There are so many things to think about when getting ready for a major storm that it can be overwhelming. It’s difficult enough for families to secure food and shelter for themselves in the wake of a hurricane, much less to focus on keeping their pets safe. Several agencies and websites offer advice to cat and dog owners about pet safety during a storm; however, given the wide variety of exotic pet species and their hugely varying nutritional and environmental requirements, very little has been written to guide owners of such pets on preparing their animals for severe weather and keeping them safe during storms.
Though exotic pet species — birds, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, ferrets, amphibians, pot-bellied pigs, marsupials and others —each have very specific requirements to keep them healthy, many of the guidelines for keeping cats and dogs safe during inclement weather apply to exotic pets as well. Several great resources exist for pet owners, regardless of pet type, to referernce in advance of bad weather, to be as ready as possible when it comes.
Very little advice exists specific to exotic pet safety during storms, says Dr. Cynda Crawford, a veterinarian in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine. Crawford also serves as medical director for the University of Florida’s Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services, a resource for the state’s animal and agricultural emergency response system. But she says all pet owners should“have a seven-day supply of food, the habitat and detailed step-by-step instructions for care on hand for emergencies, whether sheltering in place or going to a temporary shelter to get out of harm’s way.”
Dr. Crawford also suggests that exotic pet owners“check with their local community emergency response departments to determine availability of pet-friendly shelters and see whether these shelters are prepared to accommodate special species.” Often, she notes, temporary shelters set up for the emergency housing of pets will not accept snakes. “This places an extra burden on snake owners to find secure housing if evacuation is necessary, and this planning should be done in advance of urgent need.” Most importantly, Dr. Crawford says, exotic pet owners should discuss emergency preparation procedures with their veterinarians before emergencies arise.
One step all exotic pet owners can take ahead of time is to create a pet emergency supply kit that can be stored with your family emergency supply kit in a waterproof container. (Online resources are available to further help you compile an emergency kit.) Your kit should include:
Dr. Doug Mader, a veterinarian who works with exotic pets in Florida and writes on hurricane preparedness, says other factors to consider when getting pets ready for a hurricane include bringing indoors any pets housed outside, such as birds in aviaries and turtles and fish in ornamental ponds. Aquatic pets can be housed inside in temporary tanks powered by battery-operated filters and air pumps, if need be. Dr. Mader says that, in the face of a hurricane, pet owners should not:
Birds love to fly, and many reptiles like the water. But the wind and rain of a hurricane can be too much for any pet to survive. With advance planning and an escape route, you, your family and your pets —furry, feathered and scaled —can all make it through safely.
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