How do you bug out with pets? Are you even prepared to do so? Do you have a plan? Well, let’s create a cat bug out bag! Late last week my cat had to go to the vet. Simple nail trim, nothing terribly exciting. But, it got me thinking about this. Because it occurred to me that I am not ready to be able to bug out with my furry little munchkin if something happened. That is a problem for me. Time to fix it!
The first question I’ve been asked is, what does it mean to bug out? Well, it is basically an evacuation with absolutely no time to prepare. Think house fire, natural disaster, even something big like a terrorist attack where you want to leave the area you live. It’s getting out of dodge, to say it nicely. I will be talking about bug out bags in a later post, and what to pack in them. Basically you want a bag that if you had to run out the door with less than 2 minutes to spare, you have the necessary items to at least survive with more than the clothes you’re wearing.
Shortly before our appointment, my husband had to go hunt down the key to our shed, go out to the shed, get the carrier, and then come back in the house. The thing I noticed about this was how time consuming that is. It isn’t like it took him forever, really. I mean, it isn’t difficult to run out to the shed for something that is right in front and grab it to bring back in the house. But, we were also a bit rushed at this point, so it really did feel like it took forever.
We had a bit of time, but we were 10 minutes later leaving than what we wanted, and 5 away from being there right at our scheduled time, if not late. If you’re anything like me, I plan to leave 15 minutes earlier than what I have to because things happen. Especially with my cat. So we had almost used up our allotted spare time. I was feeling a bit rushed, and of course he wouldn’t cooperate. He’s a jerk like that. I had to take my shoes off just to go hunt him down (we don’t allow shoes on our living room rug) and then put them back on while my husband chased him around the dining room when he escaped the carrier. Insert half laughter and half swearing and annoyance here. We have a mesh carrier that zips open and closed on both sides.
The issues I immediately noticed were how long it took him to go get the carrier, and then the fact my cat was able to escape while we were putting him in the carrier because of the zippers being old and tough to close. Also, zippers do fail. They get old, they don’t stay zipped, or the teeth just come undone even when zipped up. That’s a big problem in terms of my cat being able to escape.
Then the question becomes, what do I want to do to fix this? Because the first thing that popped into my mind was, if there was a fire in the house, by the time we had the carrier to put him in, we’d all be dead and the house gone. That is the reality of it. Not really a fun thing to think about, but still reality. I like planning for reality and being ready for it. Which I talked about with my husband on the way home from our vet trip. Because he noticed the carrier issues as well.
The first thing I set my mind to fixing was the carrier. It is old (almost 11 years old) and we had bought it when we bought Tigger and brought him home in it. None of us are getting any younger, and the carrier is in the same boat. It’s been well used, to say the least. It was really cute in terms of design, and kind of a mesh material. Also had a pocket on the back, so we could put stuff in if we wanted to. This time I wanted one that was hard plastic, had the single door, with the metal fence-looking door that was easy to close and latch. We picked one up over the weekend.
The thing that is better with these is, if we’re leaving in a hurry/panic, obviously the cat and carrier are going in the car first. But then we can throw things in after that, and not worry about it hurting him or squishing the carrier and accidentally hurting/squishing him. It is flat on top, which means we can stack things on top too. Extra storage space or that ability to stack things on top is a big thing. Otherwise we would have to put him in on one side of the car, and carefully stack things around him from there. There may not be time for that. Let’s be honest here. Time is likely not our friend in an emergency. So to find a good thing that works with that kind of mindset is even better, in my opinion.
Next came stocking it with necessary supplies. We prep for the cat when we’re at home, making sure we have adequate food, water, and litter. So we should be doing the same for him if we’re having to bug out. I put a blanket into the carrier for him, as he loves them. It is the cheap fleece ones you can buy anywhere for like $2.50. Then if he has an accident on it or scratches it, whatever. Not out any money. But, that gives him not only some comfort while being stuck in the carrier, but a little traction too since the floor in it is slippery. I may end up putting some of the same material that we put under rugs to keep them from slipping in here, just to make him a bit more comfortable. But, this is still a work in progress too.
Now it is time to add everything else. Right now it is all inside the carrier. However, I think I want to get some kind of a bag to put everything in. Like a bug out bag for the cat. I will put bottled water in it. It’s really easy to throw 2-3 bottles in and have them there for him. He obviously needs food. I buy huge bags of his food at Costco, which isn’t feasible to travel with in any way, just due to the size. A simple gallon Ziplock bag with his food in it is perfect.
Right now it is in the quart size bag, and by my estimation, it is 5-ish days worth of food. I can also add canned wet food in. I haven’t decided if the canned wet food is a way I really want to go yet or not. But certainly a viable option in terms of traveling. When we went to the store over the weekend, I was able to find some wet food in small pouches that are about the size of a pack of cigarettes, for reference. That works! Simple and small is what I was looking for.
