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It’s comforting to have your pet cat or dog for company at this anxious time. So it’s upsetting that two cats in New York state are the first in the U.S. to test positive for the virus. 

One cat’s owner had already been diagnosed with Covid-19, but with the second cat, no one in the household tested positive, so no-one is sure how it got infected. Both cats have mild symptoms only and vets predict they’ll be back to their playful selves in no time. 

Before we start worrying, it is very rare for cats or dogs to get coronavirus: there are only a handful of cases of infected pets in the world, including a pet dog in Hong Kong that caught the virus from its owner.  

It’s true scientists think Covid-19 jumped from bats to pangolins, and mutated along the way to become dangerous. But other biologists point out the virus’ characteristics mean it could have jumped via buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep or pigeons. The studies are just not clear.

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So when it comes to your pets, scientists think it’s more likely you can infect them – not the other way around. For example, one infected human zoo keeper gave the virus to five tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo in the US.

So based on the information we have at the moment, the risk of pets spreading Covid-19 to people is low. But it still makes sense to follow these hygiene tips:

What to do to keep your pets and family  healthy 

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  • Treat your pets like any other member of the family.  
  • The US Centre for Disease Control recommends pets should not mix closely with anyone outside your household, if possible.
  • If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
  • When you take your dog on walks, keep them on a leash. And keep at least two meters from other people and animals.
  • If you can manage to keep your cat inside, do so. 
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food bowls, waste, or supplies.
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after your pets properly.
  • Talk to your vet if your pet seems ill, or has breathing difficulties.

Finally, whatever you do, please do not abandon your pet. On the other hand, while pets can provide comfort and emotional support, don’t adopt one during this stressful season simply for that reason alone. Pets are a lifelong commitment.