In light of the Napa quake back in August and The Great California Shake Out on October 16th, I wanted to address earthquakes this month.
Like most of you, I was sound asleep at 4:30:55 am on January 17, 1994…. UNTIL…. The few thoughts that came all at once were how could the cat be continuously jumping on my bed, why am I getting wet… Then I knew it was an earthquake. My sound sleep immediately went to thoughts of if I would live. At that time, my twin bed was under three windows and next to a 100-gallon fish tank (the stand served as a nightstand) and at the foot of my bed was a large display case with two panels of 4’ X 6’ glass. The question of survival was very real. In that moment all I could do was pull the comforter over my head and curl up in a ball. Needless to say, twenty years later, my sleeping conditions are much safer. During the Northridge quake, I saw very heavy furniture that had been thrown across rooms, glass everywhere, collapsed buildings and homes that could not be secured because the front door was stuck/wedged opened and countless broken windows.
Preparing Your Thoughts:
Of course, we hope this NEVER happens again, however history and science tell us it is a matter of when not if.
Chances are very high, if you are reading this, I have been to your home and know your kitties! Some of your kitties are shy, some are very grumpy, some are outgoing and love to be around people. During our appointments, I always tell you the grooming personality of your kitty. In an emergency, I want you to keep this in the back of your mind.
If you think back to how we started our first appointment together, I wanted to be sure all of the human questions were answered, more importantly that you stayed calm before and during our appointment. The reason for this is that I know your kitty notices your emotions and concerns then in turn, acts off them.
Obviously, your first priority after an earthquake is to make sure all the humans are accounted for and safe. What happens next is going to depend on the severity of the earthquake.
If you feel your home is not safe enough to stay in and you need to evacuate, please take your children and get out. After your children and other humans are safe and you have light, then it is time to find your beloved kitty(ies)!
Kitty is probably more traumatized then you are. While every fiber in your being does not want the earth to shake, you can understand science and history and rationalize what happened and why. Kitty cannot.
Many believe cats can sense an earthquake hours before it occurs. We are not sure why this phenomenon happens. It could be vibrations from deep within the earth, sounds or an unknown factor. What ever it is, cats seem to know it is not “normal”.
Kitty knows that there were strange sounds, then her universe shook, her house is a mess and her humans are scared.
If that is not bad enough, all these things continue to reoccur with each aftershock.
I always believe the best place for your kitty is in your home!
Where Would I Look For Kitty?
First, I would call Kitty, shake the treats, and then do a normal mealtime routine. See if Kitty will come to you.
When that does not work, you need a serious plan of action.
I would close ALL doors so Kitty cannot sneak from one room to the room or rooms I just checked!
Then depending on the time of day the earthquake happened, I would start looking in the darkest corner of the room Kitty is usually in at that time of day.
If it was at night and Kitty sleeps with you, look under your bed, in the middle between all the stuff.
If it was in the afternoon, I would look in the smallest darkest spot next to Kitty’s favorite sun puddle.
When you still cannot find Kitty, you need to work in a methodical manner. Start in one place and work your way around each room.Be sure to check inside all the dresser drawers, especially the drawers of Kitty’s favorite human. Run your hand over the bottom of the drawers. Open each drawer slowly in case Kitty’s body is hanging over the edge of a drawer.
Look in ALL the cabinetry. Yes, most kitties figure out how to open the cabinets at some point in their lives. Keep in mind, many of us live in tract homes. I know my kitchen corner cabinets have about a six-inch gap from the wall. (Very easy for a cat to get into, then snake around and under the other lower cabinets.)
Another great hiding spot is IN furniture. I have found many cat clients IN chairs and couches. It could take more than you flipping a chair upside down. You may have to stick your hand up and into the chair or couch to find kitty.
When you are searching a pile of toys or stuffed animals, it is important to move each one. Cats seem to be able to camouflage themselves in these piles.
Other common places to look are in the laundry, in the towel pile, behind the cat tower, under the cat bed, behind the TV.
If you have lots of possessions, especially in boxes, it will take longer to find Kitty. Be patient and calm, and remember, if your house is secure, your kitty is IN the house.
Crazy places I have seen or heard of cats hiding:
Under the mattress in a toddler’s bed.
A few weeks ago, a kitty had gotten away from the owner as I was getting ready for our first grooming appointment. The only place for kitty to go was into the kitchen. The owner thought I was crazy when I asked and started looking in her lower cabinets. Then the family was SHOCKED when I pulled two large kitties out from that back corner gap behind old boxes of cookbooks!
