There is certainly no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted all our lives, but how has it impacted our pets?
The first official cases of COVID-19 in pets were recently detected in the United States when two cats in New York tested positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The cats, which live in different parts of the state, are dealing with mild respiratory issues and are both expected to make full recoveries.
How did these cats become infected? No individuals in the first cats’ household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. The CDC believes the virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home. The owner of the cat tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the cat showing signs. The CDC tells us these cases are extremely rare and only a very small number of cats and dogs outside of the United States have been sick after close contact with infected humans. However, the CDC also claims that so far there is no proof that pets can pass the virus on to humans or other animals.
“Public health officials are still learning so much about this virus every day,” explains Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. Regenye went on to say that, “People sick with the COVID-19 virus should keep themselves isolated from not only other individuals but from their pet cat or dog during their illness until we can learn more about how COVID-19 affects animals.”
Until we know more, the CDC recommends the following:
• Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
• Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
• Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
• Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
• When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
• Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
• If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
What about pets that are living in a healthy home? You can start by keeping a close eye on them to make sure that all the disruptions brought on by the outbreak haven’t changed their daily routine causing them to feel anxious, restless, confused or depressed.
“Pets tend to be creatures of habit and any deviation from normal routines such as social distancing measures, pet parent’s now working from home or their work schedule has changed, the frequent visitors have stopped calling, or whatever the reason, you should make every effort to keep them healthy, happy, and safe,” advises Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.
The following are a list of tips that can help your pet cat or dog get through these unsettling times;
• Keep a set routine for your pet. Create specific playtimes, like in the morning before you start your work from home, or during your lunch break, etc.
• Stick to a regular feeding schedule. Don’t change their feeding schedule if you are forced to stay home, making switching back difficult when you go back to a normal routine.
• Keep your pet active. While taking the traditional walk with your pet can be fun, try to also play with your pet by providing toys that stimulate your pet’s mind, like those that can be stuffed with treats or squeaky toys. Just remember to take any additional calories into account to keep your pet healthy and fit.
• Teach your pet new tricks. Tiring out your dog mentally can help them cope with being cooped up. Working on basic training commands like, “sit,” “stay,” and “down,” will help to burn through your pet’s mental energy and help them settle down a bit.
• Last but not least, remember to spend quality time showing affection and comforting your pet. Remember, pets are part of the family, and we are all in this together.
The CDC also maintains that there is no reason why people shouldn’t adopt pets from shelters during the outbreak. The Southern Ocean County Animal Facility (SOCAF) has been open for adoptions by appointment but is expecting to open again for full-time public hours. (Stay tuned for more information). One of the benefits to adopting now while at home is that you can spend more time training a new pet. For more info please call the SOCAF, located in Manahawkin, at 609-978-0127.
For the latest information on COVID-19 or how to adopt a shelter pet, visit www.ochd.org. Or
call the COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line at 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.