Last month, on a blustery October morning in Orange County, California, the Silverado Canyon Fire erupted quickly. Fueled by fierce Santa Ana winds, the fire spread at mach speed through the dry Southern California terrain. Almost 90,000 residents were forced to evacuate. Not to mention the residents of nearly 6,000 homes that were also forced to evacuate due to the Blue Ridge Fire in northern Orange County which erupted later that same day.

Needless to say, many lives were upended that chaotic week as thousands scrambled to find temporary housing. And not just human lives were in limbo. Our beloved pets were displaced as well. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation. People who would normally evacuate to a friend’s or family’s house couldn’t necessarily do that this time.

Californians are no strangers to disasters

Photo credit: SCVHistory.com

Native Californians like me are no strangers to evacuations. I was 6 months old when I survived the historic Sylmar Earthquake of 1971. My family had to be evacuated due to damage to the dam which threatened to break. Fortunately, my parents hadn’t yet adopted my childhood cat, Siggy. Otherwise they would have had to figure out what to do with her. Perhaps the family we stayed with would have welcomed a furry friend. Perhaps not. But when people are faced with a sudden decision – to grab their belongings and evacuate immediately – there isn’t much time to think.

Sadly, so many of us who know better are still not prepared to evacuate on a moment’s notice. And if you’re not prepared, neither is your cat or dog.

Few options to place your cat in an evacuation

Unlike your dog, your cat is simply not “evacuation friendly” and especially on a moment’s notice. Anyone who has taken their cat to the pet clinic knows this. Even with plenty of lead time, we end up arriving late because we can’t find them, or get them into their carriers. It’s like the receptors in their kitty cat brain send off warning signals “Danger, human on the hunt!” just by the way you call their name. And you can’t just pack up your cat and a few poop bags, kibble, and their leash for a few days. You’ve got to bring the entire litter box and the litter with you too.

From that Monday when the fires erupted to that Thursday when most residents were allowed back home, Club Cat’s phone was ringing off the hook with evacuees seeking a safe place to temporarily house their kitties. As a pet boarding facility, Club Cat is required by Animal Services to have updated vaccinations on file while kitty is staying with us, specifically, FVRCP and Rabies. Unfortunately, we couldn’t board some kitties because they weren’t updated on their vaccinations. Something that could have easily been avoided. It broke our hearts but we couldn’t compromise the health of our existing guests or risk being shut down due to non-compliance.

Keep updated vaccinations for your cat on your phone

The good news is that it is not difficult to be prepared should you need to board your cat at the last minute. Minimally, your cat should visit her veterinarian at least annually for her core vaccinations. With the cloud, it’s easy to store them on your phone so they are easily accessible.

At Club Cat, it’s particularly important that your cat is updated on his FVRCP, a core vaccine. According to WebMD, “All three viruses are also highly contagious. FVR and FCV are spread through sneezes, saliva or eye secretions, but can also be transferred through the environment.” For the highest standard of health, safety, and protection of all kitty cat guests, Club Cat abides by guidelines set forth by first-rate veterinarian medicine institutions and professionals such as the University of California at Davis which state that vaccines should be given to pets at least 7 days prior to boarding at any facility.

What to have accessible for your cat or dog in case of an emergency 

Most of us who are cat parents will experience an emergency at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, or family emergency out-of-state, it’s best to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.  To avoid feeling like there are no options for your cat, like many Orange County residents felt last month during the fires, do yourself – and your cat – a favor and always be prepared.

The CDC recommends the following tips for emergency situations:

  • Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
  • Microchip your pet(s) – this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
  • Keep a leash and/or carrier near the exit.
  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
  • Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet’s veterinary records.

Emergencies are never welcome but your cat will be better off if you take the time and plan ahead  😺