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Keeping Dogs and Cats Safe During an Eclipse: Expert Pet Advice on the Spring Solar Eclipse

Erica Cartmill, a professor of animal behavior at Indiana University, tells PEOPLE what responses to expect from pets during the solar eclipse on April 8

<p>Getty</p> A stock photo of a solar eclipse (left) and a dog looking at the sky (right)

Getty

A stock photo of a solar eclipse (left) and a dog looking at the sky (right)

Prepare your cats and dogs and grab your glasses; a total solar eclipse is coming!

According to NASA, a total solar eclipse will cross North America on April 8. Areas of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine will experience totality — the moon will completely block out the sun's light for several minutes in these locations. Many might be planning trips to these spots to experience the event, while others might wonder how their dogs and cats will react to a total solar eclipse.

Pet parents worried about their dogs and cats' safety during a total solar eclipse can rest easy. PEOPLE spoke with Erica Cartmill, a professor of anthropology, animal behavior, and cognitive science at Indiana University, about what behaviors pet owners should expect and how to prepare a cat or dog for the upcoming solar eclipse.

Cartmill tells PEOPLE there are likely two behaviors pet owners could see when the solar eclipse crosses the U.S. on April 8; read on to learn more.

How will cats and dogs react to the eclipse?

Cartmill admits it's difficult to say with certainty how pets will respond to the total solar eclipse because "they're such rare events, especially totality."

"There are not that many reports and not that many scientific studies of animal behavior during eclipses," she says.

Based on her professional understanding of animal behavior, Cartmill believes cats and dogs will likely react in one of two ways to the total solar eclipse, if at all.

The likely responses "in order of frequency" are exhibiting nighttime behaviors and exhibiting signs of anxiety, according to the professor.

"The most likely response is animals starting their evening routines and showing evening behaviors. If you have a dog or a cat, they might go to bed, get quieter, or start yawning and stretching," Cartmill explains, adding that some canines might start howling when it suddenly gets dark.

A solar eclipse is "sort of like dropping a little slice of night into the middle of the day. So they might just act as if it is nighttime," she adds.

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Cartmill notes that the other possibility, which is "more concerning for pet owners," is that pets might show anxiety behaviors in response to the solar eclipse. Like thunderstorms, vet visits, and fireworks, three common pet anxiety triggers, total solar eclipses are "strange and unusual."

Pet owners should watch for anxiety behaviors such as increased panting and scratching, hiding, and pacing back and forth. Cats and dogs might also seek comfort from their owners or favorite objects during the total solar eclipse on April 8.

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How can I prepare my pet for the eclipse?

Since pet owners can't explain the workings of a solar eclipse to their cat or dog, Cartmill recommends preparing by having your pet's most comfort-inducing items close by when the eclipse is about to occur.

"And obviously, if you see your animal gets anxious during the eclipse, comfort them," Cartmill says.

Additionally, Cartmill says it is also wise to prepare yourself since many pets look to their humans for cues when handling a new situation.

"Be there for your animals and also be attentive to what they're interested in," Cartmill says.

"If you're sitting with your dog and staring up at the sky, your dog might stare up at the sky too, but it could be because they're following your gaze, not because they're interested in the eclipse. I think our companion animals are more interested in us, especially dogs, than anything else," she adds.

<p>George Frey/Getty</p> A woman wearing solar eclipse glasses

George Frey/Getty

A woman wearing solar eclipse glasses

Does my pet need solar eclipse glasses?

"I don't think that owners need to get their pets eclipse glasses," Cartmill says.

Unlike humans, Cartmill says pets aren't expected to be interested in staring at the total solar eclipse. However, she advises owners to keep an eye on their pets if they accompany them to a solar eclipse viewing.

"If they are staring at the sun, maybe distract them a little bit. Brief looks are fine. We don't want to encourage staring," she says.

If you would like to share observations of your pet's behavior during the April 8 eclipse, Cartmill and other scientists are collecting observations at www.observinganimals.org.

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Read the original article on People.