The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. Much of the population in North America, and many other parts of the world, are practicing social distancing to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The idea is to “flatten the curve” or slow the number of COVID-19 cases—which would undoubtedly overwhelm the healthcare system. Some people are in self-isolation (awaiting test results, having been exposed to COVID-19, or returning home from travel abroad) or in quarantine because they’ve been diagnosed.
But just what is “social distancing”? It’s a strategy to reduce social contact between people. This means avoiding crowds, working from home, and staying 6 feet (2 meters) away from people when you have to go out.
What does this mean for our pets while we socially distance ourselves? One thing is for sure – we get to spend a lot more time with our furry friends. For many of us, our new office buddies are Fido and Fluffy!
There are many questions that pet owners have about what’s okay and what’s not. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands before and after you interact with your pet and always cover your mouth/nose when you cough or sneeze.
If you’re “social distancing”:
- If you have NO symptoms of illness (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing), haven’t traveled, and haven’t been in direct contact with anyone who is infected or potentially infected, then enjoy walks with your dog. The fresh air and exercise are good for both of you! But be safe. Avoid the dog park and crowded trails, as limiting your contact with others is recommended by the CDC.
- If you’re anxious about going for a walk, then play with your dog in your yard or home and take your dog out for short toilet breaks.
- Again, if you have no symptoms and no exposure, then it’s fine to interact with your cat or dog! Playing games like fetch or chase with your dog, and pounce or hide-and-seek with your cat, are great ways to keep you – and your pet – from being bored!
- Try teaching your dog some new tricks, like shake-a-paw, lie down, or rollover. This is a great way to mentally challenge your dog. And it may be a good challenge for you too, as well as help you keep your mind off the situation.
- Snuggling and petting your cat or dog is fine as long as you are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. Get some comedic relief by cozying up with your pet to watch some classic comedies on Netflix, Crave, or Prime. Take some time for yourself.
- Most importantly, remember that before social distancing, we were going off to work each day, leaving our pets on their own. They’re used to being alone from 9 to 5 so don’t feel guilty for not entertaining them all day.
If you’re self-isolating:
- If you’ve been tested and are waiting for results, DO NOT walk your dog. Remain in your home, preferably away from everyone, including your pets. Wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze into your elbow… and discard tissues hygienically. The importance of hand-washing cannot be overemphasized.
- If possible, have someone else in your home care for your pets, including feeding, playing with, and exercising them.
- Limit your contact with your pets, including petting, snuggling, and sharing food with them.
These are difficult times. Remember that social distancing just means physically keeping away from each other. Do keep in touch with your family and friends via text, phone, FaceTime, and social media.