How We Prepared for Hurricane Irma: Suggestions How to Keep Cats Safe

Over the years my husband and I and our kitties have managed to weather the intensity of several blustering storms. When Hurricane Matthew blew into town as a category three, we kept our emotions in check and made all the necessary preparations to keep us safe and sound.

However, when it came to the constant worrisome warnings of Hurricane Irma approaching our anxiety (due to the endless wait for her to actually arrive) grew exponentially. We were glued to the Weather Channel, watching her every move and hearing nothing but terrifying stories about this monster category five storm. She was full of wrath and fury and was wreaking havoc wherever she landed.

At first we considered evacuating to a pet friendly shelter, but when we learned that she would hit us as a category one or two, we decided that leaving our sturdy brick house would be unnecessary. Since we don’t live in a flood zone we were actually advised by the authorities to simply hunker down. Our two young, healthy kitties, Mr. Edgar Allen Poe and Master Aki Pataki-Baracki would of course be frightened by the thunder, lightning and the howling winds. Since cats don’t do well with sudden changes in routine we tried hard to keep things simple.


Aki (FloridaWild Patient)
Since our 17 year-old kitty, Sir Hubble Pinkerton, had experienced several hurricanes we decided not to evacuate. We felt strongly that being home in their familiar environment would be far less stressful for them than encountering the many strangers along with the din of their barking dogs and nervous cats at a shelter. We made the decision to ride it out at home.

After four days without power, no air conditioning, telephone or cell phone service and with the temperature in the house reaching into the nineties, we decided that it was dangerous for us to remain at home. Cats don’t tolerate heat any better than humans. As the cats’ body temperature rises, they are at risk of suffering heat exhaustion which eventually may result in heat stroke. My husband, the cats, and myself were feeling lousy - we started calling pet friendly motels within our area. Thankfully we finally found pet-friendly accommodations at a LaQuinta Motel about 26 miles from us.

Our two young healthy cats would have little difficulty adjusting to sharing an air conditioned motel room with us. But our geriatric cat (Sir Hubble Pinkerton) has many serious medical conditions, so we reached out to the staff at FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital who agreed to take him and give him all his necessary medical treatments, careful supervision and lots of loving.

We were fortunate that our power, telephone and cell service were restored in only six days. Many other areas in Florida still remained without power. We were very lucky to be able to return to our home after only spending three days at the motel. We were overjoyed to be able to be reunited with Sir Hubble Pinkerton who was incredibly thrilled to be back home.

It is very difficult for companion animal owners to make the decision as to whether it is safer to evacuate to a pet friendly shelter or motel that has power, or to ride out a storm. Although there are pet friendly shelters that permit owners to remain with their cats, many of these shelters separate pets from their very distraught owners. Their kitties are put into small rooms along with the loudly barking dogs and disoriented cats kept in cages or carriers. Being in a shelter is disturbing enough, but when their beloved kitties are separated from their owners it makes this far more stressful for all concerned.

Although November 30 officially marks the end of the hurricane season in Florida, it is possible that a rouge storm could strike. While the chance of a hurricane striking the east coast after the end of the season is extremely unlikely, one never knows what nasty tricks could be up Mother Nature’s sleeve. Being prepared to deal with a hurricane disaster should be a priority, especially for kitty owners.

Preparation suggestions: Store cat food for at least six days (also a manual can opener if the pop top doesn’t work), bottled water, toys, a litter box, litter, water and food bowls in a carton that is located in a convenient and quickly accessible area. Keep a careful watch on weather predictions, and if your cat needs medication get a six-day supply ready to add to the box. Keep vaccination records handy along with your veterinarian’s name and contact information.

Make a list of pet friendly hotels and make reservations in advance of an approaching storm. They can always be cancelled within the hotel’s timeframe. Find out if your pet friendly shelter allows you to be with your cat. However, if you decide to ride out the storm, your kitty supplies will be ready to use. Being prepared ahead of time lessens stress for both you and your kitty, and allows you to make a variety of workable options.

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)