By now, we have a pretty good idea how to interact with other humans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, don’t shake hands — you know the drill. When it comes to pets, however, it’s been a bit of a gray area. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released official guidelines for how you should interact with household animals, and how they should interact with each other.
According to the guidelines, there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the virus’ spread, but because there have been cases of pets and zoo animals contaminated by the virus, it’s still advised to take extra precautions. The CDC recommends to “not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”
This means keeping cats indoors whenever possible, and walking dogs on a leash to keep them six feet away from other animals and people. The guidelines also suggest avoiding dog parks and other crowded public areas.
In the event that you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, you should avoid contact with pets, even your own. The CDC suggests having another household member care for your pets while you’re sick, and to refrain from any “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food and bedding.” And if you must care for your pet while sick, “wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.”
Although the virus mainly spreads from person to person, and animals aren’t considered a major transmission threat, the CDC said “it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations,” so it’s best to err on the side of caution.