Recent wildfires in California showed no mercy to people or animals. Not to the stray kitten in Woodland Hills who suffered burns on his ears, paws and torso. Not to the terrified puppy whose Paradise home exploded in flames and who barely made it out. Not even to Cricket, a cat who had finally been adopted into a forever home after being rescued in a hoarding case, only to have that home burn to the ground. With veterinary and sheltering help from the American Humane rescue team, they survived, but others are not always as lucky. 

Here are some life-saving tips to keep your pets safe in a disaster so every member of the family stays safe:

1. Evacuate your family and pets as early as you can

Never leave your pets behind. 

2. Know where you’ll go in an emergency

Choose a safe place where you and your pets can go during a disaster. Contact your veterinarian for a list of facilities. Find a safe, pet-friendly hotel or ask your local shelter if they provide emergency shelter for pets. 

3. Have a pet disaster-preparedness kit ready

Disasters often strike without warning, so prepare a kit with the following: a waterproof bag; leash; blanket; first aid supplies; medications and medical records in a waterproof container; food and water bowls; and 7-10 days of food. Pet owners should also have their pet’s crate or carrier at the ready.

4. Make sure your animals have identification

Your pet’s tag should include their name, your telephone number and vital health information. Microchip your pet to increase the chances of being reunited. Keep a photo in case you’re separated and your pet is rescued to a shelter.

5. After a disaster, keep a close watch on pets

Keep pets away from power lines, debris and contaminated groundwater. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, confusing your pet, who may get lost. Uncertainty affects animals, too. Your pet may become more aggressive or self-protective. Keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers. Comfort your pet with lots of pats or hugs and provide a quiet environment.