Earthquakes strike without warning. They can feel like the rumble of a large truck passing outside or they can hit with enough force to break windows and collapse buildings. Either experience can be terrifying for your pet.
No one knows exactly when “The Big One” will strike but what is sure is that if you live in an earthquake-prone part of the world like California for any extended period of time, you’re going to experience earth movement events. As a pet owner, it’s your job to learn what to do now so there’s no question when your adrenaline is pumping.
There’s a lot of information available about what to keep around to handle the after-effects of an earthquake when water is scarce and glass shards are everywhere. But what should you do the second the ground starts to shake? How do you get through an earthquake safely with your pet?
Drop, Cover, and Hold.
In airplane safety videos they tell you to put the mask on yourself before you attempt to help anyone else with theirs. The same is true during an earthquake. The second you feel shaking, drop as low as possible, find a sheltered place like a door frame or underneath a table, and hold on. Unless your pet is literally within reach AND complacent, do not scramble around to grab them before getting to safety.
If you happen to be outside with your pet when the shaking starts, drop to your knees quickly before you’re knocked down, then crawl to an open area. A pet on a leash will probably try to escape…hold onto her if you can but if the leash slips out of your hands, don’t run after it. Your pet will immediately seek shelter on her own. (This is a really good reason to get your pet microchipped! Thousands of pets become lost every year following earthquakes and other sudden disasters.)
Wait Out the Shaking
If your pet is with you in your safe spot and calm, wait until the shaking stops. If your pet is with you and tries to get away, let them go. A frightened pet may scratch or even bite if restrained; do not risk your own safety to hold your pet in place. If your pet escapes/you let her go off on her own, she’ll attempt to find a safe spot immediately. If your pet was already in a carrier, leave her there! It’s one of the safest places she can be during a quake.
Protect Yourself (and Your Pet)
During the earthquake, do your best to cover your head and neck to protect them from falling debris. If you have a small pet, you might want to curl up around her in the fetal position (if she doesn’t become agitated!) to protect her, too. As soon as the shaking stops your pet is likely to want to escape your grasp; try to hold onto her long enough to get her on a leash or into a carrier so she won’t step on broken glass. If your pet ran to another part of the house during the quake, check to make sure she’s safe and if she doesn’t want to come out yet, don’t force her.
Remember that aftershocks are common after a significant earthquake. In the hours and days that follow, keep your pet and her leash close and leave her collar and tags on at all times.
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that says pets may actually be able to sense earthquakes before they happen. Scientists think this is probably because they hear at much higher frequencies than we do. Earthquakes don’t happen all at once – they’re usually preceded by lots of tiny fissures and cracks deep within the earth – and our pets may be able to hear (and be alarmed by!) these noises.
The #1 thing to remember when an earthquake starts?
DON’T FORCIBLY RESTRAIN YOUR PET!
Our pets have animal instincts we can’t possibly compete with. They are very, very good at finding safety on their own.