Winter Has Arrived in the SF Bay Area

A Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful clear day this morning as I drove into work – the clarity that only comes after a storm.  It seems quiet and calm after the previous few days’ bluster.  Although the roads were open, barricades remained as a mute reminder of the flooding this past weekend.

I thought of my friend’s dog.  He’s a lab.  He’s only 3 years old – a drought only dog if you will.  This weekend was his first experience with a true winter storm.  On the walk he kept rubbing at his eyes with his paws, trying to get the rain out.  The next day at the dog park when skies opened up, he ran over to his owner and cowered beneath her legs.

In California, we haven’t had to deal with any real weather for quite a few years even if the rest of the country has.  Most of our pets aren’t going to have to protect their eyes from the rain – but we still need to be prepared.


During The Storm

Strong winds can rattle doors and windows or even damage them.  If you have older window frames or situations such as alleys that can concentrate wind and air pressure make sure your cages are not right next to the window – in case of breakage.  Those of us with small homes don’t have a lot of options but we usually get some warning that something is on the way.  Just think of that surf this past Thursday prior to the big storm!  Temporarily moving a cage may be a good option or protecting it with a heavy blanket (on the window or on the window side of the cage).

Power Outages

Luckily we tend to only lose power briefly, but if your tortoise needs 100 F heat do you have a plan for a prolonged outage?  What if you are on holiday?  Have you set up an emergency contact who can retrieve your 100lb sulcata or sick red eared slider who won’t do very well in 60 F water?

Temperature drops are not common here but they can occur and if the power is out your pet may need backup heat or to be “evacuated” to a place with warmth.  Generators are a great back up but costly and not all that practical…unless you have a large collection to protect.  Consider installing backup batteries or a UPS to temporarily provide electricity.  Hot water bottles or chemical heat generators (like those little hand warming packs for skiers) can provide short term help but the temperature is not well regulated.

Most of our birds, rabbits and rodents can handle the normal variations in temperature.  It is the extremes that can cause health issues.  prone to pneumonia

Denied Access

Do you live in a flood zone?  An area prone to mudslides?  This year’s El Nino is supposed to be worse than the recent ones…even worse than the 1997-98 El Nino.  Remember how it rained 26 out of 28 days in February!

If flooding is a concern – look to your cage location.  Might it be below water when you come home?  Can you move it to a safer location?  Should you relocate your reptile’s tank?  If you don’t know the risk of flooding, under extreme situations, talk to your neighbors who may have been around longer, check with city or county records to see what happened in the past.  For example, it appears to flood in Marin County once or twice a decade for the past 4 decades.  The worst part is that these types of floodwaters often contain untreated sewage – a health hazard for both owners and pets.


Make sure you have a plan – cages you can carry out of the house that fit your pet.  A vehicle or set of vehicles to transport the cages.  A friend living in a safe area that will let you house your exotic brood.  Don’t be stuck trying to stuff your rabbit in a back pack and your snake in a tie-off t-shirt.

To Sum Up

Most of the time we don’t need any changes in pet care to ensure their health and safety.  But it’s best to have a plan and be prepared for the worst.