I know there has been much concern, of late, about the safety of our beloved fur family and how we should safely relate to them during this troubling time of quarantine and social isolation during the pandemic.
Let’s address that and clear up some misconceptions you may have about pets, your responsibilities as a pet parent, and COVID-19. First, go give them big hugs! It is okay to be close. The CDC assures us that there is no evidence that our companion animals can spread coronavirus to people. Further, the experts maintain that even in a household where there is coronavirus, household pets will not be exposed to high levels of the virus as long as we employ proper self-isolation practices.
As regards those two house cats who contracted the virus: One cat lived in a home where no humans had tested positive for the virus. The other cat’s owner tested positive but lived in a home where another feline tested negative. And then there were the tigers in the Bronx Zoo: They are indicative that felines may have a history of testing positive as shown in the SARS epidemic of 2003. However, there is no evidence that infected felines can shed the virus in sufficient amounts to infect other cats or humans. Further, no felines have died from being infected. Repeat: No felines have died from being infected.
- Don’t let pets interact with people or animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors to further prevent interactions with strange people or pets.
- Keep dogs on leashes. Maintain the 6-foot social distancing guidelines and keep them away from dog parks or other such gatherings of people and pets.
- Practice good pet hygiene: Keep your pet well-groomed and regularly wash food and water bowls, bedding, and toys. You may want to wash your hands before and after interacting with your pets.
If you or a member of your household has tested positive for COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, you may want to limit your interactions with your pets:
- Restrict contact with your pets as you would with other people.
- Avoid petting, snuggling, licking, or sharing food or bedding.
- When possible, have someone else walk, feed, and play with your pet while you are ill.
- If you have a service animal or must care for your pet yourself, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after interacting.
Please remember that if the coronavirus was transmissible from pets to people and from people to pets, there would be a huge number of cases that we would be hearing about regularly—and that is not the case.
Until more is known, these are the guidelines to practice safe care for your pets. Of course, we learn more on a daily basis. The authorities will continue to keep us updated on any new developments in the research. But for now, keep cuddling with your favorite fur family members! They can provide the comfort and security that we need to help us pull through these challenging times.
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