The one thing I do recommend when stocking food and water in a bug out bag or carrier for a pet is to rotate it out. Exactly the same way we do with our own food and water supplies. I’d say it is even more important with animals because their bodies can’t handle rotten food. Vet bills are expensive. Plus, in an emergency, who really needs the added stress of having another issue come up? I certainly don’t, and that is always why I stress the need to rotate food and stay organized.
After adding the food and water into the carrier, I needed something to serve him his food and water in. He needed bowls. I found some collapsible bowls, that are attached and fold together to take up even less space when not being used. But they are kind of deep too. This is great for water, because he doesn’t drink well out of a shallow bowl. I have a collar and leash in there as well. My cat would rather die than have to use them, and I really have never had the need for it. But, if we’re having to bug out and take him outside of his comfort zone, these may be absolutely necessary.
Medications would also be something to take into consideration. If your pet requires any kind of medication, especially long term, you may want to have a chat with your vet about that, and see if they will prescribe an extra week or even a month for you to have on hand. Also keep it in an easily accessible place if you don’t have extras. That is not something you want to forget.
To recap, I found a great carrier, a blanket inside, food, water, bowls, and a collar/leash for the cat. Next comes, where to keep it? Well, it is now in my office instead of outside in the shed. That way, in the event of an emergency, the time it takes to grab it is greatly reduced and we get to safety that much faster. That is what I call a win-win! I also put a toy and treats in there. Which is not remotely necessary, but my cat is spoiled. I also thought this might alleviate some of the tension and stress of having to bug out, once we got to our new destination.
That is something to think about if you have kids and are planning the ability to bug out as well. Bring something comforting, a treat they like, or a stuffed animal. Is it necessary to aid in survival? Nope. However, it can boost the comfort level and morale, resulting in a much better experience, kid being less cranky, cooperating, things like that. The goal with prepping and being prepared is to make a bad situation not only safer and enhance the chances of survival, but make it a better transition than what it would be without something comforting.
My thought is, I can’t explain to my cat why I’ve just uprooted him from his comfort zone, thrown him into a carrier and ran. Kids are the same way. Can’t exactly explain what is going on if they’re young. But I can make it just a bit more comfortable. Bugging out will be stressful to any pet, and little things may ease that stress a bit.
Another thing to think about when it isn’t an emergency, is to get your pet acclimated to the carrier or kennel that they may be traveling in. My cat being the jerk he is, jumped up on my table yesterday. The new carrier is sitting up there and he was sniffing it. Normally he knows not to be on the table, but I figured I’d take advantage of the situation. I opened the door to the kennel and put him inside. Then just left the door open for a few minutes.
He came part way out, and I basically just kind of blocked his way out and was petting and talking to him. He wasn’t too eager to come out, and in fact pretty happy for the attention. My cat didn’t settle in or anything, but at least he wasn’t trying to kill me getting out either. That is a good start. We put him in it a little while ago as well with a blanket of his, and he stayed pretty well again. It certainly isn’t his favorite place to be, but at the very least I made it so we’re not fighting him going in if there is an emergency. I think this will be something we do fairly often for him to keep him comfortable with it.
Bugging out with pets may not be fun, but in an emergency it may be necessary. Some people would just leave their animals, and that is their choice. However, I would prefer mine to go with me and make preparations to do so. Which is why I’ve made the necessary plans on how to do it. I’m also training my mind to be ready for that. My husband and I talk about this stuff and what we are doing, where we’re keeping everything. That way we are on the same page, and if we’re home together, we know what to do and move together, not fighting each other in chaos.
Moving together as a unit and not in chaos goes back to having a plan. That is a huge step in being more prepared. Something happens (insert any scenario), what do we do? Who does what? Everybody has a job. In this case it would be, he grabs the cat, I grab the carrier and supplies, he puts him in, and off we go. Obviously retrieving our own bags would be important as well, but I’m just talking in terms of getting the cat ready to go.
We are keeping the carrier in a specific place, having everything right there to grab. Nothing moves, it isn’t part of his normal stuff. Which is another big thing I stress in my household. Everything is separate. I have my normal stuff I use daily, then I have the stuff packed in our bug out bags. The bug out bags don’t open to be used and scatter our stuff around. Why? Because things don’t always make it back in. That’s why. It is something I know about myself, and I take into consideration. In the event of an emergency, I don’t have time to go searching for anything. I have time to grab my bag and go.
I’d rather have my stuff together and not waste that time I don’t have to look for anything. I can use my time a lot more wisely if I’m prepared. Bugging out with pet can be stressful, but with the proper planning, it can be a lot easier and less stressful. I always hope that I never have to use these tools and preparations, but I’m always glad to have them just in case. I’d rather have the tools and not need them, instead of needing them and not having them. Hopefully this has helped you and given you some guidelines as to what direction you want to go with preparing to bug out with your pets. Stay safe and always be ready!