, such as a kitchen countertop.
Keep Special Considerations in Mind
Although it's not always easy to talk about, being prepared also means planning for what to do if you aren't around to take care of your pet in the long term. One option is to create a trust for your pet so you can appoint a legal guardian and provide them with the necessary funds to take care of your beloved companion. Unlike a will, which is enacted after death, a trust provides security for long-term pet care if you're ill or hospitalized for an extended period of time.
Pet Emergency Kit: What You Need
A pet preparedness plan includes a well-stocked supply of items — enough for about two weeks. The basics of a pet emergency kit include the following items:
- Clean water
- Cat litter (if applicable)
- Pet waste bags
- Grooming tools
- Leash or harness
- Crate or carrier
- Contact information for your vet's office and a 24-hour emergency vet
- Copy of health records, including vaccinations and microchip numbers (ensure your contact information is accurate and up to date)
- Current photograph of your pet
Be sure to identify and include items that are special to your pet, such as their favorite toys, a special blanket or other objects of comfort.
Having a plan in place can bring calm to an already worrisome and stressful situation. Creating a pet preparedness plan and emergency kit to care for your furry family members is an investment in your and your pet's health, wellness and future.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is a writer, STEAM educator, and long-time pet mom. She's a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and has written for industry-leading companies and organizations, including What to Expect When You're Expecting and NIU STEM Read. Find and follow Christine on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien