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In this article, a ferret named Zodiac brings a ferret’s perspective to disaster preparedness. Her human explains the people perspective of making sure all family members can survive a disaster.
by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Volume 6, Number 3
May/June, 2003
These articles and images are copyrighted and may not be reprinted, re-used, reposted, copied, or otherwise distributed without permission from the author and publisher.

You should not rely on the veterinary advice or information provided on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any specific situation. Always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical condition or treatment of your own pet or animal.



Resources for Pet-Friendly Lodging

·        AAA Traveling With Your Pet by AAA (Editor) (Paperback) ISBN: 1562516620
·        Pets on the Go: The Definitive Pet Accommodation and Vacation Guide by Dawn Habgood, Robert Habgood (Paperback) ISBN: 0933603134
·        Take Your Pet Along: 1001 Places to Stay With Your Pet by Heather MacLean Walters (Paperback) ISBN: 0964891328
·        Fodor's Road Guide USA: Where to Stay With Your Pet by Andrea Arden (Introduction), Emmanuelle Morgan (Editor) (Paperback) ISBN: 0676902073
·       The Portable Petswelcome.Com: The Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Pet by Fred N. Grayson (Contributor), et al (Paperback) ISBN: 0764564269
·        Vacationing With Your Pet: Eileen's Directory of Pet-Friendly Lodging in the United States & Canada by Eileen Barish (Paperback) ISBN: 1884465153 (Canadian lodging)


Ferret First Aid Kit

  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  • Baby food (turkey, chicken or lamb)
  • Band-Aids
  • Benadryl, pediatric liquid
  • Chemical heating pad
  • Chemical ice pack
  • Cold medicine, Pediatric
  • Corn syrup or Nutrical, for low blood sugar
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  •  Disinfectant
  • Ear cleanser
  • Electrolyte replacement crystals
  • Ensure (in case of nutritional deficiency)
  • Eye wash
  •  Eyedropper, large
  • Food bowl
  • Gauze pads
  • Hairball remedy
  • Heating pad (if a ferret is too cold, never allow him/her direct contact to the heating pad and always put it on the lowest temperature)
  • Heavy gloves (bite prevention)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  •  Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol
  • Magnifying glass
  • Medical tape
  • Nail clippers
  •  Ointment for eye injury
  • Oral syringes for measuring and administering medicine
  • Paper towels
  • Pedialyte (to prevent dehydration)
  • Pen light or small flashlight
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Pill crusher
  • Plastic garbage bags (helps separate clean and dirty bedding)
  • Plastic resealable storage bags
  • Popsicle sticks or chopsticks for splints
  •  Prescription AD canned diet
  • Scissors
  •  Sterile water
  • Styptic powder to stop bleeding
  •  Thermometer
  •  Tweezers
  • Vet wrap
  • Water bottle


Hi! My name is Zodiac, and I am a sable-mitt ferret who lives with my Mom and Dad (the humans) and a ton of other ferrets. Sometimes my mom calls me a “mustelidisaster,” especially after I have done some intensive home redecorating. However, last week, my humans were discussing all kinds of other disasters other than me, and these disasters were pretty scary, unlike me, because I am exceptionally cute!

Hi! This is Erika, Zodiac’s mom. I was born in California, and faced the threat of earthquakes and mudslides. I grew up in Texas, where we feared wildfires, tornadoes, and ice storms. Wisconsin, where I went to school, threw in new twists of blizzard entrapment and extreme cold accompanied by power outages. In Florida, where I live now, there is an extensive hurricane season, along with the threat of wildfires and floods. To add to all the potential natural disasters, we also now fear man-made disasters such as terrorist attacks, chemical spills, gas leaks, and other problems that might initiate an evacuation.

The key to surviving any disaster is being prepared. You should have a plan that includes your ferrets, and have a disaster kit prepared especially for ferrets. You should also practice, practice, practice. If you have children, they also like to help with disaster planning, so get them involved! Zodiac and I will focus on planning ahead, preparing disaster kits, and the all-important drill.


What is this, ferret discrimination? Those human beings have all kinds of organizations to help them out in a disaster. There’s the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Guard, just to name a few. But none of these folks ever thought about me, Princess Zodiac, and what should be done about me and my fellow ferrets in case of a disaster. I was about to shred a plant just to demonstrate how unfair this was when I noticed Mom had pulled up on the computer two fabulous organizations just for me! The first is Ferret Friends Disaster Response International (FFDRI), and the second is Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) [see sidebar for more information]. I just need to whine, because my ferret likeness is not prominently displayed all over their websites – some OTHER imposter ferrets are shown instead. I think I’ll go shred that plant anyway!

Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) Director Terri Crisp, who has helped rescue and care for animals in more than 45 major disasters, says many thousands of animals are injured or killed during disasters every year simply because no one thought about their welfare when planning for a disaster and there was no time to do so when disaster struck. Because most human shelters don’t take pets, people are often urged to leave their animals at home during an evacuation. Pet owners used to be encouraged to simply leave a sign on the door or window about pets inside and then evacuate. However, the position on this has changed to “Don’t Leave Home Without Them.”  Recent research shows that people who leave animals behind are 80% more likely to defy authorities and return for them, putting themselves, their animals and rescue personnel at greater risk. When ordered to evacuate, people are forced to abandon their pets and hope, by some miracle, that they survive.  Most do not.  According to Chere McCoy, director of FFDRI, "Don't leave your animals behind. This is a death sentence for the animals.  We urge you to take your animal with you, relocating both yourself and them to a safe area."


There are thousands of examples of this problem, but the one that sticks in my mind was when the Wisconsin Central train propane tanker cars derailed. Residents of Weyawega were evacuated at 6:00 a.m. and were told it would just be for a few hours, so the pets were left behind. However, the tanks began leaking and fires started, leaving residents homeless for three weeks! Indoor animals drank the toilet bowls dry, outdoor animals starved, and their owners wept. After having to rescue pet owners attempting desperate forays across the semi-frozen lakes to get to their animals, the National Guard began tank runs to find the remaining surviving pets.


The harsh reality is that firefighters, police officers, and other rescue authorities have the specific duty to save human lives. It is not their responsibility to save your pets for you, and they must place human lives and safety above all else. YOU must take responsibility for your ferrets and other pets. The goal of this article is to help you prepare for this responsibility, and assume that in any disaster, you will always be leaving with your precious ferrets.

Wow! This is serious ferret stuff! I knew my humans were here to serve me food, treats, and entertainment, but I didn’t know they were also supposed to save my life in case of a disaster! I’m a lucky ferret to have Mom and Dad to rescue and care for me. Just remember to pack my toys!


Aahhh, my Mom must be planning a little vacation for me! I hear her on the phone talking to hotels that might take in ferrets. I am such a splendid ferret that I deserve a penthouse suite with multiple litterboxes, raisin room service, and daily spa treatments with Ferretone! Wait! Now Mom is talking to veterinarians and their policies for boarding! I’m not a sick ferret! Don’t send me to the vet! I want to go to the hotel instead! I’ll weasel war dance until I get the hotel option!

Preparing for disasters requires effort, but all your effort will pay off if an event occurs. You won’t have the luxury of time later. You have a lot of research to do and documentation and information to collect. Here’s a list:

Destination Directory

Where are you going to go with your ferrets if you leave your home? Because most people shelters don’t accept pets, you should have a listing of many available ferret-friendly destinations. Your first option might be your ferret veterinarian. Establish in advance what your options are for boarding during a disaster. I have the phone numbers, addresses, and directions listed for several veterinarians, 24-hour emergency animal hospitals, and animal boarding facilities. These options are all over the state, and in neighboring states as well. Remember, if a disaster is forcing you to evacuate, a nearby veterinarian may be under the same circumstances and unable to take in your ferrets. In general, contacts within a 150-mile radius of your home should be noted.

You should also maintain a listing of animal shelters and humane societies in your area. Authorities from these organizations are the coordinators of the EARS emergency sheltering operations (or you can contact EARS directly). These shelters can either house your ferrets, assist you with needed supplies or veterinary care, or locate and rescue your pet in an unforeseen circumstance. No matter how prepared you might be at home, disaster may still strike while you are at work or in your car, and you may not be able to retrieve your ferret in time.

If you are able to evacuate with your ferrets, you should also have a listing of pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route. There are a number of printed directories of lodgings that accommodate pets, and many Internet listings as well [see sidebar]. Don’t forget family members and friends who live on your evacuation route – get permission in advance to bring your ferrets.

Ferret Identification Feats

When Mom and Dad went away one weekend to drive those silly horsies around, those neighbors with the obnoxious cats came to feed me. The nerve of those people! They couldn’t tell me apart from the other ferrets so I could get my special ferret treats! Couldn’t they tell I have the pinkest nose, the whitest mitts, and the cutest profile? Couldn’t they hear that the bell on my collar emits a dainty tinkling, and the other ferret bells just ding? Don’t they know I have a special microchip that says who I am?

