Ways to Protect Your Pet in Any Weather Condition

“When you have a moment, can you give me a call?  I want to ask you something important.”

That was the message my then fiancé, now wife, left me on voicemail.  I quickly called back.

“I heard over the scanner that someone tossed a kitten down a storm drain.  I’m here with a police officer trying to get her out.  When we get her out, do you think we can take her home?”

This was my first real taste of animal rescue. The officer was able to pull the skinny, 10-week old kitten out of the drain and my fiancé took her home to live with us and my other two shelter cats.  We called the little calico Tiger Lily.  She was sweet and happy.  And very sick. After weeks of vet check-ups and emergency procedures, Tiger Lily succumbed to her illnesses and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  That happened 11 years ago.  My wife and I use the difficult experience to dive headfirst into animal, particularly cat, causes and have since fostered more than 50 felines and volunteered many hours for local animal shelters.

Along with animals, I have a passion in weather.  I thought this might be a good place to combine both of these and provide some advice on how to help your pets during extreme weather conditions.

Late Spring/Summer/Early Fall: If it’s too hot for you outdoors, it’s too hot for your pet. If you work up a sweat simply getting from your front door to your mailbox, you need to take extra care to make sure your outdoor pet is safe  Here are a few things you can do to help your pet stay safe and healthy in the warm to hot times from late Spring to early Fall:

  • Water.  Lots of it. You have to keep your pets hydrated in the hot months. Always make sure there is plenty of fresh, cool water available.  There should never be a time a water bowl is empty unless a second (or third) one is filled with fresh, cool water. This applies for indoor or outdoor animals. An automated fountain is a great idea year-round. Change the water in your pet’s dish or fountain daily.
  • Food.  Be careful not to leave food out too long.  In addition to attracting bugs, bacteria could become a problem if food is left outside in the heat for a long time.  There are also ant-proof bowls available.
  • Shade.  Lots of it.   There needs to be a place to stay out of the heat or sun.
  • A place to stay cool.  Obviously fresh food and water in indoor air conditioning is ideal.  If there is no indoor air conditioner, then have fans circulating air in as many rooms as possible.  If screened windows are opened, be aware cats will like to hop up on the window sill (you probably don’t need me to tell you that).  The screens can easily pop off.  There have been many vet calls from owners whose pets have fallen out of windows in the summer time for this very reason.  Be wary of leaving screen windows open, especially in taller apartments or condominiums.
  • If they are outdoors for a period of time try keep your pets inside during the peak heating of the day (between 11am and 4pm).
  • A small swimming pool is a good way to keep a dog cool on a hot day. Be careful not to fill it too much for the smaller dogs.  Not every animal is a good swimmer.
  • Cars.  There is no need to keep an animal inside a car in the summer (or winter for that matter).  I saw it plenty of times last summer.  It may be mid-morning or your may be going inside the store “for just a minute”.  If it’s 75° outside, it takes a mere 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach around 94°.  If it’s 85° outside, it takes only 20 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 114°.
  • Give your pets flea medicine every month and make sure they visit the vet annually.

Thunderstorms/Flooding/Fireworks:

  • Bring your pets indoors.
  • Never leave an animal chained outside, especially in heavy rain and flooding.
  • If you are told to evacuate, take your pets with you.  Find pet friendly hotels, kennels or shelters in neighboring cities and/or states you can take them to. You should probably find these places in advance so you can make arrangements as soon as needed.
  • Animals will have a natural tendency to find higher ground but again, there’s no reason for them to be outdoors if heavy rainfall or thunderstorms are forecast.
  • If your pet is afraid of thunder or fireworks, remember some animals are so fearful, they may try and escape the house.  This is a great reason to have an ID collar or, even better, an ID chip implanted in our pets.  Other thunder/firework things to do:
    • Try using anxiety vests or wraps, available from many name brand pet stores.
    • Many cats or dogs afraid of loud thunder or fireworks will find an isolated spot to hide. They may also cower and try to burrow near you (this is what my cat does). Be there for them.  Talk in quiet tones and gently pet them. Try some background noise like a fan or music to drown out what you can.
    • Have their carrier or small box/closet filled with their favorite toys and blankets.  Anything familiar and comfortable.

