For those of us who live in an earthquake prone area, it pays to be prepared for the unpredictable. Having a disaster plan for yourself and your pets can save a lot of unnecessary stress if a serious earthquake were to strike. Here are tips on how to prepare your pets for an earthquake.
Earthquakes do not hit at a predictable time and you may not necessarily be at home with your pet when one occurs. Frightened animals tend to flee when scared (the flight response) so it is important to consider how you will find your pet after an earthquake. Cats and dogs will benefit from microchip identification in the event that they are found and picked up by someone else. Microchips sit painlessly under the skin and are scanned by professionals at animal shelters or veterinary clinics to trace the owner’s contact details (make sure to keep your contact details updated). At minimum, your dog or cat should have current identification tags with reliable contact information on their collar.
Establish a contingency plan regarding who will check on and care for your pet if you are not with them when the earthquake occurs. Family members, friends, or neighbours who live close by should be able to gain emergency access into your home in order to check on your pet. Place a pet alert sign in the window to inform emergency workers that there could be pets inside in case they are first on the scene.
After a severe earthquake, evacuation from your home may be required until the ground is deemed stable. Make a list of pet friendly emergency shelters or hotels around the area to save yourself a frantic search for a bed. When you evacuate with your pet, there may be limited space and you may need to place them into a crate or carrier. Get them used to the crate before an emergency occurs by having it easily accessible and rewarding it’s use with positive reinforcement.
When you evacuate with your pet, you will generally be responsible for providing all pet food and supplies. Assemble a pet earthquake kit in advance.
Items for Your Pet Evacuation Kit
- First aid kit
- Food and water supply for at least one week – regularly check the expiry dates on any food
- Sufficient supply of medications that your pet is taking
- Copy of medical records and vaccination history
- Microchip and registration information
- Current photograph of your pet
- Animal carrier or crate
- Items for restraint (leash, muzzle)
- Waste supplies – plastic bag, paper towels, disinfectants, litter box and litter for cats
- Blankets, towels, toys, and treats
What to do During the Earthquake
Earthquakes can be a frightening experience and even the nicest of pets can turn aggressive out of fear. Animals will naturally protect themselves out of instinct and will usually try to find a safe hiding place. As a pet owner, you should consider and anticipate any actions you will take for your pet when the earthquake strikes.
If the earthquake occurs while you are inside your home, let your dog or cat find a safe hiding place by themselves. Do not try to hold or restrain your pet during the shaking as this could scare them even more and they may scratch or bite to get away. Keep your pets inside until the earthquake and aftershocks have completely subsided and your pet has settled down and relaxed.
If the earthquake strikes while you are out walking with your dog, try to find an open area away from any tall trees, buildings, or power lines. Hold on tightly to your dog’s leash as they will be at risk of getting lost or injured if they escape and hide. Try to remain calm. Pets can experience increased anxiety if they sense that their owners are scared or stressed.
Once the earthquake and any aftershocks have stopped, check if your pet is safe and unharmed. Approach them in a quiet, cautious manner using a comforting voice. It is advised to have some restraint or personal protection available such as gloves, a blanket or towel, and a muzzle (commercial or gauze). This is for your own safety in case your pet is injured and unintentionally snaps.
Even if your pet seems fine after the earthquake, watch for any signs of stress over the next few days. Signs of stress include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, and inappetence. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, do not hesitate to contact a veterinarian.