According to FEMA, “tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.”
Remember, storms scare some pets, and they may hide. Know your pet’s hiding places so you can retrieve them quickly. Keep a leash, crate, or other safe pet restraint handy so you can lead or carry your pet to the safe place you have designated as the “go-to” place when a tornado threatens.
Get ready long before a tornado actually occurs by making sure your pets will be as safe as possible in the unlikely event that a tornado touches down and damages your home. Make sure all dogs and cats are microchipped, and keep collars with identification tags in an easily accessible place.
Even if you don’t collar your pets normally for safety reasons, they should have collars with ID tags available for emergencies in which they might escape your home and be found by a neighbor. Additionally, be sure that you have enough sturdy airline-safe animal carriers to hold cats and any small pets present in the home.
Tornado Safety for Dogs
Practice hiding together in the bathroom to get your pet familiar with the response routine. Store treats somewhere nearby to make it fun.
If a tornado watch is in effect, leash your dogs, make sure they’re wearing the collars mentioned above, and take them into the basement of your home. Try to get under a sturdy piece of furniture, like work table– if the tornado causes objects to fall into the basement or from shelves in the basement, a solid table will protect you. Dogs may be frightened by extreme weather and pace, whine, or attempt to hide.
If your dog has the habit of crawling behind the toilet and freezing when frightened (a common behavior in dogs), let him– toilets are often the only thing left intact after a tornado, and behind the toilet is a fairly safe place. If you don’t have a basement, go to a windowless room, preferably a bathroom– the extra framework needed when building a bathroom makes them sturdier. Put as many walls between you and the tornado outside as possible.
Tornado Safety for Cats
If a tornado watch is in effect, collar your cats and place them in airline-approved plastic carriers. Put these carriers in a basement or a windowless bathroom or closet, preferably under a sturdy piece of furniture. Secure cats as soon as a tornado watch is announced for your area. It’s easier to let them out later if there’s no tornado than to find a scared cat that’s hidden due to tornado sirens wailing and the sound of a tornado approaching outside.
Tornado Safety for Caged Pets
Most caged pets can be placed in airline-approved carriers in a basement or windowless room, just like cats. However, aquariums or pets that can’t be removed from a climate-controlled environment for any length of time pose a particular challenge. The best you can really do for an aquarium is put it under a table or desk.
If even that is impossible, if you have time, cover it with a futon or mattress to blunt the impact of falling objects and put a barrier between the aquarium and the wind. However, glass is usually the first thing broken when a tornado hits. Unfortunately, the best plan is probably simply to avoid keeping fish if you live in an area where tornadoes touch down frequently.
Remember, a Tornado Watch is to let you know to be on the lookout for a possible tornado in the area; a Tornado Warning is a notification that a tornado has been seen or picked up by radar. If a Tornado Warning is issued, seek shelter immediately!
If you live in a mobile home, do not stay there if a tornado watch is issued! Plan ahead by locating the nearest safe shelter that accepts pets. When a tornado watch is issued, crate your pet and go to the shelter. Don’t wait for a tornado warning.
Tornado Safety Resources: