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Four Legs Good: How to Prepare Your Pets for Natural Disasters


When you’re running a household, you need to look out for all of its members. If a natural disaster strikes, you want to be ready. The Federal Government has its suggestions, but what if you have pets? Purina, which is sponsoring this post, recently invited me to a Google hangout with the veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator and a few other bloggers, including the cat-centric publication Mousebreath, which offers these tips; The Los Angeles-focused site MomsLA, whose insight is here; and the opera-singing Tenor Dad, who hits these notes.

Dr. Venator lives in upstate New York with his wife, Kristi (his high school sweetheart), and their three sons (Parker, Camden, and Knox) and three yellow Labrador Retrievers (Sailor, Chance, and Thatcher). “I’m actually a big fan of cooking,” he told me. “I find it immensely relaxing and a great way to bring the entire family together.” The Venators have a number of traditions, including gathering for a Sunday morning brunch. “Nothing fancy, but a nice full spread,” he said. “Pancakes, hash browns, made-to-order omelets, and locally made peameal bacon.”

The other go-to meal around their house is a traditional steak dinner, “Charlie Palmer steakhouse style,” Dr. Venator said. “We start with local fillet, prepped with freshly ground peppercorns and sea salt in a mortar and pestle, which the boys love helping with.” He then pulls out antique cast-iron pans, heats up grapeseed oil (which, he says, has a higher smoking temp and clean, light taste), sears them on each side for two-to-three minutes, and then puts them in the oven for seven minutes at 350, with a pat of butter on each one. “The boys can’t seem to get enough,” he revealed.

There’s another noteworthy custom of the Venator household: periodic, classic Thanksgiving meals. “Honestly, we do it about four times per year because the entire family loves it,” he said. “All the standard fixings, including homemade stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, a delightful blended squash (butternut, acorn, and the somewhat rare Boston marrow." He also makes a cranberry-habanero chutney. “Given the time of year, I thought I would share the recipe,” he said. “It’s really easy to make but really tasty – nice balance of heat and sweet.”

Dr. Venator’s Habanero-Cranberry Chutney

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 habanero chile
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • Put first five ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil.

Lower heat and simmer till thickened.

Remove from heat and add orange juice.

Let cool about 15 minutes, then place in a food processor.

Pulse to desired consistency.

And in case catastrophe strikes, here are six tips for caring for you pet in the event of a natural disaster.  

  1. The first step to preparing your pet for a natural disaster is to make sure that he or she is wearing a securely fastened collar with up-to-date identification in case you become separated.
  2. To prep your home, talk to your local veterinarian who can provide waterproof, “Pets Inside” stickers that you can place on the front and back door of your house to alert rescuers that there are pets inside your home.
  3. Prepare a disaster kit, with basic pet essentials such as bottled water, cans of wet food, blankets, collapsible bowls, cat litter and pan, and a leash and collar. Be sure to include a basic pet first-aid kit. A one-to-two-week supply of food that your pet usually eats is an ideal amount to include, too, however make sure to replace the food according to the expiration dates.
  4. Have photos of your pet on-hand in case you need to distribute pictures if your pet gets lost and make sure to include any important paperwork pertaining to your pet (e.g. vaccine records/medical history, veterinary contact information, medications list and emergency contacts).
  5. Develop an evacuation plan: Save precious evacuation time by identifying possible locations where you can take your animals. These locations can include animal shelters, veterinary clinics or even pet-friendly hotels where you and your pet can find relief until the disaster passes. Keeping your dog’s medical records on hand is vital since some pet-friendly emergency relief centers require proof of vaccinations in order for your pet to stay there.
  6. Recruit friends and neighbors: Consider creating a buddy system with your neighbor, family or friend who can look out for your pet in case you are not home when a disaster strikes. Add this person to your veterinarian’s emergency contact list of people who have authority to approve necessary emergency treatments if you can’t be reached. Also, identify places where you can leave your pet while you are out of town to avoid leaving your pet alone. Always let your pet sitter and back-up person know where your pet’s disaster kit is stored in case of an emergency.
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