By LIZ HARDAWAY

Staff Writer

It’s the middle of hurricane season.

Preparation and planning are the most important factors when dealing with a hurricane.

But do you have a plan for your furry family members?

“Leaving cats outside during a disaster is a death sentence,” said Dr. Kandi Norrell, a veterinarian at Gulf Coast Scratching Post Cat Hospital in North Port. If left to fend for themselves outside, pets can become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.

The safety of your pets depends on you.

Whether you decide to stay at home, go to a shelter, or go to a family or friend’s house, you’ll need a disaster plan for your pets as well. And it’s always better to have everything gathered before an emergency hits to reduce panic.

Things to do before a hurricane:

Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are updates. Have tags or proof of vaccination for shelter registration.

Identification is important. ”Proper identification is your lost cat’s ticket home,” Norrell said. The best means of identification are a microchip, in which the microchip’s number and your contact information are registered in a national database.

Have a list of contact information. Include your veterinarian’s information, a list of friends and family in the area, pet-friendly hotels, a local veterinary emergency clinic, boarding facilities and a list of hurricane shelters.

Make a kit.

Talk to your veterinarian beforehand. This way you can refill medications and maybe get extra medication to help your pet during a particularly stressful time. “Dogs that are perfectly fine at home may exhibit symptoms when in another place,” said Dr. Dan Bowen, a veterinarian for the Animal Medical Clinic of Punta Gorda.

For more information, contact your local Emergency Management office.

Email: Liz.Hardaway@yoursun.com

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