Keeping You and Your Pets Safe Without Power in Winter
Weather is as moody as a wild cat these days. Let’s face it – no one really knows what to expect when winter comes a calling. Freezing temperatures, winter tornadoes, frozen power lines, heating fails, icy roads, fire hazards, and long delays in getting help all culminate in very dangerous conditions for you and your pets.
That means dangerous conditions for our pets, as well ourselves. Particularly since they are often home alone during these outages. Today we’re going to get into some things you should know before you really need to know it.
The basics are simple and you likely already know these rules:
- Keep your pets indoors
- Make sure any outdoor animals (livestock, wild birds and feral cats) have access to extra calories
- Understand you may need to move quickly, so be sure you get your livestock (horses, cattle, chickens, pigs, etc.) accustomed to emergency evacuation.
- Provide warm blankets and fresh straw in outdoor enclosures and stables.
- Make sure all livestock and neighborhood or feral cats have access to a covered, insulated shelter.
- Cold-blooded reptiles and aquatic pets are going to require extra care until power is restored (see below).
But, once you get past the basics, there are a few other things to consider, particularly when it comes to birds, aquariums, reptiles and stray animals or livestock.
Preparing for Power Loss
When the power goes out in the dead of winter, it’s tempting to light candles, stoke a fire, or even use alternative methods (such as an hibachi grill or tabletop burner) to warm up. But, that’s a quick way to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Candles are deadly for obvious reasons and you have to remember that animals are highly sensitive to fumes. They aren’t safe for you, either.
Here are some better ways to keep you and your pets safe during the coming days, because chances are good you’re going to all be stuck indoors without power.
- Propane Heater: These small heaters can save lives during a freeze when your power goes off. These small heaters can heat up 250 sq ft and are safe to use indoors.
- Hand Warmers: These amazing little packages are ideal to keep in your emergency kit. They heat up quickly, require no electricity, and provide up to 18 hours of heat. Pack in your clothes, under your pet’s bed cushion, or tuck into your coat’s interior pockets.
- Emergency blankets: Pick up a pack of 10 to ensure you have plenty for everyone.
- Electric car blankets: These large blankets use your vehicle’s 12-volt battery outlet to warm up. Remember to make sure your garage door is open and vehicle tailpipe is clear before starting your car to use them.
Candles and pets are a dangerous combination, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. There are plenty of other ways to make your way around the house.
Instead of candles, consider these options:
- Battery Powered Lanterns : These are ideal for winter or night time use.
- Headlights that both you and your pets can wear (our favorite is the PupLight due to it’s incredible light and long battery life).
There are plenty of other easy to use lighting out there that won’t create further disasters for your family. Hand powered radios that contain a reading lamp and a place to charge your phone, as well as an SOS alarm are very popular and affordable.
A large diesel, gas or propane powered portable generator is the optimal solution to any power outage. While generators of all sizes have become much more inexpensive over the years, not everyone can afford one large enough to power sections of your home. Consider working with a neighbor to discuss power-sharing opportunities or pick up a smaller generator that will assist you in powering things such as a fish tank filter and a few lights.
Remember to always keep at least a week’s worth of supplies on hand for you and your pets. You and your pets will all need extra calories to stay warm. This is not the time to switch their foods.
For help on storing pet foods, see this helpful article.
All of your pets will need more water on cold days, particularly if your power goes out. Colder weather means more calories are expended to stay warm.
Learn how much water your pets need to drink each day and make sure they are drinking it. You may need to add a little treat (like making a bone broth) to the water to coax them into drinking enough. Be sure you leave out extra water dishes for everyone.
Be sure you know how to keep everyone entertained through those long days!
Here are some indoor games that are simple, fun and will keep you and your pets engaged and sleepy enough afterwards to stay down all night.
Special Care for the Elderly and Infirm Pets
Senior and infirm pets are going to need some extra attention. If your pets are on medication for pain, keep a close eye on them as the Rx can slow their metabolism, making it extra hard for their bodies to stay warm.
