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Tornado Safety for Pets

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A red-colored dog lays on the floor looking out the window

Tornadoes are an unpredictable force of nature. If you live in Tornado Alley, for example, or another area frequented by tornadoes, chances are you have some emergency supplies and a plan for you and your family. However, what should you do with your pets during a tornado?

Tornado safety for pets should never be overlooked. Whether you have a cat, a dog, or both, it’s crucial that you take the time to ensure that your best pal will be safe if a twister ever comes your way. (Open a new window)

Can Dogs and Cats Sense When a Tornado Is Coming?

One of the many cool facts about cats and dogs is that they have, all around, more heightened senses. This can mean that when a storm is brewing, your four-legged friend will often be able to tell if things in their environment are changing due to alterations in the atmospheric or barometric pressure.

Although bad weather doesn’t bother all canines and felines, if storms do make your pets nervous, you’re probably already aware of the signs that a storm is coming your way. For example, some animals may begin pacing or drooling, become unsettled, and seem uninterested in fun items like toys and treats. Some pets may also start following you around the house but then retreat to a quieter spot once the storm arrives.

Some pet parents can also tell when a tornado is approaching due to their pet exhibiting behavior that’s out of the norm. For instance, if you have a dog who rarely barks, but is all of a sudden barking, pacing around, or even sniffing the air when they are outside, all of these behaviors could indicate that they are sensing a change in the weather and a tornado approaching.

How To Keep Pets Safe During a Tornado

Taking the proper precautions to ensure that all family members (including the four-legged ones) are safe in the event a tornado strikes could make a world of difference. One great way to prepare in advance is to take note of your pet’s hiding spots.

Whenever your pet senses a storm coming, they may seek shelter and hide where they feel safe. Although they may be able to ride out a regular thunderstorm in this spot, for a tornado, you must be able to locate and remove them so that you can safely get them to your designated tornado area. It’s best not to wait until a tornado has formed to consider how you will get your cat out from underneath your bed.

Dogs and Tornados

Whenever a tornado hits, it’s recommended that people and their pets be indoors in their tornado-safe, designated area. This spot can look different for each household but is typically one of the interior-most spots on the lowest floor in the house with the fewest windows—a basement or interior room with no windows at all is ideal. Once you’ve chosen this area in your home, test that you, your family, and your dogs can fit in this space. This can be incredibly significant for pet parents who have more than one dog or extra-large breeds.

In addition to ensuring your family all fit in the designated area, it’s also a good idea to practice calmly going to that spot and making it a positive experience. You will also need to make the area pet-safe and remove any items that could be hazardous to them. For example, if you plan to wait out a tornado in your walk-in pantry, consider placing any foods that are toxic to dogs on the upper shelves or in sealed containers.

If your tornado-safe area has enough room for your dog’s crate, then your dog can wait out the tornado in it. Although the crate provides added protection, placing the kennel underneath a sturdy piece of furniture is even better.

Cats and Tornados

Many of the steps you’d take to prepare and protect your dog from a tornado can also be used for your cat. For instance, before tornado season begins, it can be helpful to make sure your cat is microchipped, the tags on their collar are up to date and visible, and you have a recent photo of them. Of course, it is every pet parent’s worst fear that their pet could run away, but the reality is that this could happen when a tornado comes through.

Just as you would with a dog, it’s equally important to devise a tornado plan and practice it with your feline friend. It’s important that your cat is comfortable in their carrier and that they can view the tornado-safe area as a positive place. You can do this by giving them treats in the area or engaging them with a favorite toy. Since many cats are prone to running and hiding when a storm comes through, try to stay ahead by knowing how to quickly and safely get your cat out of their hiding spot. If you can, secure them in an easily accessible area before the storm reaches your location. This way, if a tornado comes through, you will already know where your cat is and that they are safe and secure. (open new window)

Of course, tornadoes can be unpredictable, so you may not have as much time to prepare as you’d like. In this case, you can use a towel, blanket, or pillowcase to quickly pick up your cat without worrying about them scratching you—which can happen when your four-legged friend feels anxious or panicked.

Since cats are usually smaller than dogs, you may have more space within your safe zone to place your cat’s carrier. Some pet parents have even put their cat’s carrier in a front-loading washer or dryer, ensuring the door remains open. This extra bit of protection could make your cat that much safer in a severe storm.

a lady in a yellow raincoat stands with her dog on a forest path

Pet Preparedness Kit

When tornadoes pass through your neighborhood or town, it’s not always easy predicting the damage that these natural disasters will leave behind. However, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. With tornadoes, this can mean having an emergency or “just in case” kit ready at the start of each year’s tornado season.