Your ferrets may all be unique to you, but to the uninitiated ferret person, they may look all alike. My ferrets wear collars with a tiny amount of identification taped to them, but collars can come off. My ferrets are also microchipped, but not all emergency facilities may have a scanner/reader for the chips, and the chips are not visible. One of the best ways to identify your ferrets is with plenty of photos.

Take frequent photos of your ferrets (as they age or the seasons change, their coloration and markings may change). Mark your name, address, phone numbers, and the ferret’s name clearly on each photograph. If your ferret has a license number, rabies vaccination number, or microchip identification number, include this information on the back of the photo.

If your ferret needs medication, also note this on the photo and possibly on the ferret. In an emergency situation, I took a permanent ink marker and colored the heads of my ferrets that needed medication. The “blue” ferret got the “blue” medication, and the “green” ferret received medication from the bottle marked with the same green marker. The color faded in about a week, but it caused no problems and was a great help to the caregiver, who could not tell Stevie and Tito apart.

Perpetual Paperwork

Ooooweeee, I am a ferret celebrity now! Daddy has taken lots of pictures of me with all kinds of cameras! There was a bright flashy thing that kept blinding my eyes and I wanted to bite it but I couldn’t ever see it! I was extra cute for all the photos and wriggled and bounced as much as I could. I got to drink lots of magic ferret oil so I had to stop bouncing every once in a while. Hey, look at that! I am an official ferret with an official passport! Time to book that hotel in Paris after all! Those pictures of me are so great, they should hang in the Louvre!

Now that you know where you can go with your ferrets and have some pictures, you need to provide them with the appropriate documents. In emergency situations, you may become separated from your ferret, and your paperwork may be the only contact with a temporary caregiver, and the documents identifying your ferret may be the only thing that reunites you with your ferret. Even if your ferret accompanies you on your trip, you may have to prove that your ferret is not a hazard to humans. For this reason, you will need medical records and proof of vaccination.

Make up a “ferret passport” that includes information about you (name, address, phone, cell phone, emergency phone), your ferret (species, gender, name, description of color and identifying marks), identification information (photos, license number, rabies number, microchip number), medical information (vet name, address, and phone number, vaccination brands and dates for both rabies and distemper, known medical problems, allergies, and medication regimen), and feeding/watering instructions. Make sure you note that ferrets must have access to food and water 24 hours a day and should remain in their carrier at all times. A stressed ferret may bite or try to escape, so for safety, instruct others to keep them locked up!

I have combined digital photo images of my ferrets into a document so each of my ferrets has a passport. I print off several copies. One copy is filed at my veterinarians, another is put in a plastic protector attached to the carrier, a third is in my glove compartment, a fourth is with the neighbors who are listed with the vets to authorize emergency care, and the final copy is in my ferret disaster kit. I copy their vaccination records on the back of the passport, along with the phone numbers of emergency veterinary facilities, animal shelters and pet-friendly lodgings on my evacuation route. [Click here to download a Word File example of a passport]


Now that you have done your homework, it’s time to put together your kit that will allow you to evacuate your ferrets from your home and provide emergency care to your ferrets outside of your home. You should always have your emergency kit fully packed and ready to go at all times. Keep the supplies for your kit in a waterproof container with a locking lid and handle for easy carrying. You can use a plastic storage box, ice chest, or toolbox. In a pinch, this storage container can also be used to house a ferret, as long as you provide adequate ventilation. Keep this container right next to the door where you will exit your house for quick retrieval.

Standard Human Emergency Items

For any disaster, whether or not ferrets are involved, there are some standard items that should be included in the kit. This means a battery or solar powered radio or television for updates on emergency situations, spare batteries, flashlights, food, water, blankets, plastic trash bags, and a first aid kit. A multi-tool with a knife, can-opener, pliers, etc. is also useful. Cellular telephones are important during emergencies, along with a list of emergency numbers (my veterinarian and other emergency numbers are always programmed into my cellular telephone). A police scanner is helpful during emergencies, as is a CB radio. Tracking weather, wildfires, evacuation routes, or other updates will help you handle the disaster and keep up to date. Human disaster preparedness kits are available from the Red Cross at .

Ferret Emergency Items

Ohboyoboyoboy! We must be going to Paris! Lookie at all the stuff Mom and Dad have packed just for me! It’s enough for a long ferret stay in Paris. I might even have time to get my portrait painted to hang in the Louvre! And look at all the treats! Neato! I can’t wait to go! When are we gonna get there? When? When? Are we there yet?

