Pet Disaster Preparedness: Earthquakes

Home damaged after an Earthquake

No other natural disaster is quite as unpredictable as an earthquake.

As a California native (born and raised), I have experienced my fair share of earthquakes, many of which were a bit more aggressive than I would have liked.

While none of them have been life threatening, I have never truly felt prepared or ready for them when they strike. 

I can honestly say I have no clue what to do in the event of a massive earthquake (it doesn’t help my last earthquake drill was in middle school).

But as a pet owner, I feel it is even more important for me to prepare ahead of a natural disaster, like an earthquake, so I can keep my fur babies and myself safe.

To continue Redbarn’s discussion for National Pet Disaster Preparedness Month , we reached out to Jason Ballmann from the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Jason Nicholas (Dr. J) Chief Medical Officer at Preventive Vet, to offer some great insights about keeping our family and pets safe during and after an earthquake.

Take a look at their helpful responses below!

Why is it important to have essentials prepared for your pet before an earthquake?

Jason Ballmann: “It’s exceptionally hard to survive and recover if you aren’t prepared. Your risk of injury, death, and damage goes down significantly when you take steps now to be ready.”

Can our pets detect earthquakes before they happen?

Jason Ballmann: “Some animals may have more alert sensory capabilities than others – but that’s simply all it is – they don’t have the ability to predict earthquakes. Some are able to hear car alarms going off, objects rattling and rolling, or other sounds occurring at farther distances than what humans can hear.

Additionally, some animals may be able to feel minor foreshocks that humans cannot.

Earthquake scientists have looked into claims that animals can predict earthquakes, but have not found any supporting evidence to prove that they can do so.”

What are some earthquake kit essentials pet owners should have prepared for their pet before the event of an earthquake?

pet emergency kits preparation

Jason Ballmann: “Everyone should know and follow the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety so you, your family, co-workers, and pets can prepare to survive and recover. A part of the Seven Steps includes Step 3: Organize Disaster Supplies. In your home kit for you and your pets, having a large supply of water on hand is the most critical resource. We recommend 14 gallons per person, as that would be enough to cover you for up to two weeks (one gallon per day).

For your pets, it depends on their feeding habits and size for how much water you think they may need. Think about also placing toys, food, litter, leashes, medications, and other supplies they may need too in your disaster kits. Also, make sure that your pets’ collars are up-to-date and accurate.”

Dr. J:Dog boots that ideally have a solid traction sole, that would be good because with earthquakes, often times, there is a lot of rubble.

“With any natural disaster, it’s a lot of the aftermath you have to be prepared for in terms of potentially being without water and ready access to safe food… So [pet owners should consider] having plenty of water set aside for their to go kit and maybe water purification tablets or a water filtration system.

For Food, some of their [your pet’s] regular diet ideally having something that is also “shelf stable” (if you will) that can be in their emergency disaster preparedness kit.

Some of the other things that you should include in any disaster preparedness kit are emergency warming blankets and a first aid kit which should include things like bandaging material, some triple antibiotic ointment, gauze bandages, scissors.”

Check out Dr. J’s list of essentials to build an emergency preparedness kit for your cat or dog.

Dog shaking on tub

Should pet owners attempt to rescue their pets during a large earthquake?

Jason Ballmann: “Animals have natural instincts and will act on those as they see fit. We recommend people try to leave them alone and focus on their own life safety in those moments, to protect oneself and not trip or be struck by something as they try to find or rescue their pets. Also, if you try to interfere with them, do so at your own risk – you may get an unwelcome bite or scratch that could cause you some harm.”

Dr. J: “As far as attempting to rescue your pet in the event of an earthquake, it’s really a tough thing; every situation is going to be very different, you’ve always got to be concerned. Ideally, you’ve turned the gas off if there has been an earthquake so you don’t have to worry as much about explosion risks and things of that nature.

But, you do have to keep in mind that if you go back in a building and it collapses you’re also putting first responders at great risk trying to rescue you because you’ve gone back in for your pet. Evaluating the situation and making sure it’s as safe as possible before doing so, and taking into account what the loss would be if you were lost in terms of any children you have or any members you would be leaving behind, and then the risk for first responders, as well. These are things people should weigh in their mind, regardless if it’s an earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane, anything of that nature.”

Are there any other tips/advice, in particular, you would love to share with pet owners about earthquake preparedness?

Jason Ballmann: “Talk to your vet too. Many vets in “Earthquake Country” have had to deal with animals and their owners after major disasters. They probably have some insights that are good for you to know.”

Dr. J: Make sure your pets are microchipped and that the microchip information is up to date and current so that should they get away, escape, get injured, and wind up at a shelter or vet,  they can be scanned [and] are more likely to be returned to you…Having pictures of your pets, recent pictures of your pet, maybe on your phone, can be quite handy  in terms of helping you reunite you with your lost pets.”


Pet Disaster Preparedness: Earthquake Tips to Remember

  • Learn what to do during an earthquake.
  • Prepare ahead of time! Having an emergency kit of any kind that includes water, pet food, and first aid kit.
  • Practice an earthquake drill with your pets and family as best you can.
  • Make sure your pets are microchipped and that the microchip information is up to date along with recent photos of your pet.
  • Talk to your vet about their suggestions on how to deal with your pets after a major disaster.

Special thanks to Jason Ballmann and Dr. Jason Nicholas (Dr. J) for answering our questions about earthquake safety.

I learned something new, but did you? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to share these valuable tips with your friends and family on your favorite social media platforms!


All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. Redbarninc.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Please note that each situation is different, and you should always consult your veterinarian should you have any questions about your pet’s health.

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