Story by Jennie K. Willis, Colorado State University
We humans might be ready for the solar eclipse on Monday, but our pets will really be in the dark about the whole thing until it happens. Darkness cues certain routines for pets, like going to bed or finding shelter. In most cases, your pet’s response to the totality phase of the eclipse may be nothing more than going to where they sleep at night. However, if your pet is sensitive or fearful of storms, you may want to take precautions.
Here are some things to do to make sure your pet is safe on Monday:
• Leave your pet indoors with curtains drawn closed and artificial light. This will minimize the effect of the eclipse and will just look like clouds darkening the sky.
• Leave your pet at home. If you are planning to go on a road trip to find a better view, consider letting Fido stay home to avoid the confusion or getting lost in the event of panic.
• If you go outside to view the eclipse, keep your dog on a leash. With all the people and the variable responses by wildlife that may be possible, don’t lose your dog because you are relying on it to behave like it usually does.
• Don’t encourage pets to face skyward. Most pets don’t spend time looking at the sun on a normal day, and are not likely to do so on this day either. However, dogs do tend to follow pointing and gazing by humans. Dogs would need eye protection just like ours to safely look at the sun, but it is very unlikely that they would keep it on their face. It would be better to bring a toy or other distraction to keep them looking down for those few minutes.
• Cover bird cages. Birds are especially sensitive to light cues and may have vocalization episodes when sudden darkness then sudden light occurs. It would be less traumatic for them to simply be covered like at night for the duration of the eclipse.
It has been decades since the last total eclipse, and we hope to learn and record much more about how pets and wild animals behave during this event. If you encounter wildlife during the eclipse, you can take part in a citizen science project at iNaturalist.org, or by downloading the iNaturalist app on iTunes or Google Play on your phone.
Jennie K. Willis, Ph.D., is an animal behavior expert and the graduate coordinator for the Professional Science Master’s Program in Zoo, Aquarium and Animal Shelter Management degree, which is in the College of Natural Sciences at Colorado State University. Share your pet’s eclipse behavior story on her Animal Behavior Insights Facebook page.