The worldwide spread of the new coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2, COVID-19) has been shocking for everyone and we are all trying to do our best to prevent spread. While human health is the top priority, people worry about how this pandemic will affect cats and other pets.
No evidence that people can share the virus with pets
Reports of a dog testing positive in Hong Kong raised concerns, but there is no current evidence that pets can become ill from the disease or be a source of infection for humans. Carrying on with good hygiene precautions, including handwashing after handling pets, are easy to do. Restrict face kissing or letting pets lick faces as a sensible precaution. There is no need to consider rehoming pets or abandoning them during this pandemic because of worries about the disease being able to spread between people and pets.
If you do have COVID-19, then it is sensible to restrict contact with pets until more is known about the virus.
Visiting your vet
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected veterinary services around the world, as it has other services or businesses. Veterinary staff are working hard to continue to remain open to treat animals. If your pet is unwell or you need veterinary advice, call your veterinary clinic to discuss your concerns before visiting. They are likely to have precautions in place at the clinic to protect both you and the staff, such as asking you to wait in your car before your appointment rather than in the waiting room, to wash or disinfect hands before and after visiting, or they may be able to give you advice over the phone so you do not have to attend.
Helping your cat at home
Changes in routine can be unsettling for all of us, including our cats, so if you are working from home or self-isolating try to keep routines similar. With more family members at home, ensure cats have places to hide away from the extra noise and easily accessible litter trays and other resources. See our information on keeping your home cat friendly in these difficult times.
On a slightly lighter note, our article on working at home with cats by behaviour expert Vicky Halls has some good advice and as well as some humour about attempting to work with cats around!
There is no reason to keep cats in that normally go outside, but if your kitten’s vaccinations have been delayed because some routine veterinary treatments have been restricted, keep it in until it has had a full vaccination course and has been neutered.
It is sensible to prepare for self-isolation or hospitalisation, by talking to family about the care of your pet and thinking forward about what your pet might need (food, medicines).
For more detailed information on COVID-19 see the World Health Organisation (WHO) website (www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019).
The AVMA also provide information for pet owners: https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/covid-19-faq-pet-owners_031620.pdf.
I am the feline behaviour specialist at feline charity ‘International Cat Care’. We are about engaging, educating and empowering people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion.