A Rat Parent’s Guide: Evacuations and Emergencies

by Stephanie Cameron

Stephanie Cameron is a volunteer with Rattie Ratz Rescue in the bay area of California. Each month KRL will be featuring a column from Rattie Ratz. 

As a California native and Rattie Ratz Rescue volunteer I have learned how important it is to always be prepared for any number of emergencies. It’s easy to think about contingency and evacuation plans when you live for weeks – or even months – with a hazy orange tinted sky above you, caused by the ever increasing fires around you, and the evacuation stories of family and friends lingering in your mind. But emergencies happen year-round and sometimes without warning, and I believe it’s important to be prepared for any number of situations. For instance, what if you were hit by a car and rushed to the hospital? If you live alone who will make sure your pets are provided for if you can’t get back to them by the end of the day? A lot of the information I will be going over in this article can apply to a wide range of animals, but it will be rat specific, as I am writing from a rat owner’s perspective.

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First and foremost, in an actual emergency your own health and safety come first and as heart-wrenching and difficult as the decision may be, it’s important to be honest about whether or not it’s safe to get your animals. In many cases the difference between successfully rescuing your pet, or having to leave them behind, could be a matter of minutes, and being properly prepared could make all the difference. 

Evacuation cage
One of the most important items to prepare is an evacuation cage. The larger your group of rats, the larger your cage will be, but a large carrier will suffice. If possible, have the evacuation cage prepared with food, bedding and hides already inside. Make sure the evacuation cage will support a water bottle – some small carriers do not. Keep the evacuation cage next to your rat cage. Next to the evacuation cage, keep a “weekend” bag with extra food, bedding (if space allows), necessary medication, a spare water bottle, bottle fastening and a secure/screwed bottle full of water. If you keep a spare water bottle attached to the evacuation cage, make sure it is empty. If you have to put the rats in the cage in a hurry and jump in the car, the jostling will make the water bottle leak. You don’t want to worry about soggy bedding when you’re rushing to leave. In the evacuation bag of supplies, it is also a good idea to have a list of pet friendly hotels in the area. And if your rats are old or sick, a list of the medications they are on.  Some avid rat owners will keep a spare carrier and supplies in their car as well.

A Rattie Ratz volunteer recently spoke with ERT (Emergency Response Team) trainers who recommended investing in the pet stickers you can place on the windows of your home. If you get out but your pets don't, emergency response teams do look for those stickers. The ERT trainers said they have rescued all types of animals. Their explicit training is mainly dogs/cats/farm/wildlife but they will do their best to save any animals they find that are still alive. 

Emergency bag
Making sure your rats always have extra food and water will help them survive longer if you cannot get to them for a couple of days. Rats have fast metabolisms so rat owners should already know not to portion out their food the way you would for a cat or dog. Extra water, however, is incredibly important. Making sure your rats have a well-stocked supply of food in the cage, with an extra water bottle or two will hopefully keep your ratties safe and comfortable and will extend their chances of surviving until help arrives, should you be forced to leave without them.

So far I’ve mostly discussed how to prepare for an evacuation, but what if you are in an emergency that doesn’t allow you to go home, like being in a serious accident? When our volunteer spoke to the ERT trainers they recommend that pet parents carry something in their wallet attached to their ID that indicates that they have pets at home that will need help. If you live alone, give a trusted friend or family member a spare key in case they need to check on the animals for you. 

Keep a chart of your rats (names/markings/gender/date of birth) and their medication status so that if something happens to you, whoever takes over the care of your pets will know who is who, and what their needs are. If you have more than one rat cage, it would also be a good idea to label the cages, so someone unfamiliar with your set up would know who was in which cage.  Next to the chart of rats, you should also include the information for your vet. Additionally, just like children, it’s important for your animals to have an emergency contact of their own. Speak to your friends and family, and ask if anyone would be willing to care for your rats should something happen to you. Keep your emergency rat contacts and their information next to the rat chart and vet details. Keep all of this information next to your rat cage to ensure it is easily discovered. 

My hope in writing this piece is to guide pet owners to realistically consider and implement what they need to do to prepare for an emergency and keep their pets safe. If I am able to help just one pet parent save their beloved furry family members, should they find themselves in such a situation, this article will have been worth it. 

If you would like to know more about Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their Facebook page. If you are interested in adopting or volunteering for Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their website: www.rattieratz.com

Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section & watch for more stories from Rattie Ratz every other month. You can also keep up with our pet articles by joining our KRL Facebook group. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz. 

Stephanie Cameron works and lives in the Bay Area, and has been active in the rat rescue community for a number of years. She got her first pair of rats - sisters named Snowflake and Diamond - when she was eight years old. In her spare time she enjoys reading, walking her dogs, traveling, discovering fantastic vegan recipes, and singing in the shower.