Naomi & Karina Paape
Did you know that we are your family’s most cherished asset? When – hypothetically – Hurricane Awesome bears down on our island oasis, your staff (remember, dogs have owners, cats have staff) is going to start stressing out about a hundred things they can’t control. They will ask themselves, “What if we have to evacuate? What are we going to do about the cat(s)?” It’s easy for folks to make their homes secure; just lower, install, or close the shutters, check the generator and they’re all set. Whether your family stays or evacuates, it is imperative that they have a written hurricane plan.
Many lessons in this department were learned from the rambunctious hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. I wasn’t around for Hurricane Katrina (September 28-29, 2005), but legend has it that more than 250,000 pets – from cats and dogs to parrots and fish – were left behind. Owners who were expecting to return home in a couple of days left what they thought would be enough food and water for their furry kids. But as days turned into weeks, pets struggled to survive until rescuers could free the starving and dehydrated animals trapped in abandoned homes. When Hurricane Wilma hit Florida two months later (October 24, 2005) we had all become hardened veterans of hurricane survival. Emergency shelters started allowing people to bring their cats and dogs with them and many hotels and motels also opened their door to cats, dogs and birds.
Unlike dogs and birds, cats are complicated creatures to relocate. For starters you have to wrestle us wily felines into the dreaded cat carrier. The easiest way to do this is to stand a regular carrier on end with the door open.Gently scruff nervous kitty while using your other hand to support its hind end; quickly and fluidly lower the cat, tail first, into the carrier.
Of course, I am too young to remember Hurricane Wilma, but I was told it was a real doozy. Our founders here at For the Love of Cats – Jim and Jan Rich – told me what it was like to evacuate the shelter cats, and some sick kittens from a nearby veterinarian. Once the carriers were secured in the shelter’s two mini-vans, off this merry band went to a pet friendly hotel in Kissimmee; they even secured an adjoining room just for their precious kitty cargo. They also brought tons of food and water, litter, medical supplies, and all medical records.
If your family decides to evacuate – generally for category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes, it is strongly recommended that they take us with them, even if the evacuation is just for a few hours.
For families with nowhere else to go, the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services is offering a pet-friendly shelter at North Collier Regional Park on Livingston Road. Capacity for this shelter is seventy-five cats and dogs with pre-registration required. For more information go to: www.colliergov.net/index.aspx?page=1877. This site also includes a comprehensive list of the twenty-four pet friendly hotels currently in the Naples/Marco Island/Everglades areas.
The single most important element of your family’s written evacuation plan is thorough identification; this will save us from eternal homelessness, and your person from heart wrenching grief. Obviously we do not carry wallets or purses so our i.d. has to be either in or on are furry bods. You’ll need a collar – decadent bling ones are best – and one of those heart shaped i.d. tags with pertinent info,such as your person’s cell phone number. Since you might lose this essential combo of collar and tag, it is also recommended that cats be microchipped.
I know, the humans have gone high tech on this one. This grain-of-rice sized chip is injected via syringe between your shoulder blades. The encoded chip contains a number that can then be accessed via a bar-code scanner; then, voila! Your identity is revealed, as is your person’s crucial contact info. Your person should also have a good photo of you, as well as emailing said photo to a friend in case your photos are – heaven forbid – destroyed by torrential rains. And last of all, your person should make several generic and brightly colored “lost cat” flyers.
On a less serious note, those of you who have expressed concern over my recent weight loss need not worry. They are still feeding me extra canned food and my weight is holding steady. The best news of all is that I don’t have to eat any more of that card board tasting, gluten free, grain free, omega-3 rich, dry cat food anymore – hurray for Naomi the cat!
Other good news on the shelter front is the fact that we have been fostering special needs kittens and moms from the Humane Society of Naples. And where there are kittens, there are lots of food morsels floating around because I have trained said compliant kitties to eat with abandon, and without manners; it is then my job to vacuum up the leftovers.
Naomi is a 4 year old Tortie and a permanent resident at FLC. She is the shelter supervisor and takes her salary in food. She would love for you to learn more about For the Love of Cats at its website, www.floridacatrescue.com