Social Distancing for Pets

May 2, 2020

Cat on a leash
Credit Mindy Norton

Helping your pet keep its social distance from other animals (and people) may not be as difficult as you might think.  For example, it is possible to teach your cat to walk on a leash.  You need a lightweight leash and a cat harness (not a collar) - and patience!


This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) has released new social distancing guidelines for pets! That advice was in response to the first positive COVID-19 tests in American pets, two cats in different parts of New York State and a pug in North Carolina.

So far those are the only three pets in the U.S. that are known to have contracted COVID-19, and their symptoms have been relatively mild. But the CDC advises us to treat our furry family members the same as we would the human ones.

For animals, social distancing means restricting contact between your pet and anyone who does not live in your home – that means human or animal. Cats should stay indoors or confined if possible. Dogs should be on a leash and stay at least six feet away from other animals or people. That means no visits to the dog park or anywhere your dog might have the opportunity to “socialize” with other animals or people.

In addition, if you have COVID-19, do not handle your pet. The infected animals did not transmit the virus to humans; instead, humans with the virus gave it to their four-legged family members. So, if you have the virus, do not let your pet cuddle with you or snuggle, or share your food. Ask someone else in your household to care for your furry friend. If that is not an option, wear a mask or face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with your pet – every time.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Be Kind to Animals Week, a good reminder to consider ways you can be kind to the animals in your life. Any pet might enjoy a tasty treat, or some extra play time. But keeping your pet safe from COVID-19 is truly a way to show genuine kindness to your best friend.

Being kind to an animal may not change the world, but it sure does make a difference in that animal’s world, and maybe in yours as well, when you’re speaking of pets.