Survival Pet Bathroom?

I’d like to end my recent focus on pet survivalism by mentioning another problem you may face if civilization were to end… waste. How are you going to take care of the natural urge to expel liquid or solid waste? This is easy in today’s world. All we have to do is let the dog poo and pee in the back yard, or take it out for a walk.

Depending on the civilization-ending disaster, your pet’s bathroom habits may not change. Even if cat litter runs out, your cat can easily use something else like sawdust, fine wood shavings, or dried sand. Cats can be retrained to poo and pee outside, but they won’t do it on-demand like dogs.

What if there’s a chemical or nuclear attack?

If such an attack were to happen, your pet can’t go outside because they’ll track in deadly chemicals or fallout. That means you’ll need to retrain your pet to poop and pee inside the house or bunker. This is easy for cats because they can use a litter box, but will be very hard on dogs who’ve been trained to never potty in the house.

You’ll have to train the animal to use the bathroom only at one approved location and guide it there repeatedly. You also need to keep an eye on your pet until you’re certain it’s comfortable with the new habit. If it can’t follow its training and the urge gets too great, the pet’s natural instinct is to find someplace discreet to hide the mess and avoid getting in trouble.

Please keep in mind this retraining will involve a lot of trial and error. Your pet is unlearning old habits while trying to learn new ones, and will benefit from positive or negative reinforcement. I’m sure your pet will do its best to learn new habits, so don’t be too harsh with the negative reinforcements during this transition period. Afterall, humans created the mess they’re in.

What about my dog?

I live and work in the heart of a major city and regular dog-walks aren’t always possible. My dog has used puppy pads his entire life and won’t need to be retrained. However, I fear the day we run out of those convenient puppy pads. I guess he can use leftover newspapers, but the paper won’t be delivered after the SHTF, so what happens when that runs out?

Maybe we’ll dedicate 2-3 towels for him to use and rewash them daily?

***

Think of how your pet will do its “business” if civilization were to end. Depending on the situation, it may not be “business as usual”, and you’ll need to help them adapt to the new situation.

Useful Survival Pets?

This is the third installment dedicated to pets in survival situations. People have thanked me for my previous articles related to prepping for our pets’ food and healthcare, but I’m sure this one will be more controversial and less popular. I’d like to go over which pet species will be the best and most useful companion after the fall of civilization? The most obvious winner could be “man’s best friend” (dogs), but the utility of other animals may surprise you.

I’ll start by stating that all animals can serve a basic function when it comes to emotional support and general entertainment. However, some creatures tend to be more useful than others beyond emotional attachment. If a civilization-ending disaster occurs, it’s important to recognize the value your pet can offer to the survival of your family and objectively determine if it serves as an asset or more of a liability. The information provided is based on the average or typical behavior exhibited by certain animals, and many readers will probably think their pet is the exception[1].

The purpose of this article is to remind readers that hard decisions may be necessary to ensure your family’s survival. Living as a survivor or struggling as a victim starts with being able to objectively assess the usefulness of objects, living or otherwise. When it comes to pets, that means deciding to keep, release, or make a hard decision. Reading this will hopefully make you more aware of your pets’ abilities.

Fish

Unless you have a self-sustaining fish farm, fish may be the most useless pets after the fall of civilization. All fish need oxygen, but infusing the water with it may be impossible without power. You may be able to use a solar water pump and create a “waterfall” to get the same effect, but even that may not be enough to supply their needs.

If there’s adequate oxygen, how are you going to feed your fish? Most require special food you probably can’t acquire anymore. Once you run out of fish food, those fish may best be used as food for other pets or as plant fertilizer.

Don’t wait for your fish to die before serving them as food for other pets either. There’s no telling exactly how or when the fish died. For all you know, the fish could have been killed by a bacterial infection brought on by a weakened immune system or contaminated water. Feeding it to another pet may be too great of a health risk, which means the safest thing to do with a dead fish is bury it in your garden or compost pile.

