This is Part 3 of a 6-part series on building an emergency BOB (bug-out bag) for you and your animals.
Clothing and Shelter
The key protection item for you and your pets is clothing: although your pets and livestock have their own layer of fur or hair to protect them from the elements, blankets can make them more comfortable during a cold-weather or wet-weather emergency. For cats and small dogs, a toddler’s winter coat can be easily folded and compressed into a BOB and provides them with a sort of sleeping bag that they can curl up in, providing not only warmth, but security and comfort. For smaller animals, a small box with straw or newspaper inside their carrying container will do the same job; for larger animals, a regular blanket or a specially-designed coat or blanket will work.
If your pet uses a Thundershirt during normal stressful situations (such as thunderstorms and fireworks), buy a second one to include in your BOB – remember, you may not have time to locate their regular one during an emergency, so one should be packed in your BOB at all times! (Hint: to prevent favoritism, switch out the item periodically so your pet is familiar with both items.)
The final clothing item for your pets and livestock are shoes or booties. These are especially important in areas where you may encounter deep cold or snow that can invite frostbite, high temperatures that will make the ground or sidewalk too hot to walk on, or broken glass that can cut your animal’s feet. Choose your shoes by the probable use they will be put to: leather boots for dry, hazardous ground (the leather will withstand a lot of damage), or pair nylon with fleece booties for cold or wet environments (the fleece will keep them warm while the nylon keeps them dry). (Hint: spend time with your pet, acclimating them to the shoes: they will dislike them and attempt to shake or chew them off initially, and will have trouble walking in them.)
In addition to personal comfort and warmth, your pets and livestock need a secure place to rest – during breaks, overnight, or while you’re in a place they’re not allowed. For pets up to 14-15 pounds in weight, this can easily be accomplished with an airline kennel. Although hard-sided kennels are the standard in airline kennels, this soft-sided, collapsible kennel by Iconic Pet is an excellent choice for small animals: not only does it collapse for easy storage, but the end zipper allows the kennel to be opened up flat so that pets cannot hide during visits to the veterinarian, making it a great everyday carrier! If you prefer the hard-sided kennels, this is where the straps and buckles on the outside of your backpack come in: you can attach the kennel to the outside of your backpack for hands-free carrying.
Larger pets require larger accommodations that may not be feasible to pack inside your backpack or attach to the outside; instead, use a tie-out stake (like this one – look for one that will work in different soil types) with a lightweight chain (like this one, which come in different weights and lengths – look for one with a standard leash clip, not a cheap hook). Look for chain rather than a cable or nylon rope or strap: your pets won’t be able to chew through a chain. Even the best coated cable can become damaged, creating a hazard to your pets by allowing slivers of cable wire to become embedded in their gums or be swallowed when they chew on it.
Another lightweight, compact shelter option that will work for larger pets is a pet tent. These fold up and come with a carry case that makes them no larger than a cheap folding camp chair, but they provide up to a five-foot by six-foot enclosed space. Note that the mesh will not prevent a determined pet from chewing its way out, but they are good for temporary housing. They come in different styles and sizes, with different door sizes, but this one by Outback Jack is a single-piece tent that does not require any assembly and its carry bag can be easily attached to the outside of your backpack. Its tent stakes leave something to be desired, however, so you might want to upgrade them. A blanket can be put over the outside to provide shade, or a sheet of plastic film for a rain shield.
Make sure you have a harness and leash for your pets, especially larger pets that can travel under their own power with you. You can attach the leash to your belt or backpack to keep your hands free. A harness is a better option than a collar: it’s less likely to come off unexpectedly, it’s easier to grab onto, and it can be used to hoist an animal out of a dangerous situation. A harness with a padded chest piece can be used safely in a vehicle as an alternative to a seatbelt. Kurgo makes crash-tested pet harnesses in multiple sizes; the small or extra-small sizes will fit cats as well. As with the boots, make sure you spend some time training your pet to wear and walk in the harness. Many older pets may just throw themselves on the ground and refuse to move when first put in a harness.
For pets like small dogs and cats, you might invest in a pet carrier that can be worn like a backpack or chest carrier like this one by Retro Pug. These pets may like to travel under their own steam, but they don’t have the endurance to go all day, and this carrier allows you to carry them while keeping your hands free.
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