In addition to having an emergency bag for you and your fellow family members in your home, you should also have one for your pets. Even when a storm doesn’t hit you directly, it may still affect your area’s power, the stores where you shop, and any number of other factors.

Things to have in a go bag for pets include:

  • Food

    It’s recommended that you have an extra two weeks’ worth of pet food per pet. Pet food should be stored in a water-proof bag or container, and you should have a way to measure and scoop it. Have easy-open cans or an extra can opener if your cat eats canned food. Be sure to take note of the expiration date on your pet’s food. Though the food may last the entire tornado season, after roughly six months, it’s best to use the food and switch it out with fresher food.

  • Water

    Without enough daily water, your cat or dog will quickly become dehydrated and face other health issues, just like people. Knowing this, it’s crucial that you have extra, clean water stored away for your pet. You can delegate some of your drinking water for your cat or dog as long as you calculate how much they need and add it to how much you will need. Remember, if you have multiple pets, be sure to have enough supply for each pet. Having a collapsible water bowl in the emergency kit can also be helpful.

  • Litter

    Although you can quickly move your cat’s litter box and scoop into your tornado-safe space, it’s important that you have some extra litter on hand as it may be a while before you’re able to visit the pet store again. In addition to the litter, scoop, and box, don’t forget to include a trashcan or bag.

  • Harness or leash

    In the event you’ll need to transport your pet to their veterinarian or if you both will be evacuating your home, it’s essential to have an extra harness or leash on hand. Keeping these items in your emergency kit, which should always be kept in your tornado-safe area, will ensure that you have the materials you’ll need in a worst-case scenario.

  • First-aid kit

    You can make your own pet first-aid kit or buy an assembled option. Although it’s already recommended that pet parents have a pet first-aid kit handy in their home and car, it may be even more important to have one stored in your tornado emergency kit. It also never hurts to brush up on what’s included in your kit, what the supplies are used for, and how to use them.

  • Medications

    If your canine or feline pal is on regular medications, it’s vital that you remember to include those in your emergency kit. Depending on the medicine, if your pet misses just one dose, it could negatively affect their health and well-being.

If you have the room, tossing in your pet’s bed or a little blanket for them, some treats, or a few toys never hurts. Although these items may not be necessary, they can give your cat or dog some added comfort.

Are Pets Allowed in FEMA Shelters?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for helping people prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. If your home was severely damaged or destroyed due to a tornado, you may be eligible to stay in a FEMA shelter. Although service dogs are allowed in these facilities, pets are often not.

That said, it’s crucial to remember that if your home is not safe for you, it’s also not safe for your pet, so you should evacuate together. If you live in Tornado Alley or somewhere else prone to getting tornadoes, it’s worthwhile to research some shelter or housing options ahead of time. Places to look for in your nearby area include:

  • Pet-friendly shelter

    Although many shelters don’t typically allow cats or dogs, contacting the facility and double-checking their policies is a good idea—staying a step or two ahead regarding natural disaster preparedness never hurts.

  • Pet-friendly hotel

    If there aren’t any shelters nearby that will allow you to bring your pets, or you are considering various options, you may have better luck searching for a pet-friendly hotel. Even if there isn’t one in your town, there should be a few options nearby.

  • Boarding your pet

    If you and your four-legged friend aren’t able to return to your home right away and you can’t find a place to stay that will also accommodate them, consider boarding your pet. Not only are there full-time cat and dog boarding facilities, but some veterinary offices also offer this service.

  • Reaching out to friends and family

    If friends, family, or coworkers were not affected by the tornado, you could reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to house your pet or both of you.

In the aftermath of a tornado, it’s essential that you assess any damage done to your home, no matter how minor. If debris is lying around, it’s crucial that you clean it up and take care that your pets do not step on or try to eat harmful materials.

By taking a few precautionary steps and having your pet’s emergency bag ready, keeping pets safe during a tornado can become much more manageable and less stressful. Whether an EF-0 or an EF-5 crosses your path, anyone who has experience with tornados would agree that it’s always better to err on the safe side than to be caught unprepared. And when your best canine or feline pal is involved, what pet parent wouldn’t want to be ready for any natural disaster that comes their way?

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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