If you can keep your freshwater fish alive, the waste they produce can be used to provide nutrients in your garden. Simply clean the tank as you normally do, but pour the waste-water into your garden instead of down the drain. Don’t do this with saltwater because it will kill plants and ruin the soil for years to come.

What if you’re child has a pet fish?

Lack of power will probably cause the fish to die sooner than expected. When it happens, the best thing you can do is hold a burial in your garden. Doing so will keep your kid happy, and the fish will be reused as fertilizer. Maybe you can soften the loss by telling the kid a story about how the Native Americans once used fish to nourish plants, and/or explain it as part of the circle of life.

Reptiles

Most reptiles live in tanks their entire lives, and won’t be useful in a survival situation. You won’t be able to such a pet and it may be necessary to release it into the wild. Hopefully, it will adapt and hunt for its food.

If you have young children, tell them the lizard or snake ran away and is having a good time hunting in the wild. You can even make a token effort to look for it. Once the search is over, make sure the kids understand that your property has other reptiles which may look like your former snake, but those are wild and deadly. 

Rodents

Hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, squirrels, and rabbits are all rodents used as pets. They can technically eat anything, so food may not be an issue. But if you have a mating pair, they can create more mouths to feed. This in itself is problematic because some rodent species will eat their own babies if there isn’t enough food to go around.

Another problem with rodents is they tend to be small and fast. It’s easy for a pet mouse to get loose and lost somewhere in the house. They can die from pesticides intended for bad rodents from outside, or escape and become yet another wild pest. Should this happen and you have kids, you’ll need to tell your kids something similar to the reptile story:

“Mousey is having a grand time foraging in another neighborhood. Our property has other mice that look like Mousey, but you can’t play with them because they’re wild and carry diseases.”

Some rodents can be useful… as food. North Americans once hunted and trapped rabbits and squirrels, and South Americans eat guinea pigs as a delicacy. If you have multiple rabbits or guinea pigs and the space and know-how to start a “rabbit” farm, then you’ll have a ready source of protein for years. The hard part is convincing your family to look at Fluffy as dinner, and not their best friend.

Birds

Most birds are entertaining and pleasant to look at, and some larger parrots can pop open a beer for you. But let’s face it, most birds are a luxury and will be a constant drain on your resources. More power to you if you can afford to feed a pet bird, but consider what others will think if they figure out you own a living luxury item. 

If your neighbors are suffering from starvation, such a symbol of wealth and abundance may cause resentment. Even if you’re barely making ends meet, the simple fact you own a bird will cause your neighbors to think you’re sitting on a mountain of food. They may attack or steal your supplies thinking they’re justified doing so because, obviously, you have more than enough and you’re a vile person for holding out on them. 

Luxury birds may be worse than useless, but chickens are useful “pets”. Hens can lay eggs for your breakfast, and to replenish your chicken population. And when they get too old to produce eggs, you can eat them. 

Chickens are low maintenance because they eat almost anything from table scraps to spiders. They only require access to water and a safe place to roost. However, chickens will attract thieves and you’ll need to address that problem appropriately[2].

I’d like to finish the bird-section by mentioning falcons, owls, and other wild birds. They aren’t commonly used as pets, but these wild avians offer passive benefits by naturally reducing snake and rodent populations.

Cats

I personally love cats, but they don’t provide many immediate benefits to your family in a survival situation. They don’t follow orders or commands unless they feel like it. They won’t go on a walk with you, and they aren’t great guard dogs either.

Think of why we have sayings like: “Herding cats” and “Scaredy cat”.

While cats may not be immediately useful, they do offer a lot of passive benefits. Cats have been known to hunt and kill pests like mice and other rodents. Such rodents eat food crops, are infested with fleas, and may harbor diseases. Some larger rats are dangerous to small children and love eating the fingers of babies and toddlers.

The problem is how we use or treat cats. The usefulness of a cat is wasted if you’re just going to keep it as a house pet. It can’t kill pests if it’s trapped in the house, but it will start hunting on its own if you let it out. After some practice, a cat can acquire much of its food through hunting and may not be as dependent on you for its daily survival[3],[4].