On the top shelf in the back corner of a pantry was where I found my cat after a tornado blew out all the windows of my apartment. That was the only time she ever got up there! I was sure she was lost.
Inside an under the bed box that was forced under a bed.
Inside a lazy boy type chair. Very common.
Inside the box springs of a bed.
Up inside a drop panel ceiling. Very Common
Inside a dresser drawer.
Don't forget to check inside your closets!
A few things to remember:
Stay CALM, remember kitty responds to your emotions.
A scared cat can squeeze into a very tiny place.
A scared cat will probably go in a deep dark place or a very high dark place.
Do not panic if the first and second and third time you cannot find kitty! Take a deep breath and stay calm. Chances are very high, if kitty is an inside only (no patio, no balcony, no outside of any kind) kitty is in your home, even if your home is not secure.
Once Kitty is Located…
BE VERY VERY CAREFUL!!! Scared cats bite! Even sweet sweet kitties bite when they are scared! If you are sticking your hands in places you cannot see in order to find kitty be very careful.
After you know where Kitty is, if the room is safe, close the door. Put food, water and a litter box in the room and Kitty will come out when Kitty feels safe. This is the best option.
If Kitty is not in a safe place, or you must evacuate you will need to catch kitty.
How to Catch Kitty:
Please know, after an earthquake, I am going to “catch” my personal kitties just as if we do not know each other.
A scared cat can be a very dangerous animal, even if you are the love of her/his life!
Your approach is going to depend on how Kitty is acting.
If Kitty is sitting out in the open, snatch her up and stuff her in her carrier. Just like you do for a trip to the vet.
If Kitty is hiding, but not hissing or growling, get a towel, sheet, t-shirt, etc. You want to grab her and cover her head. Do not “wrap” her head; just cover her head so Kitty feels like s/he is hiding. When you grab Kitty, keep your face away from Kitty’s face and feet. With her head covered, drop her into her carrier feet first.
If you find Kitty and Kitty is growling, hissing, spitting, or charging, this is a very dangerous situation. If it is at all possible to leave kitty behind, that is the safest option at this moment in time.
In an emergency, if my cat was exhibiting these behaviors, I would have to make the difficult choice for my safety and the safety of my family to leave Kitty behind.
Remember, cat bites can literally be deadly. After a major earthquake, medical attention may be hard to get and you will have a long wait. It is not in the best interest of your family to risk getting a cat bite immediately following an earthquake. Your family needs your full ability to keep them safe and secure.
If you chose to evacuate a very frightened Kitty, my best advice is to throw a comforter over Kitty and quickly pull the edges up like a drawstring.
As you know, I do everything in my power to not scruff a kitty. If that is the best option in your emergency situation, DO NOT LIFT KITTY BY THE SCRUFF. Support Kitty’s weight at all times with your other hand.
Leaving Kitty Behind:
Just because you are leaving Kitty behind at this moment, does not mean you are abandoning Kitty.
If we just had another “Northridge”, the only reasonable option is to get out of the house with your children. When the sun comes up, and people have settled down, someone can watch your children when you go back in to get Kitty.
I know some of you are required to immediately report to work and may be gone for a few days or more. If that is the case, remember to have an emergency plan for Kitty.
Emergency Plan for Kitty:
Be sure you have an emergency plan for all your pets! If you travel often, work outside Santa Clarita, are a First Responder, or are immediately called into work after a large-scale emergency you probably already have a Kitty Emergency plan.
My “pet plan”:
When I worked outside the valley, I had three people that I had asked to help me in the event of a work hour earthquake. I knew as a teacher with no children, living on this side of the 5/14, I would not be released any time soon. I would not be able to get home for an extended period of time.
Three unrelated people had agreed to come to my house and make sure it was secure. If it was secure the dog door would be locked, cat food would be poured onto the floor, multiple additional bowls of water would be left around the house and the dogs would go with the first person who got to my home.
If windows were broken or external doors jammed open, all the internal doors in the house would be closed with food and water left in each room.
I chose three people because two have families and one lives on the far side of the valley from me. If communication was possible, they were to notify others and me of the status of my house and who had my dogs.
Kitty’s Purrfect Spa is willing to help in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. Once our pets, families and property are safe and secured, we will be available to help you locate and retrieve your Kitty! Please ASK if you need help!
Published October 2014, Kitty's Purrfect Spa Newsletter