You’ll want to be cautious walking them on that ice as well, particularly if they already have painful hips or joints.
Extra Care for Reptiles, Birds and Aquariums
Our cold-blooded reptile pets, delicate fish, and beautiful birds all need extra care during the cold winter snaps. Here are some tips on keeping them alive during the winter.
Remember that fish and reptiles are very susceptible to the cold, and a power outage can create a serious problem in a mere hour.
Consider an automated Battery-Operated Air Pump that runs in the morning and evening to help keep aquariums aerated. If you didn’t have time to buy a battery operated pump, you’ll need to learn how to aerate and filter the water on your own.
For larger tanks (100+ gallons) you can use a bucket. Punch several holes in the bottom of the bucket, scoop water from aquarium, then allow it to filter through the holes into the tank. This should be done at least once a day to help agitate the water and assist the exchange.Fish are generally very sensitive to temperature changes. Consider placing Hot Hands Hand Warmers under aquariums, but be sure they aren’t in a place that your other pets can reach. Warming blankets are also efficient for wrapping around aquariums. But, a smaller 100-150 Wh power supply generator is going to be your easiest and best solution.
Many exotic pets have very high water requirements due to their small sizes and fast metabolism. It’s important to keep them hydrated. Your exotics in particular may require much more food than normal to give them the energy to stay warm.
Keep the enclosure away from drafts by wrapping a blanket around the base.
Should you lose power, consider insulating your vivarium by wrapping a solar blanket around it. Most reptiles can safely handle lower temps for a day or two, but it’s not good for them and you will likely see health problems occur as a result.
Do your best to keep them as close to their normal body temperature as possible. Increase their caloric content, add extra bedding and provide as much insulation as safely possible.
Once the air temperature drops to the 50’s, your bird may “fluff” to stay warm, which often results in them not eating. This is because the birds are attempting to trap warm air between their feathers and bodies.
You can help alleviate their stress by wrapping a warm blanket around their cages. Tempt your bird to eat by offering tasty treats. This is not the time to worry about them picking up weight. Give them their favorite treats and encourage them to eat.
Sheltering in Place or Evacuation
Every situation is different. But, if you can shelter in place with your pets, that is often the best option. Hotels and boarding facilities can be very difficult to find, and they often give first priority to existing clients or people without pets.
If you can shelter in place, here are some tips for making it less painful:
- Keep you and your pets entertained with these fun suggestions for dogs and cats! Make the snowbound experience a fun time for everyone.
- Keep extra water bowls out for your pet as they should be encouraged to drink.
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Remember the windchill! Here’s a guide to walking your pets in the snow.
If you haven’t already bugged out to say, Arizona, then you should stay off the roads as much as possible. The icy road is usually even more of a threat than a cold house.
If you do travel, remember to keep your pets safely restrained. Restraints save lives!
No matter what happens, it’s important to keep everyone together. Don’t leave your pets to fend for themselves! If you do need to go, take your pets along.
- Pet-friendly hotels: There are thousands of hotels that allow pets, many of which can be found online. Print out a list of pet-friendly hotels, boarding facilities, and veterinary facilities. If your power is out, you will not have internet access to look up these groups. Call them ahead of time and make sure you have the paperwork they require stored in your bug-out bag.
- Keep a bug-out bag for your pets: Keep copies of your paperwork for pets in the bag so you don’t have to worry about finding them in case you need to leave. All reputable boarding facilities and most hotels will require this paperwork.
- Friends and relatives: If you cannot locate or afford a pet friendly hotel or resort, ask friends or relatives with power to house your pets for a few days. If you have horses, you may want to consider reserving a place with the Staller app.
- Boarding Facilities: There hundreds of boarding facilities and private residences who allow pets to board by the day or for longer periods of time. Google “dog boarding” or “Dog daycare” for the results closest to you.
Baby, it’s cold outside. Take care of you and your pets.