Our family had an indoor/outdoor cat, and I know the greatest reward a cat can give you is:

  1. Love and affection by day.
  2. Peace of mind at night.
  3. And the occasional gift at the door to “enjoy”.

Dogs

Dogs will almost certainly be the most valuable pet in a survival situation. They are loyal, follow commands, serve as security, and can be trained to help around the house and farm. Dogs of any breed or age can help us psychologically cope with tragedy as well.

However, what many people deem valuable dog traits in today’s world, will be more of a handicap after the SHTF. Popular “toy dogs” are bred to be cute accessories and aren’t as helpful as larger breeds. Toy dogs aren’t completely useless, because most still have superior senses of hearing and smell. Those senses can be used for foraging, and make them great living alarms[5]. Just keep in mind that small dogs, inherently, aren’t physically capable of defending your family. They’ll try their best, but the little ankle-biters can’t do much damage compared to larger dogs.

Larger dog breeds are the best companions to have in a survival situation, simply because they can do more than smaller dogs. Large dogs are great defenders of property and do so by: sounding an alarm to warn you if a stranger is approaching, as well as intercepting and/or attacking intruders. They can herd livestock and help you hunt or retrieve prey. Some can be trained to pull small carts or wagons, sometimes without any supervision.

The overall utility of dogs over other animals cannot be overstated. They are loyal, follow orders, and will put their life on the line to defend their family. Dogs will be one of the most valuable members of your family after the SHTF, but they require training and practice. Which means you must use them as the valuable workers you need them to be… and not as mere toys.

My Pets?

What kind of pets do I own and how do I rate their usefulness? I have a parrot and a small dog, and already know they won’t be as useful as other pets. Here’s how I assessed their utility.

Parrot

He’ll make a good 1-time meal, but I need to keep a happy home and won’t mention that again. The bird’s immediate utility is limited to entertainment and keeping my boyfriend happy. We could use his droppings as fertilizer for a garden, and his feathers can be made into beautiful ornaments, fans, or feather dusters… if we can find someone interested in such crafts.

We can keep the parrot alive for years because he’ll eat pretty much anything us humans can. However, he can get loud sometimes and I fear he’ll be discovered by hungry neighbors, who may end up resenting us for wasting perfectly good human food on a bird.

Dog

I’m not going to lie. Our small dog is spoiled rotten, but will be more useful than the bird. He has a great sense of smell. If there’s a chicken wing in a bush, that dog will find it. But I don’t think we can reliably use that skill in a survival situation. It’s possible he can be trained to forage for certain plants, but training takes time, and most of that time should be used working on defenses and growing food. Plus, I’m pretty sure he’ll try to eat what he finds before we get a chance to harvest it.

His hearing is impeccable, and I’m sure he’ll be a great guard dog. He’ll have no problem alerting us of intruders, but won’t be able to intercept or attack. I fear that he may be too good at sounding an alarm, and will be the death of us should we need to hide and keep quiet.

Which pet species will be the best and most useful companion after the fall of civilization? All animals serve a basic emotional support function, but some creatures tend to be more useful than others. If disaster strikes, you may be forced to objectively assess the usefulness of your pets and decide if you should keep, release, or make a difficult decision.

Some people will deem such an evaluation as monstrous and may shun you for not sharing the same values they hold. It’s not wrong. They simply aren’t as mentally prepared as you are, or they haven’t fully transitioned to the new normal. I fear most of those people will refuse to evaluate the usefulness of their pets before the damage to the family stockpile is already done.

Always remember that hard decisions may be necessary to ensure your family’s survival.


[1] Unique Exceptions: I could retire if I earned money every time someone told me how my point of view or subject is wrong because of their unique situation.

  • I’ve got a neighbor who can walk his cat like a dog. It’s an amazing sight to watch, but not typical behavior.
  • If your pet is the top performer of your household… that’s great, but it’s not normal.
  • If you’ve been able to train an army of piranhas to jump out of water and walk on land to eat intruders… that’s great too, but definitely not typical.

