Emergency Planning With Ferrets in Mind

Burning house.

We don’t particularly like to think about it, but tragedy can happen at any time. Accidents or manmade or natural disasters occur and suddenly we’re called on to adapt and survive.

How prepared are you?

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recommends that every family have a plan for what they would do in the event of an emergency in their area. If you own pets, your plan should take into consideration their care as well.

Taking the First Step

The first step to making a plan is to spend a bit of time thinking about what type of emergencies you might be more likely to experience in your area. Some emergencies, such as fire, can happen anywhere while others are more limited to a certain geographic area. What are you preparing for? Are you preparing for natural disasters such as an earthquake, hurricane or tornado? Is your area prone to wild fires or winter storm and power outages? What about man-made disasters such as hazardous material spills or a terrorist attack? Or pandemic such as bird flu or swine flu?

Preparing for a potential wildfire means planning for a quick evacuation from the home. Having a ‘Go Bag’ ready with everything you need inside would be a great time saver. On the other hand, preparing for a possible tornado or winter storm means taking appropriate shelter inside the home and your preparations will be much different.

While different disaster scenarios sometimes require slightly different planning, the basic supplies of food, water, shelter, and other needs remain basically the same.

A well thought out disaster plan should provide options for both evacuating the home as well as choosing to stay and sheltering in place and plans for what to do with pets in either case.

Gathering Supplies

Regardless of whether you evacuate or shelter-in-place during an emergency, one of the first things you’ll want to do as part of your disaster planning is gather necessary supplies.

Part of any good plan includes keeping a supply of food, water, medical supplies and other items on hand in the home. A manageable portion of these items should be stored in a portable container of some sort which can easily be grabbed and taken along in the event of an evacuation. These are often called “Go Bags”, but do not necessarily need to be a bag.

Getting started is not always easy. It’s difficult to know what to pack and how much. Fortunately, there are many who have come before us with the same concerns and desire to plan ahead. A quick Google search online for “disaster planning” will yield as much information as you could possibly need.

This list of Basic Disaster Supplies from FEMA is easy enough to put together and will get your planning off to a quick start. You can always continue to research and add to your supply at a later date if necessary.

There are many websites which offer in-depth advice to help you in creating an emergency plan. A couple of excellent sites are FEMA’s ready.gov and the Red Cross Preparedness website.

Disaster Planning For Pets

Each pet in your household should be included in your disaster planning. Include a Pet Go Bag stocked with items needed for their care. FEMA includes a special section on their website where they cover special needs for pets. A detailed description of what to include in a Ferret Go Bag can be found in our post “Does Your Ferret Have a BoB?“.

Unfortunately, pets are not welcome everywhere and evacuation with pets can pose a problem. For safety reasons most public housing provided during an emergency does not accept pets. Some hotels are pet friendly, but not all and there is no guarantee friends and family are as accepting as we hope they would be. Additionally, ferrets are still illegal in some areas of the country. For all these reason, evacuation planning when accompanied by pets needs to be well thought out in advance.

If staying in a hotel is an option, the website dogfriendly.com is a great resource for finding pet-friendly hotels. They have long catered to American pet owners, but have recently started an International section on their website as well.

If planning to stay with family or friends call ahead and make sure your pets are welcome also.

You may need to make plans to board your pets or arrange for them to stay somewhere separate from you. Remember these accommodations are only temporary and the most important thing is that you and your family and your pets all survive this ordeal safely.

Special Considerations For Ferret Owners

Disaster planning with ferrets poses a few additional challenges. One of the most important challenges which needs to be addressed is the ferret’s extremely sensitivity to heat. Any type of disaster which shuts down electricity (and therefore air-conditioning) when temperatures are over 80 degrees could prove deadly for ferrets unless special care is taken to ensure they don’t overheat.

Keeping ferrets in a shady location and slightly damp using a wet cloth or spray bottle will work well unless temperatures climb far above 80 degrees. Frozen food from the freezer can be wrapped in a towel for the ferrets to lay on to stay cool. These methods of staying cool would work if the outage is not expected to last long. For long-term care of ferrets in a heat emergency it’s probably best to try to find a friend or family member who still has power and is willing to keep them a short while.

You may also want to consider investing in a power generator. Small generators powerful enough to power a small window air-conditioner is all that’s needed and prices start at around $139.

When Pets Are Home Alone

Assuming you and your family leave home for school and work during the day, your pets are home alone for a considerable length of time each day. Think about how would deal caring for pets if a disaster should strike while you are separated for the day.

In the event of a fire or other emergency this Free Pet Rescue Kit is available from the ASPCA. The stickers they send should be filled out with appropriate information and placed on your front door telling rescue personnel where to locate your animals.

If you’re close with a neighbor who is home all day you may want to consider talking to him or her about evacuating your pets if needed. Remember to give them a key and tell them where supplies are kept.