As many of us on the East Coast are recovering and rebuilding from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, I thought it important to use this week’s Vet 101 to address how are cats are coping with this ordeal.
After 6 days in the dark, and the cold, I definitely noticed some personality changes in my cat, Weezle. Her appetite was off, and she was noticeably more “clingy” than her usual independent self. As anyone in the veterinary profession will tell you, we automatically think the worst when our own pets aren’t feeling well. True to form, I immediately ran blood tests and xrays on Weezle. Glad to report all was normal. It made me feel better. But why was Weezle ‘off’. What was the problem?
Even though she’s a fiercely independent cat who tolerates affection on HER terms, Weezle has a very sensitive side. Her change in demeanor was because she was under as much stress as the rest of the family, and she sensed our unease. “Why are you all sitting in the living room with your coats on, huddled around a flashlight doing a puzzle?” “Why are you all here in the middle of the day, for days at a time, disrupting my sleep time?” “Why are you all so sad?” “And why is it so darned cold in here???!!!” Yes, one look and a tail flick from Weezle said all that.
When we’re in the midst of coping with a natural disaster, it’s important to remember that our cats are feeling it too. Their routines are disrupted just as much as ours. Cats are very intuitive – they know when something’s afoot. So, with that in mind, I gave Weezle a little extra attention and a few yummy treats, and she started to come around. Finally, when the lights finally came on and the rest of us jumped for joy, I could see the spark return to Weezle’s eyes as she ran over to the food bowl and started meowing. All was right again.
While many of us are beginning to return to “normal”, we are reminded of the ongoing plight of all those people and pets still in harm’s way through the recovery. Many pets and families were displaced from their homes. Many are still without power and heat. Luckily, in New York City, the mayor has allowed pets to be brought to disaster shelters to be with their families. Many organizations and shelters are working to get pet food to areas that still have no power, and to reunite lost pets with their families.
And while we’re on the subject of dealing with natural disasters, here are a few tips to help with your disaster preparedness:
- PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE (did I say “please” enough times?), have your pet MICROCHIPPED! I can’t tell you how many clients with indoor cats have told me, “she’s indoors, and she never goes outside, she doesn’t need one.” Now let me tell you how many of those clients who are still searching for their cats have said, “I wish I’d had her microchipped.” You never know when disaster may strike. At the very least, a microchip can help provide some peace of mind that if your cat escapes, you can be reunited. At the very best, you will be reunited with your cat!! And when you register the microchip, include an alternate number for a friend or relative in case your home phone and cell phone numbers are knocked out with the power.
- Have a “go-bag” ready for your cat that includes food, water, bowls, a litter box, kitty litter, a blanket, a first aid kit, cat carrier, ID information (including a picture of your cat), the vet’s number, your contact information and the contact information of a friend. Also include some toys, treats, and any medication that your cat may be on. A bottle of Feliway may help ease your cat’s stress during the upheaval.
- If you are forced to evacuate your home, check beforehand to see which shelters will allow you to bring pets. If none will, have a contingency plan ahead of time, such as a friend’s house, a local kennel, or the vet’s.
- If you are in your home and the heat and electricity go out, try to have a friend take your cat temporarily. If this is not possible, make sure your cat has lots of warm blankets to snuggle under to curl up under and maintain body heat. Make sure she’s eating and drinking, and provide lots of love and attention (see: Weezle)
As we go through our recovery, our cats will be an enormous source of comfort and strength. If you have been affected by the storm, our thoughts are with you. If you have not been affected, please offer your assistance by volunteering in one of the storm-affected areas, or your local shelter, or by donating to one of the many pet relief organizations.
Be safe. Be warm.