[2] Violence Disclaimer: I must remind readers that I do not condone violence, law breaking, or vigilante justice.

[3] Biggers, S. (2019, July 1). The Importance Of Cats For Prepping and SHTF: Here come the survival kitties! Retrieved from Backdoor Survival: https://www.backdoorsurvival.com/the-importance-of-cats-for-prepping-and-shtf-here-come-the-survival-kitties/

[4] Sung, W. P. (2019, May 23). Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners? Retrieved from PetMD: https://www.petmd.com/news/view/why-do-cats-bring-gifts-their-owners-38127

[5] Dogs for Foraging & Living Alarms: No dog will naturally know how to forage for specific plants unless you train them, which will take time.

Some dogs may not be great at alerting you to intruders either. Depending on breed, the sense of smell or sound may not be as advanced as other dogs and it may not detect an intruder until it’s too late. Some breeds aren’t biologically capable of producing a bark loud enough to be heard at long range (which is important if you’re working in a field).

Survival Petcare

The first thing I need to say on this subject is that I’m not a veterinarian[1]. This article isn’t intended to be the animal version of Gray’s Anatomy and won’t discuss every possible ailment to befall pets. The objective is to provide a few examples to serve as reminders that pets can become ill or suffer from infections, and reiterate that it’s your responsibility to treat them as best you can. 

Treating illnesses isn’t going to be easy because our pets can’t speak and tell us what’s making them sick. A dog can’t walk up to you and say my tummy hurts like a child would. The only warning you may have of a stomach problem will be when the dog pukes on the ground. Similarly, animals can’t complain about having chest pains and there won’t be a warning until a heart attack happens.

This may sound harsh, but it’s important to realize early-on that you may lose your furry family member without any notice. Fido could be fine and dandy when you leave the house to forage, only to return to find him on the floor… dead. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but you should be prepared for it nonetheless.

Now that I’ve got the morbid part out of the way, let’s assume there’s nothing terminally wrong with your pet. What happens if he gets sick?

There probably won’t be many veterinarians around after the fall of civilization. If there are, those specialists will likely be repurposed to serve as human doctors and won’t have enough time to help household pets. Depending on the rules of the community, they may be forbidden to “waste” resources on non-essential animals. 

Even after things calm down, I don’t think veterinarians will be able to commit resources to household pets. If vets are allowed to work on animals at all, they may be forced to restrict their services to the maintenance of productive farm animals. 

This ultimately means you will have to treat your pet as best as possible, with what’s available. 

Pet Meds

After a civilization-ending event happens, many veterinarians will close shop and you won’t be able to get specialized pet medicines. So, what do you do if your fur-baby gets sick?

You may be limited to treating the symptoms and hope they naturally recover. Thankfully, a lot of the medicines designed for human consumption can be used on animals without many side effects. It may be a simple matter of changing the dose. 

For example, if a pet is licking one patch of skin, it may indicate an allergic reaction. Most vets advise owners to give Benadryl (or generic equivalent) to treat such allergies. The vet normally advises how much medicine to give, but if the trained professionals don’t exist, it’s your responsibility to estimate the amount all by yourself. 

The directions for drugs are based on human consumption and caution must be used when giving such medicines to an animal. If your pet weighs about the same as your kid, the child dose may be appropriate to use. If smaller than that, you may need to use half the suggested child-dose. 

A few words of caution:

  • If your pet’s the size of a squirrel, maybe you shouldn’t risk an overdose. 
  • Do not use topical creams because it may not be safe for internal consumption, and you almost certainly won’t be able to prevent pets from licking it off. 

Generally, use the common-sense most ordinary people possess.

What about fleas?

How do you treat your dog for fleas? From what I’ve read, the best method is prevention, prevention, prevention. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Bathe your pet regularly (not a viable option for cats).
  • Plant flea-repelling plants like rosemary and mint.
  • Make an herbal flea collar.
  • Mix a tablespoon of vinegar into your pet’s drinking water (test to ensure the pet doesn’t shun the water).
  • Don’t let your pet outside.

