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Conversations with Solar Eclipse Experts: Pet and Animal Behavior

Dr. Raffaela Lesch
Dr. Raffaela Lesch

Millions of Americans are expected to travel toward the heart of the country, including Arkansas, to observe the total solar eclipse on April 8. While people are understandably fascinated by the upcoming celestial event, many pet owners have been left wondering how their pets will react to such an event.

The answer isn’t as straightforward as one might think, according to Dr. Raffaela Lesch, an assistant professor of biology at UA Little Rock who studies how domestication affects animals.

“The answer will depend a lot on how the animal is kept,” she said. “Most animals don’t panic or freak out with the sudden darkness. Indoor pets like cats probably won’t respond to the solar eclipse because they are used to having a lot of changes in their environment. Animals who have more experience with the outdoors may experience a level of confusion. Dogs, for example, might be a little impatient and walk around and try to figure out if they should trust their internal clock or what they are perceiving outside.”

While some pets may display a level of confusion during the eclipse, Lesch said this isn’t anything to worry about. Pets may begin their nighttime routines, walk around, or seek treats or reassurance.

“For pets like cats and dogs, you can always give them a treat or a toy for the duration of the solar eclipse,” Lesch said. “It will be a very short time where it’s really dark. As long as we stay calm, the animals will be calm as well.”

For pet parents who are worried about leaving their pets unattended during the solar eclipse, Lesch said that it shouldn’t be a problem for well-adjusted animals, but advised caution for pets who have separation anxiety.

“If they are used to being left alone, I wouldn’t be worried about it,” Lesch said. “They might wake up and realize something is going on, but I wouldn’t have any concerns about them having any major fears about the eclipse, unless you have an animal that already has separation anxiety. In that situation, you should consider being there with your pet, so you don’t have a situation where the pet is scared, and another level of confusion is added on. In general, staying home alone during the eclipse shouldn’t be a problem for well-adjusted animals.”

For animal lovers in general, Lesch said people can expect animals who are active at dusk and dawn – such as racoons, foxes, and opossums – may make an appearance during the solar eclipse when they normally wouldn’t be out at midday.

“If you live out in the countryside, it will be interesting to see what animals come out of the woods during the solar eclipse,” Lesch said. “Animals that have shifted their routines to avoid contact with humans usually don’t come out during the daytime, but they might peek their heads out of their hidey-holes during the eclipse.”

Lesch’s advice for pet parents is simply to sit back and enjoy the show with their pets during the solar eclipse.

“I would say to just enjoy it,” she said. “Take time to observe your animals. If they show any changes in their behavior, they will mainly be confused. Take joy in observing what they do during the different stages of eclipses.”

Lesch said that observing the whimsical behavior of chickens could add a delightful layer to the unpredictability of the cosmic event.

“If we think about chickens, they respond to the dark/light cycle a lot stronger than other animals, and we could expect them to have a stronger response to the sudden disappearance of daylight,” she said. “If someone has a flock of pet chickens, it will be especially fun to sit and watch what they are doing during the eclipse.”

Visit to learn more about UA Little Rock’s Solar Eclipse Celebration, and visit this link to watch a video of Lesch’s advice on pet behavior during the solar eclipse.