You need to keep enough food in your kit to feed your ferrets for a minimum of one week. Keep the dry food in an airtight, watertight container (freezer zipper bags work great). Canned food can be packed for the emergency as well (don’t forget the can opener). Also pack your ferrets’ favorite treats – they will need comfort during this stressful time. During an emergency, offer only bottled water to your ferrets, as other water may have become contaminated. Pack a minimum of one quart of water per ferret per day, for a minimum of one week. If your ferret is on special medications, have an extra supply on hand. The United Animal Organization recommends a two-week supply of water, food, and medications, so fit in as much as you can.

After the basic necessities of food, water, and medication, you must have housing for your ferret. Never try to evacuate with a cage. They are bulky, do not travel well, and are not accepted in most shelter situations. For every two ferrets, you will need a small, airline approved hard-cased carrier (soft carriers cannot be stacked). Keep the carrier stocked at all times with a small litterpan, bedding, water and food containers, and identification. Many carriers have a place to store your paperwork, so tuck your ferret passport inside. I seal the passport into a plastic bag for extra protection. If there is no storage place, tape the plastic bag with strong packing tape or duct tape to the carrier. Write other contact information with permanent ink marker on the outside of the carrier. I also attach my ferrets’ rabies and license tags to the carriers.

Packed carriers should either be stored on top of your ferret cages, or right by your evacuation exit. You should never have to dig around to find the carriers – they must be instantly available. If you don’t have enough carriers, you can resort to an Evacsak, or as a last resort, a pillowcase. If your ferrets are roaming loose in the house (which they should only do if you are awake and at home), you may need to sweep the house and quickly put your ferrets into pillowcases and then sort them into carriers later. An Evacsak is a safer mesh version of a pillowcase with a secure closure. If you have many ferrets (or other small pets), Evacsaks take up much less room than carriers, and lots of animals can fit in your vehicle. Evacsaks can be ordered from Animal Care Equipment and Services at (800) 338-ACES,, or from The Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. (908) 528-9797,!/cfa/articles/cat-bag.html

Next is a ferret first aid kit in case your ferret is injured [see sidebar]. Putting together a ferret first aid kit takes time and effort. There are some prepackaged vet kits available on the market, but you will probably still have to add further items. Check the Ferret Store at (800-440-3356 or for kit ingredients, and then shop for the additional supplies needed. Another good source is the Pet First Aid kit from Practical Trauma at or 800-587-2313.


In addition to the above necessities, pack a harness and leash for each ferret for times when they must be removed from the carrier. You will also need cleaning supplies – rubber gloves, paper towels, trash bags, and cleaner. I like to pack baby wipes for quick cage cleaning. If you remove the center cardboard tube from the paper towels, they will squash down to make more room. I also freeze many of my water bottles. In a hot climate, ferrets can quickly get heatstroke. Frozen water bottles can help keep them cool until they can reach climate-controlled conditions, and then you also have usable water. Finally, if there is room for a special toy, bring it along to help comfort your ferret (Zodiac likes cuddling with a small beanie toy).


The most critical issue with your disaster kit is to keep it “fresh” and ready to go. Rotate your foods and water out every 3 months. Replace expired medications. Check that batteries are still good. Replace any items you may have used from your first aid kit. Make sure your vet certificates are up to date and your contact phone numbers still work.



So there I was, minding my own business and dreaming of trips to Paris, when I was startled awake by that screeching squeaky carrot! With all my hair standing on end, I bolted from my comfy sleepsack under the magazine rack into the kitchen to kill that evil squeaking noise! Whenever I kill the carrot, I get a double bonus: the awful noise stops, and I get a treat because I am such a good ferret and always the first one to get to the carrot. But this time, instead of a delicacy, I was rudely scooped up by Dad and whisked into a carrier. He slammed the door shut and I saw the other household ferrets receiving a similar fate. Oooh, nooo, not the carrier! We'd better be going to Paris and not to the Vet! Ooooph! Umph! Stop running with the carrier, Dad! Hey! What’s going on? We didn’t go anywhere, not even to the vet!! Mom is checking her stopwatch and reports, “Two minutes!” Two minutes? I got woken up for a two-minute drill and didn’t even get to Paris? No fair! Next time I’m billing you for wasted time! Oh, nevermind, here are some extra treats for me. I’ll forgive everyone for the time being.

For some disasters, such as blizzards or hurricanes, you may have advance notice with time to calmly evacuate. Even so, time is of the essence, and getting out of danger faster is better. Unfortunately, with most disasters, there is little to no notice – you may have less than a minute to get somewhere safe with your ferrets if your house is on fire or a tornado has arrived.