Tornadoes:

  • Prepare your tornado safe space with your pets in mind too.  Much like for the rest of your family, bring your cat, dog, bird, rat, guinea pig, snake, gecko, and any pet you possibly can with you to your safe room.  
  • Food, water, a crate with some of their favorite toys/blankets, litter box and puppy pads should already be in the safe room.  Get your pet inside the crate.  Any smaller pet should be put inside a durable, non-glass, pet travel container.
  • Once again, ID tags and/or ID chip is a must to have before you even get to this point. The entire process of going into the safe room is stressful enough for humans, same thing for your pet. They may find a way to escape, especially if the unthinkable happens and your house is damaged or destroyed.  Having an ID helps get them back to you.  You may also have to be proactive and get the word out to friends/family to check shelters, animal hospitals, and social media sites about your pet.  Have exact details on breed, color, sex, size, any other marking.

Hurricanes, wildfires or any other disaster where evacuation is ordered:

  • Take your pets with you! Never leave your pet behind. If there is some reason you cannot get your animal, plan now to have a trusted friend/family member have a way to get into your house to bring your pet with them.
  • Plan ahead.  You should already have a hurricane kit prepared for your family.  You should also have one for your pet that includes:

    • Food
    • Medicine
    • Extra bottled water
    • Your pet’s medical records
    • Litter box with litter or puppy pads
    • Manual can opener (which should be a part of your normal hurricane kit)
    • Blanket
  • Have a list of places you can safely go with your pet outside of the evacuation zone.  Find out if your family and pets can stay at a friend’s or family member’s home (outside of the evacuation zone). If that’s not possible. Find:

    • Pet-friendly hotels, kennels, and shelters, in neighboring counties or states (if you need to go that far).  Call ahead and make sure you can get in. Be proactive and don’t wait until the last moment.  Make arrangements as soon as you can. You never know how long you may have to be away from your house.

Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring: If it’s too cold for you outside, then it’s too cold for your pet.  Sounds familiar, right?  You may think a coat of fur is enough to handle the elements but this is not the case.  Here are some things to do for your pet during the colder months (late Fall through early Spring):

  • Keep your pet indoors (except for a potty trip or a walk).  If you have hardwood or any type of hard floor, provide a blanket with a cat/dog bed to keep their bodies off a cold and drafty floor.
  • You should refrain from unnecessary haircuts. Exposed skin can become dry and, obviously, not be as warm especially at night when all humans are comfortable under thick blankets.
  • Like in the warmer months, there is NEVER a good time to leave your pet alone in a vehicle.  While there is relief from the wind, the longer in a car, the longer the cold gets trapped inside.  Just think of how uncomfortable it is when you return to a parked car on a mid-January morning.
    • Speaking of cars, during the winter months, be sure to pound on the hood of your vehicle before getting inside and starting an engine.  Animals, especially cats, can crawl their way to the engine to keep away from the elements.
  • Make sure to use pet-friendly de-icing material on your driveway and sidewalks.  Traditional deicers are poisonous to animals if ingested and can dry out or cut an animal’s foot pads if walked on
  • If your pet is mainly an outdoor pet during the warmer months, this is the time to allow them inside.  There really is no reason to keep them outside all day and all night. If they are to be outdoors, in the cold, for a period of time:
    • Provide some kind of shelter which is dry and solid enough to protect from wind and drafts. It should be large enough to allow comfortable movement and to be able to turn around easily but not too large to be drafty.  There should be some kind of padding or material that will slightly elevate the animal off the cold ground. The opening should also be covered in strong plastic or any kind of durable, waterproof material to allowing access in and out but keep the wind and cold outside.
    • Make sure fresh food and unfrozen water are in plastic bowls. Metal bowls can lead to your pet’s tongue freezing to it.
  • They may quietly curse you, but having footies and a sweater on your dog, especially short-haired, will help keep them warm outdoors.
  • If it’s a big snow event, accumulating snowfall may cover up entrance/exits to shelters for your outdoor pet.  They may be trapped or disoriented without being able to see or smell their familiar surroundings.  If a Winter Storm Warning, Blizzard Warning, Wind Chill Warning, any other big snow, cold, winter event) is in effect, allow your pets indoors.

What if I see an animal in trouble?

If you ever see an animal left outside in extreme conditions: cold, heat, severe weather, accumulating snowfall, you should do something about it.  If the animal belongs to someone you know, the simplest thing is to knock on the door and let them know their pet looks to be in distress outside.  If you do not know the owner, I would personally recommend calling a local, respected animal shelter or animal welfare organization for advice first before getting local authorities involved. Find out how they, the city or the county handles such things. Swift action is needed though.  The key, though, is timing.  If the situation looks dire, call 9-1-1 or local animal control.

If you have more tips on how to keep pets safe in all weather conditions, please share them below!


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2 Comments


  1. Thanks for bringing this issue to readers’ attention. Pets are often abandoned or lost in natural disasters and are not considered enough in emergency planning.