After a Flea Infestation

If you have a furry pet, a flea infestation may be inevitable and it’ll seem like you’re fighting a war on multiple fronts when it happens. Not only do you have to eliminate the infestation from your pet, but also from the environment. Many natural remedies for the home require sprinkling baking soda or salt into fabrics to kill the eggs and larvae[2],[3].  

Below are a few of the direct home remedies for treating dogs with fleas:

  • Spraying it with essential oils such as: eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, and rosemary.
  • Bathing it with any of those same oils, vinegar, and water.
  • Spraying it with vinegar & water.

Vinegar seems to be the most effective treatment according to most of the websites I’ve browsed. If none of these treatments are possible for your household, you may be forced to keep your pets outside… or learn to live as a flea-bitten rascal.

What about Heartworms?

You need to accept the possibility there may not be anything you can do about this parasite. We’ve been told for years that heartworms are inevitable, and that’s why vets tell us to treat dogs monthly for this parasite[4]. If those normal treatments aren’t available because of disaster, that means over time an infected dog will die because the infestation will become so great it can’t properly pump blood through its body. 

With that said, I’ve read from various sources it’s possible to treat your pet for heartworms by feeding it: Pumpkin seeds, carrots, coconut, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, and chamomile[5],[6]

If you run out of regular dog food and/or make your pet’s food, adding these ingredients to your pet’s diet can be done with little effort. 

Below are some common symptoms of an uncontrolled heartworm infection[7]:

  • Mild Symptoms: Occasional cough or tiredness after moderate activity.
  • Severe Symptoms: Dog may look unwell, cough persistently, and get tired easily. Dog could have trouble breathing or even show signs of heart failure (wheezing coughing, bloated belly[8]). 

I’d like to finish by reminding readers that if your pet has a life-threatening condition, nothing can replace the medical expertise of a veterinarian. You are responsible for your pet’s medical treatment nowadays, and that will be the case if civilization were to end.

It’s your responsibility to use the professionals if they are available. I hope this article serves as a reminder of your responsibility and that alternative options exist if the SHTF. You are their “first responder” and will have to treat them as best you can, with the materials you have. 


[1] Medical Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a doctor, veterinarian, or any kind of medical professional. The information presented is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not constitute any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you or any other person (and/or pet) has a medical concern, you should consult with a health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on a blog, website, or in any linked materials.

[2] JetPet Resort. (2021, March 1). 30 Ways to Naturally Prevent and Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs. Retrieved from JetPet Resort: https://jetpetresort.com/blog/dog-care/30-ways-to-naturally-prevent-and-get-rid-of-fleas-on-dogs/

[3] DePino, M. (2022, March 31). 9 ways to get rid of fleas on your dog naturally. Retrieved from BetterPet: https://betterpet.com/how-to-get-rid-of-fleas-naturally/

[4] Heartworm Hoax: Some websites I’ve seen have veterinarian authors who claim your dog probably doesn’t even have heartworms. That’s because heartworms are transmitted between infected animals via mosquitoes. Dogs in a major city way not be susceptible because of all the pesticides and chemicals, whereas a dog in the country probably has heartworms given the swarms of mosquitos in rural areas.

[5] PetPartners. (2021, February 10). 6 Natural Ways to Treat and Prevent Worms. Retrieved from PetPartners: https://www.petpartners.com/blog/pet-health-and-safety/6-natural-ways-to-treat-and-prevent-worms

[6] Chamomile: Chamomile may help treat or prevent other types of worms and parasites.

[7] Henriques, J. (2021, December 12). DIY Heartworm Treatment For Dogs. Retrieved from Dogs Naturally Magazine: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/dog-heartworm-treatment/

[8] Bassingthwaighte, D. E. (2021, December 12). Congestive Heart Failure In Dogs: A Holistic Approach. Retrieved from Dogs Naturally Magazine: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/congestive-heart-failure-in-dogs-holistic-treatment-options/