For this reason it is important to practice your evacuation drill. Have a family meeting to review your escape routes. These may be different depending on the disaster – getting to a tornado shelter is different than escaping a burning portion of your home. Plan multiple escape routes. Also choose a meeting place away from your home to gather. Each person in the family should have a responsibility. A child’s only responsibility should be to get to safety. Do not expect them to gather emergency supplies or ferrets. Each adult in the household should be assigned a specific carrier and the ferrets that will go in the carrier. One adult should also be designated to grab the disaster kit, and if there is time, an adult should grab frozen water bottles on the way out. If it is hot and you couldn’t get to your frozen water bottles, seek ice at the nearest Red Cross facility. Ice can be put in your zipper-sealed plastic freezer bags that are part of your kit.

It is much faster to grab ferrets out of a cage and toss them into the carrier on top of their cage than it is to hunt down your ferrets who are roaming free in the house. For that reason, my ferrets are always caged when I am not home or I am asleep. When I am home and they are running around the house, they are all fitted with belled collars so I can hear where they are. I also train my ferrets to come to the sound of a squeaky toy (some people use a whistle). They come running to get their treats, so I know they will come running in case of a disaster. I do have several deaf ferrets that cannot hear the noise. They also have been given nice sleeping places around the house with blankets and sleep sacks so I know I can find them there (instead of them having found some new, comfy hiding place). Any other sleeping places they might try out are discouraged and made uncomfortable. I need to know I can find all my ferrets in 30 seconds, because after that, their lives are in danger. Your total evacuation time should be under three minutes (a fire can engulf your house in five minutes). Under a minute is optimal. Getting to under a minute will take lots of practice.

Disaster drills and actual disasters are stressful for your ferrets. In either situation, spend plenty of time cuddling and reassuring your furkids. Give them extra attention and extra treats after the drill or during a disaster event.

Closing the Door on Disaster

Some folks say that disaster preparedness is a waste of time – it will never happen to them. I urge you to still be prepared, because I use my disaster kits all the time for other situations – trips to the vet, minor medical emergencies, travel, and so on. Once a ferret friend of mine was struck by a car and taken to the hospital, unable to return home and care for her ferrets. I could easily gather her ferrets into the prepared carriers, and carried a single tub of supplies, toys, food, medical records, and other care items already packed and ready to go to my house. I had everything I needed in a few minutes and could assure her that her kids were safe and sound at my house until she got better.

Most people are not prepared for an emergency. Are you? You are your ferret’s only hope for survival.  In any emergency, your goal is to get you and your ferrets to a safe place. Don’t waste time gathering “valuable” household trinkets – nothing is worth risking your family’s lives. Get out with the family members (including your ferrets) and your disaster kit. Planning for the worst ensures that the best will happen in an emergency situation. Good Luck!

Well, folks, I didn’t get to go to Paris, but I got to visit the Grandparents in Orlando. I had everything I needed, thanks to the pre-packed kits and carriers. I am so proud of my ferret passport! My picture looks so much better than anyone else’s that I will do a weasel war dance! I’ll make sure that on the next emergency drill, we can get down to one minute! I will be the fastest ferret ever! In the meantime, I am going to get busy planning my ferret birthday party.


Animal Disaster Response Resources
The Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS)

EARS sponsors an annual Animal Disaster Preparedness Day on the third Saturday of each May. The fifth annual Animal Disaster Preparedness Day is scheduled for May 17, 2003. For more information about disaster preparedness or this event, contact:
United Animal Nations: Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS)
5892A South Land Park Drive, P.O. Box 188890, Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel: (916) 429-2457 Fax: (916) 429-2456 Email: [email protected]

Also consider purchasing Out of Harm's Way, written by Terri Crisp, the Director of the United Animal Nations Emergency Animal Rescue Service program, along with Samantha Glen, animal rights activist. Anyone who has animals should have this valuable resource guide. ISBN: B0000645YA

Ferret Friends Disaster Response International (FFDRI)
Chere McCoy, FFDRI Director and United States Coordinator
Phone 561-567-0994, Fax 561-562-5696
[email protected]
Howard Davis, FFDRI Co-Director
Phone 703-913-1115, Fax 703-913-1118
[email protected]
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Information on pets and pet disaster planning at
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
Disaster Center at
National Weather Service (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
The Emergency Email Network
Sign up and receive emails or wireless communications about any disaster in your region
American Red Cross
Animal disaster preparedness and first aid:
Emergency Preparedness Information Center
Information and supplies at
World Animal Net
The world's largest database of animal protection societies at
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) (A fee is charged for consultation)