Earthquake Safety for Pets

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On October 17th, Found Animals Foundation and Adopt & Shop will be participating in the Great California ShakeOut, a nation-wide earthquake drill.  While we were making preparations for the drill, we began to ask ourselves, if an earthquake were to happen right now, what would we do with our pets and how can we include them in our earthquake preparedness plans?  Here is a guide to earthquake safety for pets.

earthquake drill

DURING an Earthquake: DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

Any animal, when frightened, may bite or scratch in order to flee to safety, so it is very important that you DO NOT try to restrain your pet.  If you are outside walking with your dog when an earthquake strikes, drop to the ground before the shaking knocks you down and crawl to an open area away from trees, power lines and buildings.  When the ground begins to shake, your dog will most likely panic and try to escape to safety.  Hold on to the leash as best as you can, but if your safety is at risk you may need to drop the leash and let your dog find safety on his own.  After you drop to the ground and are in a safe location, cover your head and neck with your hands and arms and hold on to something.  Animals are very good at finding safety and hiding until the danger has passed, so you can look for your pet immediately after the shaking stops.

If your pet is in a carrier or a crate, leave them inside.  They are much safer inside where they are protected from falling debris.  If your pet’s crate or carrier is light enough, you can carry or drag it with you to safety.

If you are in your home when an earthquake starts, let your animal run and find a safe place to hide.  Cats will most likely not tolerate being picked up or held during an earthquake, but some dogs might, so if your dog is able to be handled, drop to the ground with your pet, crawl underneath a desk or table and cover your head and neck.  Hold on to the leg of the desk or table if you can.  If your pet struggles to get away or becomes aggressive, let them go and find safety on their own.  Your safety should always come first.

Many people believe that pets are capable of predicting earthquakes. Some pets may begin displaying behavior changes several minutes or even days prior to an earthquake, such as unprovoked anxiety, stress, pacing or increased activity. This phenomenon is called Seismic Escape Response and may be linked to a dog’s ability to hear high frequency sounds of rocks moving and breaking beneath the earth. However, you shouldn’t rely on your pet to tell you when to prepare for an earthquake. Start preparing today!

cat emergency kit

BEFORE an Earthquake Strikes: Prepare Today to Be Safer Tomorrow!

Have your pet microchipped, and don’t forget to register it! Should your pet escape and flee to safety during an earthquake, you have a much better chance of being reunited with them if they are microchipped and your information is up-to-date.  Also be sure to check the fit of your pet’s collar regularly to ensure that it will not slip off should your animal become startled and struggle to get away.  You should be able to slip just two fingers underneath their collar when it is fitted correctly, no more; no less.  Also be sure your pet’s collar has current ID tags attached.

Keep your pet current on their vaccinations.  During a natural disaster, stagnant water, poor sanitation and rotting debris create an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and may increase your pet’s chances of getting sick.  By keeping vaccinations current, your pet is more likely to stay healthy even in unsanitary living conditions and under high stress levels that may compromise their immune system.

Train and socialize your pet.  If your animal should escape, a pet that is well socialized with people and new situations will be easier for an animal control officer or a Good Samaritan to rescue than a flighty, frightened pet who rarely goes outside.  A well-socialized pet will also handle stress better than an under-socialized pet.  Cats can be harness trained and walked outside on leash periodically if they live strictly indoors, but make sure that your cat’s harness is fitted well, as cats can become quite acrobatic when startled.  Dogs can enroll in basic obedience classes and socialized regularly by visiting new places such as dog parks, pet stores, outdoor cafes, etc.

Create a disaster plan and assign a local meeting place that your family can go to should your home become unsafe and phone lines are down.  Also make plans for your pet should you be unable to take them with you.  In your disaster plan, have several phone numbers and addresses of local boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, day care facilities and animal shelters that will accept your pet in an emergency and find out what their disaster protocols are.  If leaving your pet at home is your only option, provide a friend or trusted neighbor with a set of your house keys and a copy of your disaster plan, along with instructions on how to care for your pet in your absence.

Create a pet first aid kit for your home, and one for your car if you travel with your pet often.  Include basic pet first aid items, as well as other useful disaster materials such as blankets and towels, some form of confinement for your pet in the form of a crate, play pen, carrier, or yard stake, pet waste clean-up supplies like paper towels, waste bags, and cleaning solution, and copies of your pet’s medical records with current photos.  Your pet’s disaster supplies should be stored in such a way that you can an easily “grab it and go.” For cats, their supplies can be stored in a carrier large enough to place a small litter box inside with enough space for them to lie down comfortably.  Dog supplies can be stored in a waterproof duffel bag next to their crate, or inside the crate/carrier itself.

Pet First Aid Kit Supplies

Adhesive Tape

Antibacterial Ointments


Blunt tipped scissors

Cotton balls

Cotton swabs (Q-tips)

Diarrhea medicine (for pets)

Digital rectal thermometer


First aid book for pets

Gauze & gauze pads

Hydrogen peroxide

Instant cold/ hot packs

Medicine droppers


Non-stick paper tape and waterproof tape

Plastic storage containers

Razor blade (for snake bites)

Rubber tubing or cloth for tourniquet

Self-adhesive bandage

Sterile wound wash


Additional items:

Collar and leash

Familiar toys

Food and water bowls

1-week supply of non-perishable food and water

1-week supply of pet’s medications (if any)

List of pet-friendly hotels/kennels/emergency vet clinics

Litter box and litter

Manual can opener

Veterinary records in sealed waterproof container

If putting together your own first aid kid sounds like a daunting task, you can also find pre-assembled kits for purchase online. And remember; inspect your kit regularly to replace expired food and medications. I typically do this twice a year during daylight savings time or I set an alert in my cell phone’s calendar.

Do you have any earthquake safety tips to share? Leave a comment below.