Even though solar eclipses, especially total eclipses, are rare, we humans are all aware of the dangers of looking directly at one. I remember making a pinhole projector in grade school in the 1960s so that we would not be tempted to look at the sun, and with school just starting many students are doing the same thing nearly 50 years later. In some areas where the coverage will be 80% or greater schools are closed and people are advised to stay indoors, especially off the roads, to avoid the chance of looking at the sun accidentally, and the big discussion has been the proper safety glasses, the ones that NASA approved, not the cheap ones made in China that may not protect your eyes.
But what about our pets, and animals who live outdoors? Is there danger to their eyesight as well? Is there any need to somehow give eye protection to the sun-worshipping cats napping by our windows or our community cats lolling about in sun puddles in parking lots and back yards?
On the day of the eclipse, we humans know exactly what’s happening and where, we’ve read and heard stories about the event, and we know it’s rare, and we are a curious bunch. We will be doing our best to look at it, hopefully safely, no matter where we are.
The consensus of veterinarians and even NASA scientists is that animals don’t actually look at the sun. They look upward, but are usually looking at something that interests them, a bird in the sky, perhaps, or some other movement in that direction. The sun moves, but not fast enough for them to try to chase the yellow dot across the sky. What the sun is doing on any day doesn’t affect their daily life whether they are domestic pets or wild animals so they don’t seem to pay much attention.
Looking at the sun can be uncomfortable and the brilliant light directly in our eyes even without an eclipse can temporarily impair our vision, and we presume the same happens for animals. When I see my cats having a sunbath and turning their faces in the direction of the sun, I always notice their eyes are closed, as Ophelia does in the photo here. Likely they learn not to look directly at the sun if at all possible.
Animals reacting to the darkness
Their vision is probably safe for all those reasons. But how do they react to the sudden darkness in the middle of the day? Reports have come down from centuries of eclipses of strange animal behavior as the earth goes dark and the sun disappears, with animals, birds and even insects acting as if it’s dusk and time to go to bed, and even more dramatic events. Apparently there are no known studies of this behavior, however. Maybe this time we can all keep our eyes on the animals as well as safely watching the eclipse, and report what our animals do, and other animals we see.
Safety for our pets
As always, our pets pick up on clues from us. If you’re preparing to have an eclipse party in your back yard or drive off to see the eclipse, your pets will react to your activities as they always do, either joining in, hiding because of all your bustling around, or ignoring you. If your pet is upset by this, by all means settle them down and reassure them in the best way possible.
Whether you are celebrating or your community is in the 100% area and people are gathering, follow the same cautions as for a summer holiday like July 4: keep your pets safely indoors, don’t take them to crowded gatherings or celebrations, and don’t take them off their diet.
Here are two informative articles regarding pets, animals and the solar eclipse:
News-Gazette, Champaign, IL, Pets don’t need glasses for eclipse, but there’s other safety concerns
Read more articles in the category Health and Welfare
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This is my little formerly feral kitty, Moses. It is “late in the year”, as the photo is titled from November 2005, at age 19 it was also late in her life, using a year as a metaphor. “Portrait of a senior kitty”…this is a favorite of my black and white photos. Aside from a strict adherence to twice-daily mealtimes, her one and only absolute necessity was a sunbath, preferrably al fresco, every day to help soothe the arthritis that had built in her somewhat hobbled hind legs. Read more, and purchase.
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