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How Cat Homes Can Prepare for an Earthquake

September is National Preparedness Month. Here's how you can prepare yourself and your cat for the unpredictability of an earthquake.

Melvin Pena  |  Sep 16th 2014


September is National Preparedness Month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security hope to educate the public and raise awareness of how to respond and react in the event of any kind of emergency. Catster is on top of things; we’ve posted about evacuation procedures for cats and offered true, harrowing tales about surviving a hurricane with cats. Our focus here is on earthquake safety, particularly as it regards your cats and kittens.

While earthquakes are not common here in North Carolina, they can and do happen. If you live in an area that is prone to or has a history of tectonic disturbance, like Catster Headquarters in San Francisco, it’s wise to take earthquake preparedness seriously. National Preparedness Month is a great opportunity. Taking simple steps over the course of the month can ensure the safety of yourself and your family, including your feline friends.

Preparing your cat for an earthquake

Preparing your cats and kittens for an earthquake should start with a page in a notebook or a memorandum on your mobile devices. This document, which you can compile at your leisure, should contain the following bits of vital information:

  1. Contact information. Have ready access to contact info for cat-friendly shelters, hotels, and pet boarding facilities in your area. Earthquakes can cause damage to your home, and there is every possibility that you might need to relocate, even temporarily. Make sure that your cat can join you or has a place to stay in the meantime.
  2. Cat tracking devices. Microchipping your cat is a good first step; even if cats can somehow sense a coming earthquake, this doesn’t mean that they react well when the earthquake hits. Cats get stressed, panic, and hide when natural disasters occur. Something like the Tile app for mobile devices, attached to a cat’s collar, can save you anxiety and stress should your cat get lost in the aftermath of an earthquake.
  3. Emergency essentials. Catster writers have gone into great detail on several occasions about the necessary contents of disaster kits, or “go bags.” Rather than repeat or rehash them here, we’ll just remind you that having a ready supply of non-perishable food and water will be just as important to your cat as it will to you in the event of a natural disaster.

What to do in an earthquake

Cats who are caught off guard by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks may suffer, not only immediate panic, but also long-term distress. When an earthquake occurs, and provided you have only yourself and your cat to worry about, there are several things you can do to lessen the stress and anxiety for both of you.

Cats will naturally seek shelter and safety during earthquake activity. Familiarize yourself with the secluded places your cat tends to nest. If you cannot get to your cat until the earthquake is over, those spots should be the first places you check. If you’ve felt tremors, or if they’ve been reported, it may behoove you to restrict your cat to his carrier until you are comfortable that danger has passed.

Mental stimulation and physical interaction can soothe both you and your cat. If you and your home are not in immediate danger, locating your cat and comforting her will keep you both occupied. Can you stay calm and speak to her in a soothing tone of voice during and after an earthquake? It can go a long way to assuaging her fear. Will your cat allow you to approach? Encourage whatever kind of physical interaction your cat is comfortable with, whether it’s a toy, lap-sitting, or petting.

Should you need to leave your home for any amount of time following an earthquake — to check on neighbors or family, for instance — restrict your cat’s movements so that he will not panic, run away, or get lost while you are out. If you can, put him into a closed room, provisioned with food, water, litter (or newspapers), bedding, and toys. Return to kitty at the earliest opportunity.

Earthquake preparedness matters

It is a popular folk belief that animals, cats included, can predict earthquakes and other natural disasters. There is not conclusive scientific evidence that this is either true or reliable. What is certain and verifiable is that when the tectonic plates shift and an earthquake happens, cats, just like people and other domestic animals, become terrified. Whatever they may sense, cats are not infallible earthquake detectors. Otherwise a cat wearing a little lab coat would be the head of the National Earthquake Information Center.

Earthquakes are unusual and irregular events, but emergency preparedness should not be unusual or irregular. By keeping emergency supplies in a fixed and accessible place — supplies for yourself, your family, and your cat — an earthquake may catch you unawares, but not unprepared.

Have you and your cat lived through an earthquake? Were you ready for it? How did it affect your cat, both in the short and long term? Share your experiences in the comments!

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