As you’ve likely heard by now, a total solar eclipse is scheduled to cross the U.S. on Aug. 21. As people excitedly make travel and viewing plans, we’re left wondering what kind of preparation, if any, we need to protect our pets from this unusual event.
The top question is probably whether pets need to wear special sunglasses the way people do. Luckily, it’s very unlikely that pets will look directly into the sun the way humans have been urged against.
“On a normal day, your pets don’t try to look at the sun, and therefore don’t damage their eyes. And on this day, they’re not going to do it, either,” Angela Speck, director of astronomy and a professor of astrophysics at the University of Missouri, said at a recent NASA news conference.
That said, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Looking directly at the sun normally or during a partial eclipse (the actual full eclipse is safe for viewing with the naked eye for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds for those skywatchers in the 70-mile-wide path of totality, according to Live Science) can cause eclipse blindness, which is a condition that occurs when the sun’s rays burn the retina. For that reason, people are warned to wear protective eyewear, and it’s not a bad idea to strap a pair of the glasses on your pet if you plan to take it out for a walk during the eclipse or if it often rests in a favorite sunny spot (and will tolerate the glasses).
Mike Reynolds, an astronomy professor at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida, said “safe solar viewing is always a must, no matter who it is” at the Northeast Astronomy Forum in April.
In that case, better safe than sorry. Try to keep your pet indoors with the shades drawn, just in case — if for no other reason than protecting your dog or cat from the crowds that may gather outside during the solar event. Traffic and loud noises can cause pets to become anxious or act out, so the safety precautions pet owners take during the Fourth of July are a good, basic guide to follow for the eclipse as well.
For those with farm animals or other kinds of “exotic” pets, expect a variety of reactions. Speck noted that animals like cows, horses or goats might mistake the eclipse for nighttime and head back into their barns.
According to CNN, chickens might huddle together and birds may start chirping as if they’re getting ready to go to bed, as may insects and frogs, which typically make noise during summer nights. Additionally, if you’re an ant farm owner, a Victorian era scientist noted that ants that were “busily carrying their burdens, stopped and remained motionless till the light reappeared.”
Finally, the National Park Service recommends not traveling with pets during the eclipse.