Hurricane season with pets: How to include furry friends as "potential hurricane" heads to Florida

Hurricane season has been off to a hectic start since it started earlier this summer, with the peak of the season starting just after Hurricane Idalia demolished sections Florida's West Coast.

After last year's destructive season with Hurricane Ian, hurricane planning ahead of time is more crucial than ever, especially when you add your pets to the mix.

In an natural disaster emergency, your beloved furry friends will be even more dependent on you for their safety and well-being. Consider these tips when hurricane planning with your pets this season.

New system in Atlantic after Idalia: See satellite images, spaghetti models for Tropical Depression 13

Ahead of hurricane season, make sure your pets are up to date on shots and appointments

Ahead of the season, make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Experts remind residents that many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.

It is also recommended to microchip pets and/or put a tag on their collar with your name, current address and cellphone number.

Make a plan that includes pets

Before every hurricane season, it's recommend that residents sit down to game plan what they should do if a storm heads their way, considering what will it look like if you decide to hunker down or if you decide to evacuate.

As you map out your storm strategies, make sure to factor in your furry friends. If you have to evacuate your home during a disaster, the best way to protect your pets is to bring them.

Build a kit for your pet

As you race against the clock to grab supplies for yourself and family, make sure to pick up items to build an extra hurricane supply kit for your pets. Per the Red Cross, your kit should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.

  • Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener if you pet eats canned food.

  • Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container.

  • A first aid kit.

  • Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help to eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.

  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.

  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Don't have supplies? Go buy them during tax-free weekend

The second of two 14-day sales tax holidays to help residents purchase hurricane supplies began on Saturday, Aug. 26 and will run until Sept. 8. The tax holidays also include a number of items related to the safe evacuation of household pets.

Exempted items include:

  • Bags of dry dog food or cat food weighing 50 or fewer pounds with a sales price of $100 or less per bag.

  • Cans or pouches of wet dog food or cat food with a sales price of $10 or less per can or pouch or the equivalent if sold in a box or case.

  • Over-the-counter pet medications with a sales price of $100 or less per item.

  • Portable kennels or pet carriers with a sales price of $100 or less per item.

  • Manual can openers with a sales price of $15 or less per item.

  • Leashes, collars, and muzzles with a sales price of $20 or less per item.

  • Collapsible or travel-sized food bowls or water bowls with a sales price of $15 or less per item.

  • Cat litter weighing 25 or fewer pounds with a sales price of $25 or less per item.

  • Cat litter pans with a sales price of $15 or less per item.

  • Pet waste disposal bags with a sales price of $15 or less per package.

  • Pet pads with a sales price of $20 or less per box or package.

  • Hamster or rabbit substrate with a sales price of $15 or less per package.

  • Pet beds with a sales price of $40 or less per item.

Look out for pet-friendly shelters or hotels when evacuating

If it’s not safe for you to stay in your home during an emergency, it’s not safe for them either.

If you're able to reach out ahead of time, find out which hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept pets in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if you know you may need to evacuate and ask if no pet policies could be waived in an emergency.

It also helps to know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians can care for your animals in case of an emergency.

If sheltering down with pets, make sure to keep them in safe area

If you choose not to evacuate or it's not an option, make sure your pet is safe and as comfortable as possible throughout the hurricane.

The American Humane Society says to choose a safe room for riding out the storm, such as an interior room without windows and take your entire family there, including your pets. They also said to stay with pets as much as possible.

Other tips when bunkering down with pets include:

  • Keep your emergency kit in that room with you (food, water, litter, meds).

  • Know your pets’ hiding places. That is where they may run; keep them with you.

  • Secure exits and cat doors so pets cannot escape into the storm.

Help pets before Idalia's landfall: Is your dog scared of thunder? How to help your dog cope when it storms every day in Florida

If you can get your pets desensitized to storms before they happen, the better they'll be able to handle them. From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, they gave tips such as:

  • Practice training your dog to sit and focus on command, which will help you redirect the dog's attention during a storm.

  • Play storm sounds at low volumes while your dog is eating or playing. Slowly increase the volume over time.

  • Get your dog used to a ThunderShirt by putting it on them slowly, so as not to cause stress. "Let the dog eat, play and sleep in this jacket," Gregory said. That way the dog won't always associate the vest with traumatic times and will tolerate it better.

  • Play calming music while your dog is eating or sleeping so that when you play it during an actual storm, they'll associate it with relaxing.

  • If you know a storm is coming, play with your dog or take them on a long walk beforehand to help tire them out.

Continue protecting pets once storm passes

Before allowing animals outside, make sure the storm has fully passed before going outside and assessing damage. Displaced objects and fallen trees can disorient pets and sharp debris could harm them.

The AHS also recommends to give pets time to become re-oriented, as familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause a pet to become confused or lost.

"Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers. Your pet’s behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective," AHS officials wrote. "Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers. Animals need comforting, too."

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: New storm is on its way to Florida. How to hurricane prep with pets